THE BIG 5 – The Final Saga Push-up/Bench part II

Happy New Year everybody.  I can already see that the new year equals a new me campaign has started for many as the gym I work out at “The Matrix” (no relation to the movie) is getting more and more crowded by the day.  On an even more awesome note, I will be in sunny Jamaica next week, relaxing and getting off the stress of the school year.

Also a very special thank you to Frank Duffy for being the poster boy of this blog.

In my last post, we talked all about the bench press, and as usual I ranted on for a while and left no room for the push-up.  The push-up is one of my favorite exercises, and is one that is butchered very often everywhere I turn.  People’s backs sag, or shoulders round, heads fly fowrard and for some reason, everyone forgets what full range of motion is.  But after this post, hopefully I won’t feel the need to bleach my eyes when I go home after seeing all the horrific techniques that I come across in the gym.

Let us begin with the setup;

  • I like to begin this exercise in a quadruped position, that is on your hands and knees.
  • From here, we are going to pull the ribs down, and pull the scapula onto the ribcage.  (Try thinking of pulling your shoulder blades down towards your hips.  And remember DO NOT squeeze your shoulder blades together, but pull your arm pits towards your hips).
  • Then extend both legs out one by one, and as you do squeeze your but cheeks as hard as you can.

image

Once set up, your body should be in a straight line, looking much like the plank we covered way back when in my earlier post on core strength.  Once setup, we can get to the niddy griddy of the push-up.
image

TECHNIQUE

  1. Set-up as stated above.
  2. Use your scapula to pull yourself down to the ground.  You do not just want to drop here.  You want to keep stiff throughout your entire body, and physically row yourself to the ground. 
  3. Once you get about a fists distance from the floor explode back up to the starting position.  Meaning that at the top the ribs are still down, and scapula are on the ribcage.
  4. Repeat

Now that we all know how to do a push-up lets talk its benefits.

STABILIZATION – One of my favorite advantages to the push-up is not the fact that it helps develop the upper body, but that it helps with scapula stability, anterior core strength and to some degree help teach proper hip and knee extension.

What is the benefit to improved stabilization, well for one, it will help you lift heavier weights in almost all of your other lifts.  Improved stability gives you a better base to push or pull from, so in returns all your major lifts like bench, dead-lift and squats get better.

INCREASED MUSCLE MASS – The push-up develops the chest, triceps, shoulders on top of those stabilizer muscles.  This will help give both men and women that added tone and definition that every person in this world strives for.

VERSATILITY – The great thing about push-ups is there are so many variations of push-ups that you can never get bored of them.  And they should almost always be in your program regardless the goal.  If its strength you can always add resistance to yourself, if your body weight is too light.  If the goal is endurance you can just do max reps and try to do as many as possible in a time frame or in a set range.  You can manipulate the foot position to help make it harder or easier.

Seems a lot more complicated now doesn’t it.  Some people with some coaching can have great push-ups, some other people just don’t have the strength.  So what can we do if we lack strength?

THE PUSH-UP PROGRAM

If you struggle to do push-ups, the first stage would be to do elevated push-ups.

The first thing you really need is good back strength and stability.  Set your focus on many scap push-ups as well as horizontal rowing.  Lots of TRX rows, bent over rows, one arm rows etc…  The stronger and more stable we are from the back the better our base for pushing becomes.

The second thing you need is good anterior core strength, so lots of planks, dead-bugs, roll outs etc…  If you are unfamiliar with any of these, or all of these refer to my core strength blog here.

Now you can work on all these things along with your push-up strength all at the same time.

Go to a smith machine, set the bar at the appropriate height that will allow for good technique, but also challenges you strength wise.  The elevation decreases the amount of stabilization required to perform the lift, so it will make it easier.  As you get stronger at a particular height, make sure you decrease the height so you can continually challenge yourself and get stronger.

As you get stronger, test your push-up strength from a kneeling position.  The technique for all this exercise is the same as above.  The only difference is we are on our knees.  So remember to make sure that we do not stick our butts in the air, and that our lower backs don’t sag.  These are the two most common mistake that I see.

Once you can do 3 sets of 10 from a kneeling position, test your push-up and see how you do.  Chances are at this point you can get 3/4 of the way down, any lower and you won’t be able to get up.

From here things get trickier.  Now its time to make sure we build a little extra strength.  We can do negatives at this point so we can work on really learning to squeeze those blades the entire way down.

To do negatives, get into your push-up position as stated above.  Once locked in row yourself to the floor slowly, taking about 5 seconds to get all the way down.  Once at the bottom, get up however you can, and repeat.  We are all stronger in the eccentric phase (down phase) then we are in the concentric phase (up phase).  So we will take advantage of this.

We also need to build chest strength in the up phase at the same time, so dumbbell presses or bench press can be a very useful exercise.  Even for you ladies.  So refer back to my post last week on the bench press.  As you get stronger with these lifts, it will make it much easier for you to push yourself up from the bottom position.

Sample Program:

Exercise

Sets

Reps

1a

Inverted Row

3

x10

1b

Smith Machine Push-ups

3

x10

1c

Plank

3

3 (10) second holds

2a

One Arm Row

3

x10 ea

2b

Side Plank

3

x10

2c

Scap-push-ups

3

x10

Exercise

Sets

Reps

1a

Push-ups from knees

3

x10

1b

Scap-push-ups

3

x10

1c

Stability Ball Rollouts

3

x10

2a

Bent Over Row

3

X8

2b

Paloff Press

3

x10

2c

Negatives

3

x6 5 sec. decent

Exercise

Sets

Reps

1a

Weighted Negatives (weight plate on your back)

3

x6

1b

Inverted Row

3

x12

1c

Dead Bug

3

x10 ea

2a

Bench Press

3

X6

2b

One Arm Row

3

x10 ea

2c

Plank

3

3 (10) sec holds

I hope that this helps those of you who want to be able to do push-ups, or want to do more push-ups.  Please leave feedback on how this post helped you!


2 responses to “THE BIG 5 – The Final Saga Push-up/Bench part II

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