Pushups are a fundamental movement that everyone should be able to do.
They require no equipment and everyone is at least familiar with them.
A lot of people do not do them right and even more people do not do them at all. This is a problem because they have a ton of benefits and an be done at home.
Pushups go into just about every program I write for a number of reasons. The big one is that ripping off sets of pushups is usually a good indicator that the athlete has plenty of upper body strength. Most of the time I do not care about how much someone benches.
There is also a huge core stability component to the pushup. We actually use the exercise as an assessment tool. We do 3 pushups from a dead start with the chest on the ground. If the athlete can successfully get off of the ground and lock their arms out, they are at least strong enough to do the exercise
The most important piece of info from that assessment is what happens at the low back. I think in every assessment I have done, the low back arches and the chest comes up before the hips. This tells me that they need work on their core stability. Side note: I am yet to meet an athlete that doesn’t but that is beside the point.
Training with pushups helps give the athlete the ability to resist extension which will improve their performance on the field and in training.
For those that struggle with pushups, my fix is simple. Start accumulating as many perfect pushups throughout the day as possible. Do not start with sets of six or something like that. Do 1, wait 5 minutes, another, etc.
Some of you reading this are good at pushups and looking at how we can make them more difficult. There are really three categories of pushup progressions.
Adding weight is a straight forward option. To load the pushup you can put a plate or chains on your back, but you can also use a band as resistance.
Band pushups are extremely difficult and have seen some close calls with people almost getting sling shot into the floor. Good times.
Personally, I prefer chains over plates to add weight but not every gym has that so we have to do our best. The plate seems to get in the way of the shoulder blades from moving which is uncomfortable.
When decreasing stability in the pushup, I like single leg and spiderman pushups. These will force the core to resist rotation because we have removed balance from side to side.
Single leg is the easier of the two and spiderman pushups are quite challenging. Simply lift one leg six inches off the ground and do pushups. Give them both a whirl and see how it goes.
Add Time to the Set
There are a couple of pushup variations that add time to how long we are on the ground. This makes it a lot harder to continue doing pushups since the muscles are on fire very quickly.
We have the yoga pushup, pushup walk across, and then it is up to your creativity.
The yoga pushup is great for shoulder health because it activates the small muscles that help with stability of the joint. The extra time makes the pushup itself harder too.
The pushup walk across is a good core stability challenge as well as how willing you are to deal with your pecs that are on fire.
This category is where a lot of different things that can happen. You could do pushups with a chest tap in between each rep, a lateral bear crawl in between, or add dumbbells and do rows.
Adding time to a set of pushups is only limited by how creative you can get.