Strength Building for Push-Ups

Strength Building for Push-Ups

There is a reason why push-ups are on a short list of physical requirements that must be accomplished in order to graduate from all branches of the military, as well as be accepted into the police department and other sectors of law enforcement. Push-ups are a standard indicator of basic strength and endurance, showing that you have the ability to stabilize and move your own body weight.

Being unable to perform a push-up can be frustrating, and it might even cause you to put yourself in an unstable or incorrect position just so you can do something that resembles a push-up but is actually probably making the situation worse by not actually addressing the muscle weaknesses that are holding you back from your push-up.

Read on and watch the videos to see how you can progress yourself from where you are now to a full body weight push-up. A push-up is a very synergistic move, meaning it requires several different muscle groups working together in order to perform. Arms, chest, shoulders, core, and back are all on deck for your push-up. For this reason I have never been a big fan of performing push-ups from your knees since it almost entirely eliminates one of the most important stabilizing muscle groups; your core. It’s better to train your body to achieve the full push-up position, even if that means creating an easier position by doing it on a higher incline.

If you have access to a squat rack or smith machine this means setting the bar in the rack higher up so you can put yourself in a push-up position but push off the bar instead of the floor. You might have to play around with the height you set the bar until you find the right setting for your strength level. If you don’t have this equipment you can start by using a counter top, table, chair, sofa, anything with a high enough incline so you can perform about 10 to 20 reps.

If you’re struggling with how to set up your position try this hack: the bumper plates in a gym by the lifting platforms are all designed to be the same size in diameter so when people are using them the bar is always the same height off the floor no matter what the weight of the plate is being used. Grab one of these lighter plates, 10 or 15 pounds, and lay down on your back on a flat bench, holding each side of the plate at its widest point. Imagine that the hole in the center of the plate has a pole running through it that’s coming out of your sternum, the center of your chest, and as you push the plate off your chest it has to slide straight up and down this invisible pole. This will help you maintain a good position for your elbows as you press and lower it down as well as remind you to tuck your shoulder blades down and together rather than have your shoulders shrug up to your ears. Just remember that in a regular push-up your hand position will be different, with fingers pointing forward, not in toward each other.

Practicing this plate press will not only help you understand your push-up position but it will also help you build up basic strength toward your push-up. Once you feel comfortable with your position try switching out the plate for dumbbells in order to continue getting stronger with your push but now building up more shoulder stability with unstable dumbbells. Combine this with your incline push-up which you should be slowly making a lower and lower incline as you feel stronger.

One last tip is working on up-downs. This will help with your push strength but also on core strength and stability. Start in a forearm plank and then press yourself up into a straight arm plank, alternating back and forth between which hand starts the push from forearm plank to straight arm. As with all exercises it takes time, practice, and a willingness to challenge yourself and push yourself outside of your comfort zone in order to progress and see changes. Set realistic goals and work on this at least one to two times a week.

Core Exercises: Where to Begin and How To Progress

Core Exercises: Where to Begin and How to Progress 

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While there are certainly no shortage of core exercises posted on webpages and social media accounts, it’s sometimes hard to get a baseline on where you should begin and which of those exercises are appropriate for you.

For that reason we’re posting a series of videos that will help you determine if you are a beginner, experienced, or a master of your core.

A beginner level core exercise is a side plank hip raise. This will help build up core strength while also helping your balance and shoulder stability. Simply start on your side, forearm on the ground, and raise your hips up off the ground, attempting to hold the top position for 3 seconds for 10 reps. As you progress with this and are able to maintain the top of your side plank you can advance it by now tapping your hip down to the ground. And a final stage of difficulty would be to add a twist while you reach under with the top hand after performing the hip tap.

For the intermediate or experienced level of core training let’s look at the inchworm and some progressions on that. Named the inchworm for its resemblance to the movement of an inchworm, you are simply starting in plank, walking your feet in toward your hands so your hips hike up in the air, and then walking your hands out to return to your plank. So you will be inching forward as you perform these. Once you have a solid grasp on this movement you can kick it up a notch. Instead of walking your feet in toward your hands, give 3 little hops in and then 3 little hops back out to return to your plank. For these you will be staying in place. A great way to make these extra challenging is to go 3 hops in and 3 hops out for 20 seconds, then switch to 2 hops in and 2 hops back out for 20 seconds, and then finish with one big hop in and one big hop back out for the last 20 seconds.

Finally, for our advanced readers who have some really solid core control, we have progressive toe taps in plank. Start at one end of a yoga mat in plank. Start by tapping your foot up by your hand and then return it back to plank position. Tap the same foot out about a foot further out on the yoga mat and then back, and then tap the same toe all the way out as far as you can on the yoga mat and then back. And now reverse the taps, starting with the tap all the way out, then middle, then up by your hand. From here, perform up-downs to get yourself to the other side of the yoga mat and repeat the same progression with the other foot. See how many times you can make it back and forth across the mat before your core burns out. And don’t forget to stretch after!

Why You Should NOT Switch Up Your Exercises in The Gym

I’m sure you’ve heard it a dozen times, “you need to always switch up your workouts in order to keep making progress” or “you shouldn’t do the same exercises every workout, switch them so you can shock your muscles to grow”.

Although this may make sense to you coming from your local gym rat; scientific studies show that you will continue to make long term progress if you focus on compound lifts and sticking to those same movements for long periods of time. This will train your body to become efficient in these movements, forcing adaptation (muscle gain, power, stability, etc.) of the body. In fact, if you are always doing something different every workout – it may cause decreases in muscle, strength, and endurance over time.

Heres why:

There is a term called progressive overload that applies to every single form of exercise, whether it be running, weight lifting, dancing, etc. Its the concept of adding more weight, reps, time under tension, or any form of a challenge to that exercise on a weekly or monthly basis. A simple example is if you were bench pressing 135lbs for 5 reps this week, next week you may want to go for 6 reps.

This simple concept forces your body to keep adapting to your increases in demand over time – leading to greater results in the gym. If you are always switching up exercises, you will never be able to keep progressing at specific movements and will have no way to judge if you are actually making progress.

How To Properly Program a Workout:

After you’ve determined what your goals are in the gym, you need to pick exercises that are the best bang for your buck to getting you to your goals. For example, if your goal is to be a power lifter – you’ll want to focus mainly on barbell movements and do them over and over again, throughout many weeks to assure you are efficient at those movements. Increasing workload over time will increase your strength and muscular recruitment during those movements.

Once you’ve chosen the few movements you’d like to work on the most – begin each workout with those exercises, making them your primary focus. These are the exercises that become “staples” in your training sessions – you won’t switch these up. You’ll focus on adding intensity and workload to these specific movements over a number of weeks.

Once you have completed the “staple” exercise – you can now move onto “accessory” work that will further get you to your goals, as well as help you get better at the main exercises you’ve chosen to focus on. A simple example would be – following your main exercise of bench press with a Tricep extension to increase the strength of the Triceps during the bench press.

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Chalk Up a Better Squat and Deadlift: Glute Activation Tips

One of the biggest issues we often see are people performing a good exercise but not understanding the goal behind it or the main muscle groups they want to be using. For instance, if you’re a runner, hip health is going to be essential in your ability to tap into and optimize your strength, energy, and endurance to get the most out of your run. It’s a misconception that runners shouldn’t lift weights. While it’s true that runners want to be light, and therefore aren’t going to bulk up with big muscles, strengthening lean muscle mass should definitely be a priority. Exercising lean muscle mass is simply making sure that the muscle you do have is as strong as possible, as opposed to trying to make it bigger. The point is simply that runners, just like everyone, will benefit immensely from having healthy hips. And the easiest road to healthy hips is practicing squat and deadlift.

There are several different muscle groups that make up your hips, but if you want to talk strength, endurance, and power it’s going to be glutes. Your butt. These are the primary muscle groups driving you through your squat and carrying the majority of the workload. Unfortunately for many people, their glutes are in a weakened state from sitting on them all day, and our quads in the front of our legs have become the dominant muscles propelling us around. Entering into your workout in this state will almost definitely lead to one thing; leaving your glutes inactive and your quads to do all the work. If you’re squatting and your quads start burning and you don’t feel any activation in your butt then this is for you.

There are a lot of steps that go into executing a good squat but just to get you started off we’re going to go over two things you should focus on in your warm-up; stretching out your quads and activating your glutes. If your quads start burning pretty soon into your workout that generally means they’re doing too much work and were probably tight to begin with. Foam roll your quads, stretch them, mash them out with a bar or kettlebell; these are all acceptable ways to get the muscles in the front of your legs to release some tension. How painful this is will depend on how tight your quads are.

The next step is to get your glutes fired up and activated so they’re ready to be heavily involved in the exercise. One of the easiest, most straight forward ways to activate glutes is a glute bridge. Simply lay on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Your goal is going to be to drive your hips straight up off the ground without any other movement, so the finish position is a straight line from your shoulders to your knees and your shins completely perpendicular to the ground. In this position you should be squeezing your butt and mimicking that you are pulling your heels in to engage your hamstrings. Try doing ten reps with a three second hold at the top on each one.

Another effective and easy glute activation exercise is a band walk. Try using a Slingshot or Hip Circle or a moderate level resistance band and put it either around your ankles or just above your knees. Get into a mini squat position and simply side step in each direction, opening your whole hip up against the band to get glute activation. Try doing this one for time, side stepping each direction for 30 seconds, focusing on keeping a straight back and tight core and glutes.

The clam shell is also an effective band activation exercise. Keeping the band above your knees, lay on your side with your knees bent and slightly tucked in. Keep your feet together and your hips facing to the side and push the band apart with your knees. Do 10 to 20 reps on each side, slow and controlled focusing on squeezing your butt and keeping your glutes activated.

These exercises are designed to stimulate and activate muscles that you want to be using during your squat and deadlift, and suggest ways to address any tight or overactive muscles that might be interfering with your performance. It is important to note that addressing any tight or overactive muscles is not only beneficial for correctly performing an exercise, but it is also the pathway to pain and injury prevention.