Go back to yesterday's post to SEE the deliciousness ;)
1. The best way to improve at a skill, like a pushup, is to actually practice that skill! Of course, you should practice only at the level you can master (meaning... perform with impeccable technique). Here's a progression stepladder for pushups:
- Standing / Elevated pushups - hands on an elevated surface (you can lower that elevated surface as you improve)
- Kneeling pushups - knees bent, feet pointed toward ceiling, body straight from head to knees
- Pushup NEGATIVES (see #2 below)
- Regular pushups
- More advanced pushup modifications
2. Another way to improve at a skill is to focus on the "eccentric" portion of the movement. That is the "lowering down" phase of any motion. For example, lowering the bar on a bench press, lowering your entire body from a flexed arm hang position in a pullup, lowering / sinking down into a squat, AND lowering your super-straight body from the top of the pushup all the way down to the floor.
This phase of a movement is much easier to perform. You don't have to lift a weight or maneuver your body weight... you simply have to lower that weight under gravity. Basically, you are trying to slow down the weight as it heads toward the floor. When you do this, the same muscles that lift the weight are working to lower it. Therefore, you are teaching ALL of the necessary muscles for that skill to learn how to properly perform that skill.
Plus, more damage is done to your muscles in the eccentric phase (because they are lengthening instead of shortening). Without getting too scientific, this increased damage is good because it forces your muscles to more effectively adapt and become stronger.
**SO... get into a pushup position... hands a little wider than shoulder width apart and directly underneath the line of your shoulders... body straight from head to heels... stomach braced... head neutral. Slowly lower your body IN ONE PIECE for a count of 10. Every body part should reach the floor at exactly the same time. Do not push back up. Get back into the top of the pushup position and repeat the 10 second super-slow lowering motion again. This will train your chest, shoulders, triceps, AND stomach/midsection how to properly activate during the real deal.**
NEGATIVES are difficult! But do-able. Perform them religiously for a month, and then see how much better you are at pushups!
3. Pushups involve a large amount of abdominal/core strength. That is really the most difficult part of a pushup... that it requires so much activation of the entire "invisible corset" in the midsection. Therefore, exercises in the pushup position, that improve the muscular strength and endurance of the entire abdomen, will be extremely beneficial toward the acquisition of a fabulous pushup.
Here's a few ab exercises in the pushup position (or a similar position):
- Plank (hold the pushup position, on hands OR on elbows)
- Plank with elbows on a stability ball
- Pushup position with hands on a medicine ball
- Plank with shins on a stability ball
- Knee tucks on Stability Ball (pushup position, shins on ball, roll ball to tuck knees into chest)
- Pushup position, alternating rows (don't let hips move/wiggle/twist)
- Pushup position, alternating straight arm lifts (lift arm straight ahead or up to the side of the body)
- Pushup position, alternating knee crossovers (pull knee into body, twist it across body)
- Spiderman crawl (pushup position, place one foot near same hand, then switch)
- Plank to Pushup Position to Plank...
- Plank to Side Plank, alternating
4. Any compound pushing movement will increase strength in the chest, shoulders, and/or triceps... which will carry over to better upper body strength for the pushup. Remember that compound means - any movement that involves multiple muscles and multiple joints.
Some examples of compound pushing movements:
- Chest Press (barbell or dumbbells / flat, incline, or decline bench)
- Shoulder Press (barbell or dumbbells / seated or standing)
- Dips (off bench or hanging)
- Close Grip Chest Press (barbell or dumbbells / flat, incline, or decline bench) - this targets the triceps more than a regular chest press
Now, go make me proud and do non fish-flopping, strong, powerful pushups!