How Many Plyometric Push-Ups Should I Do For Solid Strength Gains?

Plyometric training is one of the best ways to increase power, explosive strength, and speed, and improve your metabolic conditioning.

We generally think of plyometric exercises as only jumping and bounding drills, but it is also possible to do upper-body plyometric exercises such as clapping push-ups, which are also known as plyometric push-ups.

Much like jumping plyometric exercises like box jumps, plyometric push-ups involve making part of your body airborne (in this case, the upper body) by harnessing the elastic recoil energy from the stretch-shortening cycle to generate more power.1Davies, G., Riemann, B. L., & Manske, R. (2015). CURRENT CONCEPTS OF PLYOMETRIC EXERCISE. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy10(6), 760–786.

‌Then, you eccentrically load your muscles when you land the plyometric push-up exercise, building a tremendous amount of strength and increasing bone density.

But, you may wonder, how many plyometric push-ups should I do? What is a good number of plyometric push-ups for beginners? How many pyrometric push-ups should I do to build upper body strength and power?

In this workout guide, we will discuss how to perform plyometrics push-ups, how to modify plyometric push-ups based on your fitness level, and ultimately answer your question, how many plyometrics push-ups should I do based on my fitness level and training goals?

Let’s jump in!

A person doing a plyometric push-up.

What Are Plyometric Push-Ups?

Plyometric exercises improve speed, explosive power, agility, coordination, and strength by conditioning your muscles, bones, connective tissues, and neuromuscular and cardiovascular systems to support rapid force generation.

Most plyometric workouts focus on lower-body exercises, but there are some upper-body plyometrics.

The plyometric push-up, more commonly referred to as a clapping push-up, is the most common example of an upper-body plyometric exercise.

A plyometric push-up begins as a regular push-up with your hands and feet on the ground as you normally would.

However, instead of pressing your body up and down and maintaining ground contact with your hands and feet throughout each rep, you briefly remove your hands from the ground, clap them together, and then quickly put them back into position to “catch“ your body.

In this way, a plyometric push-up involves explosively powering your upper body up and off the ground and then loading with additional impact force because of the airborne position you have created. 

A person doing a plyometric push-up.

This can be equated to pressing powerfully through your feet to jump up and then landing back down (as is the case with most plyometric exercises).

It is important to note that plyometric push-ups should not be performed by anyone with wrist, elbow, or shoulder injuries or pain.

Due to the impact landing inherent in the plyometric aspect of the clapping push-up exercise, clapping push-ups are even more taxing on these joints.2García-Massó, X., Colado, J. C., González, L. M., Salvá, P., Alves, J., Tella, V., & Triplett, N. T. (2011). Myoelectric activation and kinetics of different plyometric push-up exercises. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research25(7), 2040–2047.

As such, clapping push-ups can cause serious injuries if you have underlying instability in your shoulders, tendinitis in the elbows or wrists, or low bone density.

Work with a physical therapist or consult your physician if you have contraindications to high-impact exercise or are pregnant before trying plyometric push-ups.

How to Do Plyometric Push-Ups

Although we have described how to do plyometrics push-ups in a general sense, here are the step-by-step instructions for how to perform plyometric push-ups properly:

Plyometric Push-Up Instructions

  1. Begin in a push-up position down on the floor with your hands stacked under your shoulders and your toes curled underneath your body with your whole body in a straight line from your head to your heels.
  2. Keeping your core tight by thinking about sucking your belly button in towards your spine and squeezing your glutes as hard as possible, bend your elbows to lower your body as you would with a normal push-up.
  3. On the way up, press forcefully into the floor, exploding upward so that your entire upper body and hands are airborne but your feet remain planted on the floor.
  4. Quickly clap your hands together once under your chest and then get them back into position on the floor to catch your body on your landing.
  5. Move directly into the next plyometric push-up by bending your elbows and lowering your chest toward the ground without touching down.

Note that you can also do “falling push-ups,” but clapping push-ups are more common.

Plyometric Push-Up Modifications

Just as you can modify regular push-ups for beginners and progress push-ups as you get stronger, so too can you modify plyometric push-ups.

Here are some beginner clapping push-up modifications:

A person doing a push up.

Regular Push-Ups

Plyometrics push-ups are an advanced push-up exercise, so they should only be attempted in earnest if you have already mastered regular push-ups and you are looking to progress your push-up workouts.

If you are still struggling to perform regular push-ups on your feet rather than your knees or you can only do a few push-ups without stopping, keep working on regular bodyweight push-ups first before tackling plyometric push-ups.

Incline Clapping Push-Ups

If you can do regular push-ups and maybe one or two reps of plyometric push-ups, but you can’t seem to do longer sets of clapping push-ups, you can try incline clapping push-ups.

This takes the same concept that is used for training beginners to master regular push-ups and uses it to get stronger for plyometric push-ups.

Basically, you will perform the exact same clapping push-up exercise, but instead of putting your hands down on the floor, elevate your hands onto a weight bench or low table for your plyometric push-ups.

Because your body is in an inclined position, you are contending with less gravity on your body weight, giving you less net resistance

Gradually find lower and lower surfaces to elevate your hands on as you get stronger, working your way down to yoga blocks and then the floor for regular plyometric push-ups.

A person doing a kneeling push up.

Kneeling Clapping Push-Ups

Beginners can also try plyometrics push-ups from their knees.

Like kneeling push-ups, you are shortening the lever length of your body and decreasing the percentage of your body weight that you have to lift and catch with the clapping push-up exercise.

Make sure to keep your hips in line with your body; don’t allow your butt to stick up into the air.

Advanced Plyometric Push-Ups

If you can already do many plyometrics push-up reps without stopping and you want to build more power and explosive strength, you can progress the exercise by fighting against more gravity.

To do so, you can perform decline plyometric push-ups.

This means that you will need to elevate your feet up onto a surface like a weight bench and then situate your hands down on the floor so that your body is angled downward.

The higher up your feet are relative to your hands, the more challenging the plyometric push-up exercise will be.

Then, perform the same plyometric push-up.

A person doing a decline push up.

In the decline push-up position, more gravity will be acting on your body, increasing the workload on your muscles worked by clapping push-ups (mainly the pecs, deltoids, triceps, traps, serratus anterior, and core muscles).

Alternatively, you can also do plyometric push-ups for power and strength by wearing a weighted vest.

This added resistance requires your muscles to work with additional “body weight.” 

This is a convenient and effective way to progressively overload your muscles so that you continue to see gains in power, strength, and muscle mass.

How Many Plyometric Push-Ups Should I Do For Solid Strength Gains?

The key to safe and effective plyometric push-up workouts is to build up slowly.

The number of sets and reps of plyometric push-ups you should do will depend on your fitness level, the other types of exercises you perform in your plyometric push-up workouts, and your training goals.

Most people are limited in the number of reps of plyometric push-ups they can do in a set or workout simply because the exercise is so challenging. 

A clapping push up.

In these cases, only perform as many reps as you can with proper form and then stop and rest. Never compromise your form or technique just to eke out a few more clapping push-up reps.

If you feel like you could do another set after a break, you can try a few more. Gradually increase the number of reps per set as you get stronger.

Start with 2 to 3 sets of 4 to 8 reps of plyometric push-ups with at least two minutes of rest in between each set.

Gradually build up to three sets of 10 to 20 plyometric push-ups.

Then, if your goal is to do plyometrics push-ups for explosive strength and power, consider adding a weighted vest or performing decline clapping push-ups rather than adding more reps per set.

For another type of cardio plyometric training, check out our 30-day jump rope challenge here.

A person jumping rope.


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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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