Push-ups. The ol’ standby. They’re done everywhere. Gym classes, beaches, garages, bedrooms, boxing and MMA gyms…. The list is endless. O Ya, just a hunch, but I guess inmates have been known to do a few in prison too. Who says that push-ups aren’t effective at gaining upper body strength? The secret to making gains with this exercise is to make them progressively more difficult. This can be done in a number of ways. Once you hit a certain number, say 50 or 60, you can add a weighted vest to make them harder. Also, you can work on one-arm push-up progressions to increase your maximum strength levels. One-arm push-ups require a significant amount of core strength and total body tension. This is a key point. Remember,Tension=Strength.
Another important point to remember is that you have to breathe when performing high tension exercises. Don’t hold your breath, as it will drive our blood pressure sky high. Think about it as “breathing behind the shield”. Remember the movie 300? Well if you don’t…. or if your a loser and you never saw it, here’s my point. The Spartans in the movie had a bronze torso shield in the outline of the core muscles that covered the abdomen area. Imagine this as your core area when performing these exercises. Brace your abs hard like your about to take a punch in the stomach. Inhale on the lowering portion and exhale on the lifting portion. It’s also been called “setting the core”. This needs to be done to protect the lower back. This technique can be used on many different exercises that require max strength including Squats, Standing Military Press, Deadlifts, and any of the pull-up variations. Since this post deals with push-ups, we’ll focus on these now.
Push-ups are a great “bang for buck” exercise because they work your core as well as the chest, arms, shoulders, and back. Another advantage is that they can be done anywhere, even when you’re watchin’ t.v. There really is no excuse why they’re not getting done. Here’s a push-up ritual that I do almost daily. Forget about over-training and all that other bullshit. Push-ups can be done often. The human body is highly adaptable and can withstand a lot of volume once you build yourself up. Notice I said ritual, not routine. I believe that when you look at it as a ritual and not a routine, you actually trick the mind into believing that it is something that you want to do as opposed to something that you have to do. Well, enough talk, here it is…
First, I usually try to bang out anywhere from 50-60 fast push-ups to get the burn going in the arms and shoulders. I don’t use a full-range of motion on these: I just try to go as fast as possible. Once I hit that number, I go into a plank a position and hold it for about a minute or more. This is where you should focus on the high tension technique discussed above. Keep your abs braced hard and try to stay straight as a board. Try to slow your breathing down during this time because you will likely be sucking wind from machine gunning the first set out. Don’t worry about it if your not great at it at first…it’s gonna take some practice. After the minute or so is up, you will perform 3-point push-ups. Simply raise one of your legs off the ground and try to spread the legs apart a little wider on these. By doing this, you will engage the core a little more. I usually shoot for 10 on each side, focusing more on form. Full range of motion and a little slower. Finally, alternate your grip on the last “mini” set. I go from regular (arms under the shoulders), wide (arms extended well past the shoulders), and then bring it back to the narrow position (hands inside the shoulders) to give the triceps one last blast. Try to continue this sequence as long as you can. The set is then over. Like I previously mentioned, this can used as warm-up for a strength training session, or just as something you can do in the morning upon wakening to get the blood flowing. Also, if you start to feel like you’ve been on the couch too long at night, this routine could be done during commercial breaks. Remember, millions of people have been doing push-ups since the beginning of time, make it a ritual and you will be rewarded.