Push-Ups – Technique, Unique Exercises, Challenges, and More!

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It’s no secret that I’m a BIG fan of programming push-ups for my athletes. They’re great for improving upper body strength (specifically chest, shoulders, triceps), core stability, serratus anterior recruitment and scapular upward rotation. These benefits are obviously extremely important to overhead throwing athletes.
 
With that being said, I wanted to dedicate an entire article to push-ups. In this article I will cover proper technique, push-up variations for beginners, push-up progressions for advanced athletes/lifters, push-up challenges you can try in your workouts, and much more!
 
Before we start talking about specific exercises and challenges you can try in your training it’s important that we cover proper technique so you’re able to get the most of your push-ups.
 
Proper Push-Up Technique
 
The far majority of athletes struggle with performing push-ups properly. Here’s a technique checklist you can use to make sure you’re performing your push-ups properly.
 
Push-Up Mistake #1: Arching the Low Back
 
How to Fix it: Stay in a straight line from head to toe and engage your anterior core (brace your midsection).

Push-Up Mistake #2 & #3: Elbows Flared Out & Elbows Tucked Close to your Body

How to Fix it: Keep your elbows at 45 degrees from your torso.

Push-Up Mistake #4: Forward Head Posture

How to Fix it: Keep your chin tucked. Chest touches the ground first.

Push-Up Mistake #5: Shoulder Blades Don’t Protract at the Top

How to Fix it: Your shoulder blades should retract at the bottom and fully protract at the top. At the top of the push-up think about “pushing the ground away” to get full scapular protraction. 

What if I can’t do a push-up?

Here’s some push-up variations you can start doing if you’re a beginner and want work up to getting your first push-up!

Eccentric Only Push-Up – For this exercise all you’re going to be focusing on is the eccentric (lowering) portion. Before you start the repetition make sure your elbows are in a good position, and your core and glutes are engaged. As you lower yourself down to the bottom of the push-up do so slowly and under control for 3-6 seconds. I will usually have my athletes do this for 4-8 total reps each set. If you can do 4 sets of 8 reps with a 6 second lowering on each rep progress the exercise by adding weight to your back via chains, a weighted vest or plates.

Band-Assisted Push-Up – For this variation you’re going to want to set up a band at a height that is in accordance with your strength level. The lower you set up the band, the tougher the push-up will be. Start with the band higher up on the power rack. Once this becomes easy set the band up lower to increase the challenge.

Barbell Push-Up on Power Rack – Similar to the band-assisted push-up, you’re going to want to set up the barbell at a height that is in accordance with your strength level. The lower you set up the bar the tougher the push-up will be. Start with the bar higher up on the power rack. Once this becomes easy progress the exercise by setting the barbell lower to increase the challenge.

What if push-up’s are too easy for me?

I’ve found that many advanced athletes/lifters struggle to incorporate push-ups into their training over the long-term as they become too easy. If you’re in this situation I got you covered! Here’s some of my favorite push-up progressions that I use frequently with my athletes.

Add Chains or Bands

If unloaded push-ups are becoming too easy add resistance via bands, chains, plates, or a weighted vest! You can add bands and chains to many push-up variations that I’m going to discuss in this article. 

Take Away One Base of Support – 1-Leg Push-Ups

By taking away one base of support you make the movement much more challenging. Changing the push-up to a single-leg stance can be used with pretty much every push up variation around, so don’t limit yourself. Start with just your body weight and progress the movement by adding resistance via bands or chains. Here’s an example of how you can progress single-leg push-ups with band resistance.

Elevate Your Feet

An easy way to make push-ups more challenging is to elevate your feet. This will completely change the angle and demand more from the core, shoulders, pecs, and triceps. Elevating your feet for push-ups can be used with pretty much any and every variation around, so be creative and don’t limit yourself. Start with just your body weight and progress the movement by adding resistance. Here’s an example of how you can progress feet-elevated push-ups by adding weight via weighted vest.

More Challenging Push-Up Progressions

If you’re someone that’s looking for more challenging push-up progressions here’s a few of my favorites to program for my more advanced athletes. Give them a try in your training if you’re strength level permits.

Dumbbell Spider-Man Push-Ups

Wrist-Banded Lateral Hand Walk to Push-Up

1-Leg Feet-Elevated Spider-Man Yoga Push-Ups

Weighted Ring Push-Ups

1-Arm Valslide Push-Up

Plyo Push-Ups

Do you have any push-up challenges I can try in my workouts?

Yes, here’s two push-up challenges I use with my athletes that you can use as a finisher in your training! Warning they’re BRUTAL!

Push-Up Challenge #1: As Many Push-Ups As Possible in 2 Minutes

The first push-up challenge is simple. Complete as many body weight push-ups as possible within two minutes time. This is a challenge I will use with my beginner athletes for their first phase of training which usually runs about four weeks. I will have them complete this challenge at the conclusion of one their workouts during the week. Try this challenge for four weeks and try to get more total reps every week!

Push-Up Challenge #2: As Many Push-Ups As Possible in 4 Minutes

For the second push-up challenge the goal is to complete as many body weight push-ups as possible in four minutes. A progression from the first push-up challenge above. I will typically use this with my beginners during their second phase of training which again will run about four weeks. I will have them complete this challenge at the conclusion of one their workouts during the week. Try this challenge for four weeks and try to get more total reps every week!

Push-Up Challenge #3: The Chain Weighted Push-Up Massacre

To complete this challenge you will need 100 LB of chains. With 100 LB of chains on your back you will complete 8-10 total reps. After you have done this you will take half the weight off your back and complete 6-8 total reps. To conclude the drop set you will take all the chains off your back and try to complete as many reps as possible with just your body weight. In the video above, White Sox Catcher, Ivan Gonzalez completes The Chain-Weighted Push-Up Massacre. At my facility, I only have chains that weigh 30 pounds a piece so Ivan is using 120 LB of chains for the first 8 reps and 60 LB of chains for the second 6 reps.

I hope this article was helpful! If you have any questions, comments, or concerns please feel free to send me an email – Simonesbaseballtraining@gmail.com

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