Why You Can’t Do Pushups- Part 2

In my previous blog, Why You Can’t Do Pushups- Part 1, I discussed the importance of the pushup exercise. To recap a little on what I   discussed:

Good Form:

  • Hands= Close to shoulder width apart, close to chest.  Elbows go back, do not flare your elbows!
  • Head= Kept in a straight line with your back, and eyes looking forward. The chest should touch the ground first, not your head!
  • Shoulders= Scapulas locked down in depressed position throughout movement.
  • Hips= Kept in line with your back and head, Not sagging down low and not held up too high!
  • Feet= Legs straight, feet together and toes on the floor.

Hopefully you were able to learn this proper form that I described, and you made it a goal to master the pushup exercise. From a trainer’s standpoint, I have been very pleased to see the level of progression improving throughout the gym.  In my group and semi private classes I have without a doubt noticed a ton of improvement with pushups.  I can’t explain how rewarding this is for me as a coach.

“I’m a slow walker, but I never walk back. “

–Abraham Lincoln

Now that we have made progress, it is time to take our pushups to another level.  Remember it takes thousands of hours to master any skill so we have to keep grinding! The beauty of pushups is that it is very easy to make the pushup harder. Small changes made with our hands and feet can truly help take us to that next level.  There are plenty of variations you can do, but to keep it simple I will show you a few that I have found to work.

Changes with our hands:

Narrow Base Pushup (Diamond Pushups): While this hand position goes against the proper from of astandard pushup, it is very effective because it helps develop the triceps brachii because it places the pectoralis major (chest muscles) at a disadvantage, forcing the triceps brachii to do more work.

Ben - Push-ups 002

Wide Base Pushup:  This variation involves moving your hands to a wider position (150% of shoulder width) to make your chest do more work. In this position, you are improving your pectoralis major muscle’s length-tension length ratio which allows the muscle to generate a greater force (Contreras et al, 2012).

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Staggered Hands: Start this position by walking one hand out about a foot forward while keeping your other hand in the standard pushup position.  Staying in this position, perform a regular pushup. The best part about this variation is that you are activating more of your rectus abdominus, and the external oblique’s (your core muscles!)

Ben - Push-ups 007

*Note: For all 3 variations that I have shown, the head, back and hips are all remaining in the proper form as they all stay in a straight line!

Changes with our feet:

Staggered Feet: Begin in the standard position, while keeping your leg straight, take one foot and raise it up to about heel level. Raising this foot increases the amount of weight being loaded to your upper body muscles.

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TRX Pushups: Beach et al (2008) found that feet suspended in the air activate more core musculature than regular pushups.  By having your feet suspended, you are forced to use your core stabilizers to keep your hips from sagging.

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Feet Elevated: Using a bench, take your feet elevate them while remaining in the proper form of a standard pushup. By doing this you are forcing your upper body to push 74% of your bodyweight!

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Down Right Dirty Pushups

This is where it gets dirty. This video is a mixture of some fun variations that I learned over the years as an athlete and through personal research. These examples are only for the advanced people who have no signs of injury and can master the standard pushups. Again there are a lot of variations to choose from, but here are my personal top ten favorite variations, here we go!

  1. Clapping Pushup
  2. Side to Side
  3. Spiderman Pushup
  4. One arm
  5. Band Resisted
  6. Between Bench Pushup
  7. Staggered Feet, Staggered Hands
  8. Dynamax Ball Plyo Pushup
  9. Dumbbell Walk-Overs
  10. Dumbbell Walking Alligator Pushups

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ultEu1J76Dk&w=560&h=315]

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