When you do too many push-ups, this is what happens

Push-ups are a classic body weight exercise for a good reason: When done correctly, they target almost every muscle group, particularly your shoulders, chest, and back. But doing too many push-ups can have negative consequences, especially if your form gets sloppy. 

Push-ups can overload the neck and shoulders, as well as smaller muscles in the upper arms and elbow areas, Adelaide Crows Sports Medicine Clinic Physiotherapist Sandy Woolman explains. Too many push-ups can also lead to severe delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in different muscle groups in your arms, which might take one or two days to show up. So don't be surprised if you did a hard push-up workout on a Monday, but only begin feeling sore in your triceps when you wake up on Wednesday. 

As you start to lose your form, it's critical that you stop or at least modify your push-up, Woolman says. This may look like doing push-ups with your knees on the ground, or lowering the number of push-ups you do per set.

Why do push-ups at all?

Don't take this as a reason to nix push-ups from your workout altogether: They're a great way to test your overall fitness, since they require not only strength, but flexibility and stamina. In fact, one Harvard study suggests that being able to do 40 or more push-ups in a row is an indicator of optimal health, while if you can only do 10 or less, your risk of heart disease is 30 times great than those who can do over 40 (via Inc). 

To avoid the strain and potential for DOMS in your quest to build your push-up power, simply make sure you're taking rest days, and not starting with a goal that's too hard for you. Increase your daily push-up total gradually. If you're doing a significant amount of push-ups one day, make sure that you skip upper-body work the next day, leaving at least 48 hours for your muscles to recover and rebuild (via LIVESTRONG).