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2013 10k Challenge!!

There is a popular school of thought that says it takes ten thousand hours of practice to master something, which in many cases, means about a decade of regular practice. I have heard this many times, and it is also used commonly in physical development, especially in martial arts, where it is said that you need to practice a movement or drill 10,000 time in order to master that movement.

I was thinking about this earlier today, and I got to thinking about my favourite exercise, the wonderful push-up. I feel quite certain it does not take 10,000 repetitions to ‘master’ technique. Someone can be shown how to do good push-ups, with good form, in just a few sets each with a handful of reps. I was thinking about the 10,000 repetitions, and about what it might mean in relation to push-ups, could this theory be applied to push-ups.

There are literally hundreds of ways to do push-ups, which is why I love them so much. They can be performed with almost infinite variations of width of hand placing, foot placing, feet elevated, one or both, weight added, arms offset, different hand positions, different speed of performance, and so on. I was thinking that while it may only take, say, 100 reps to learn to do push-ups with good form, those same 100 reps,  multiplied by 100 different ways to perform push-ups, makes 10,000 reps – and there are easily well over 100 different ways to perform push-ups.

Achieving mastery

So I thought, if you were to perform 100 reps each, of 100 different ways to perform push-ups, would this make you a ‘master’ of push-ups? Ummm, what is a master? A push-up is such a simple movement, does the mastery lie in knowing 100 or more variations, and being able to execute them all with good form?

Then it struck me, that in the act of performing 10,000 push-ups, maybe the ‘mastery’ that a person gains, is not mastery of the movement itself, but a sort of ‘mastery’ of the muscles that are used, a mastery of one’s own body. Now this makes some sense. Imagine a person who does not regularly perform push-ups, and maybe this person is, shall we say, in less-than-optimal physical condition, if that person were to commit to performing 10,000 push-ups, either all of one style, or from a variety of styles, within a set period of time, be it 1 month, 3 months, 6 months or 12 months, would that person achieve some form of ‘mastery’ over their own upper body conditioning?

Now this makes sense to me. I thought this through all day, and it does fit the theory. I feel sure that if someone who does not already regularly perform push-ups, and whose upper body lacks muscular conditioning from other similar exercises (in other words, start with someone who doesn’t generally work out), commits to performing 10,000 push-ups within a set time frame, maybe 3 months or 6 months or 9 months, they will achieve a considerable, noticeable change in their physique. The mastery comes not of the movement itself, but of the muscles required to perform that movement, and hence the ‘mastery’ is the physical transformation of the subject.

I then thought about how this could be applied to other exercises too – such as lunges or sumo squats for the lower body, push-ups, chins, pull-ups or dips for the upper body, crunches for the core, etc. For each of these exercises, the same logic could be applied.

A challenge

And from this train of thought that has rattled around my head for most of the day today, I offer you the “2013 10k Challenge”. Pick the body part/area that you most want to improve (so if you want to tone bum and thighs, try sumo squats (YouTube it if you don’t know) or deep lunges. If you want to build your chest and shoulders, stick with push-ups, if your back and arms need work, try chins or pull-ups, etc. Once you have chosen your exercise, commit to performing 10,000 repetitions between now and July 12 2013, start right away and begin recording your numbers. I suggest you take a ‘minimally-clothed’ picture of yourself at the start, focussing on your target area, and get your tape measure out and measure those key places, so you have a record to look back on after rep 10,000!

If you are a novice, let’s say you have chosen push-ups, but currently you can only perform 4 or 5 max and then you are done. That’s fine, start with –

Day 1 – 1 set of 4
Day 2 – 1 set of 5
Day 3 – 1 set of 6
Day 4 – 1 set of 7
Day 5 – 1 set of 8
Day 6 – rest
Day 7 – rest
Day 8 – 1 set of 9
Day 9 – 1 set of 10
Day 10 – 1 set of 11
Day 11 – 1 set of 12
Day 12 – 1 set of 13
Day 13 – rest
Day 14 – rest
Day 15 – 1 set of 14
Day 16 – 1 set of 15
Day 17 – 1 set of 16
Day 18 – 1 set of 17
Day 19 – 1 set of 18
Day 20 – rest
Day 21 – rest
Day 22 – 1 set of 18
Day 23 – 1 set of 19
Day 24 – 1 set of 20
Day 25 – 1 set of 21
Day 26 – 1 set of 22
Day 27 – rest
Day 28 – rest
Day 29 – 1 set of 23
Day 30 – 1 set of 24
Day 31 – 1 set of 25

As you can see, you never increase on the previous day by more than 1 – it’s easy, gentle build up.
By the end of the first month, plus 2 days, you can perform a set of 25 push-ups, and you have completed 337 reps.
I would then suggest, that for the second month, you concentrate on doing a set of 25 every day, 6 days per week, and gradually increase it when you feel you can, and do 26, or 27, or 28 whenever you can.
In month 3, I would suggest you commit to TWO sets of 30 push-ups, every day, 6 days per week.
By the end of 3 months, you will have reached a total of roughly 2122 push-ups.
In month 4, commit to 3 sets of 30 per day, 6 days per week, clocking you up another 1890 reps.
In month 5, commit to 4 sets of 30 per day, 6 days per week, clocking you up another 2520 reps.
Your total will now be roughly 6532 reps
In month 6, commit to 6 sets of 30 push-ups, every day, 6 days per week, and at the end of 6 months, your total will reach 10,312 reps – MASTERY!

Yes, 6 sets of 30 push-ups per day is a LOT. I would guess, after that build up, it’s going to take you half an hour per day to do them in that final month. But that’s not such a big deal, half an hour, before your shower or something, 6 days per week, for just one month – to achieve total mastery of this area of your body. Imagine the transformation in your body, in 6 months, if you commit to this challenge?

Other exercises

For me it won’t be push-ups, as I do lots of push-ups anyway, I estimate that I easily perform 10,000 push-ups every 9 months anyway, so for me that would not be a hard enough challenge, it won’t be anything new, I am already conditioned to that. I would like to target my arms and back, so chins would be good for me, but right now I am still nursing a right arm muscle sprain which is getting better, and if I commit to an average of 60 chins every day for the next 6 months, the arm will never be right. So by a process of elimination, I will commit to 10,000 dips in the next 6 months – that will be enough of a challenge to my arms and shoulders to make it hard, and my triceps need the work! If 6 months of ‘mastering’ dips goes well, and if by July my right arm is feeling better/fixed/stronger, then in the second half of 2013, I will commit to 10,000 chins too.

Who among you accepts this challenge? Which body part will you target, which exercise will you pick? Who is prepared to say that 2013 is the year you WILL achieve mastery over this area of your body that bothers you, that needs whipping into shape? Who will join me in this commitment, to MASTER this exercise and the muscles required to perform it?

Come on, start today, think what 10,000 deep lunges will do to shape and firm your butt? Think what 10,000 sumo squats would do to sculpt your thighs, think what 10,000 push ups will do for your upper body strength and muscle tone, think how this will fire up your metabolism, burning body fat and helping you to lose weight and achieve all your body-shape goals?

Who’s in? Come on!!

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