5 Bodyweight Push-Up Variations

Animal Flow, Bodyweight Workouts, Ido Portal

The push-up is a fundamental human movement pattern effective for building athletic performance and improving aesthetics.

Calisthenic exercise solutions are HOT right now, and for good reason.  

Push-ups are a premiere bodyweight-based upper body exercise capable of building useable strength, endurance and sculpting a lean physique. 

It’s easy to get stuck doing the same variation of push-ups, which can make training dull and potentially lead to skipping workouts.  There’s a whole world of push-up progressions and variations worth exploring.  

The draw to bodyweight based training makes sense.  First and foremost, bodyweight training is FREE.  

Second, bodyweight training is natural movement.  How?  Why?  It’s just you managing your own weight against gravity, which makes this form of exercise pretty damn realistic for everyday life.  

Seems logical to improve one’s ability to handle their bodyweight in various positions and patterns.  The ability to press oneself up from the floor (to do other things like crawl or walk, etc) helps us stay mobile and live life.  

Bodyweight training can be as advanced as a person wants, or going the other direction, scaled for any beginner. 

Push-ups, squats, lunges, crawling and vertical pulling exercises pull-ups/chin-ups are the foundation of before external weight ever enters the equation.

Traditional Push-Ups…

When someone says “push-ups”, a lot of people immediately picture a max set of pumping up and down.  And yeah, you’re right, these are definitely push-ups, but these are just one variation done in isolation, in one body position, to nausea.  

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the traditional push-up, but you’re leaving out a lot of AWESOME variations if you stop exploring there.

It’s a reasonable thought that many people would find a renewed interest (and results) in controlled physical activity if they delved a bit deeper into the hundreds of different push-up variations that exist.  

The traditional push-up doesn’t (and shouldn’t) be the end of the road variation-wise, which is why I’ve had some serious motivation to share exercise variations lately.

That being said, pay your dues with traditional push-ups before departing for the “sexier” variations.  The basics are the fundamental pillars from which all other movement is built.  

The Often Forgotten “Secret”… 

There’s no special “secret” sauce in fitness, only what you know and what you don’t know.  

And you don’t know what you don’t know.  

If there is a “secret” to push-ups, it’s that they are often overlooked and forgotten during workout exercise selection.  Our eyes drift to objects of weight or other fancy gadgets instead of down at the floor where we can assume the position and start doing work in less than 2 seconds.  

It would seem that push-ups are perceived to be rudimentary, lacking effectiveness or “only for beginners”.

If you find yourself thinking about push-ups in this way, I once again encourage you to dig into this article (and future articles) to explore and try every variation I’m about to share.

I guarantee you’ll be humbled by the potency and cognitively stimulated during most of these variations.   

Adding weight to a push-up is a common strategy to improve upper body strength, and indirectly, improve core strength at the same time.

But what about pushing up in odd body positions?

Having fully adopted and integrated ground-based movements from both Ido Portal and Animal Flow, I’ve been exploring different variations of pressing up from the floor at known and unknown (improvised) times throughout a workout.

This post is all about some of the push-up variations I’ve been toying around with across the last 10-12 months.

Watch the video, read the short description then give it a try.

Explore what YOU can do.  

#1 Resistance Band Assisted One Arm Push-Ups

Resistance bands are a brilliant tool to make exercises like chin-ups/pull-ups, single leg squats or single arm push-ups more palatable.  The band reduces the amount of weight the working arm must move during the exercise, which is often enough to make the exercise manageable.  

I value eccentric-only variations, but there is so much value is being able to go through a full range of motion, with a little less weight.

#2 Lateral Push-Ups

Traditional push-ups are a great exercise and should be taken as daily medicine, but pressing up from a variety of positions will expand your body’s movement IQ. The traditional push-up is very linear and can become boring in time.

Lateral push-ups put your body in a squat position, which from the get-go is unique.  The “fall-out” requires rotation of the torso and soft hand placement.  

Lightly touch your nose to the floor, press back up into the start position.  Performed rhythmically and for long durations, lateral push-ups will tire you out.

Aim for 6-8 reps on each side, but don’t be scared to work these for even longer sets.

#3 Stationary Low Lateral Shifts 

The low lateral shift was my first personal experience with a hybrid push-up.  Hybrid, in the sense that there is no upward/downward motion, yet many of the same muscles involved in push-ups are being worked.

Considering most people find themselves weakest at the bottom of a push-up, this exercise will challenge you to the maximum since you’re hovering at that depth.

Cues:  Shift your body side to side without making ground contact, yet avoiding the imaginary “razor wire” above you.  If you’re familiar with “Archer Push-Ups”, you’ll notice the body position is similar.  The difference is you are not pressing in this low lateral shift, the tension is high and constant throughout the work set. 

Aim for 3 sets of 5-8 shifts side to side.

#4 Dynamic Low Lateral Shifts

I could have tagged this exercise as “Traveling Low Lateral Shifts”, but dynamic sounded more professional and the definition of dynamic fits perfectly:

– relating to forces producing motion.  Often contrasted with static.  

This exercise is a stationary low lateral shift but now you’re moving across space.  I would consider this an introductory exercise to Ido’s locomotion training, though still falling into the Isolation category.  

Cues:  Stay off the floor, but don’t rise too high.

Start slow, maybe traveling 5 yards down and back.  Work up from there, as far as you can handle.

#5 Beginner Lizard Crawl Push-Ups

Lizard Crawl push-ups are a great way to practice pressing in a non-traditional body position.  

The full Lizard Crawl is one of the best exercises I’ve added to my personal workouts in years.

Of all the exercises in this post, Lizard Crawl Push-Ups require the least amount of strength, which doesn’t mean they are easy peasy, but you’ll likely be able to work these for higher repetitions.  Anywhere from 10-15 repetitions per arm.

*** If you want a humbling experience, I do suggest you attempt a full Lizard Crawl to gain some perspective on how difficult the movement pattern is.  Normally I wouldn’t recommend this, but being a body weight crawling pattern performed 2-3 inches from the floor, I see no real danger in trying it.  You’re either going to have the strength, mobility, and coordination to do make it or you’re not.  

No equipment required…

With the exception of the resistance band for assistance on the one arm push-up variation, all of these exercises require no equipment.  

This gives you an opportunity to test these exercises in your next workout.  

If you travel frequently for work, congrats, you’ve got some new push-up variations to play around with your hotel room or the hotel gym.  

Don’t procrastinate, get after it.  

To learn more about Ido Portal and my interpretation of the Ido Portal Method, check out this post.

 

For now… cheers, 

Kyle 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Saturday always provides adequate time to explore different combinations of work capacity style circuits.

I like to take the governor off and push myself on Saturday mornings.

This past Saturday didn’t disappoint.

The goal was to accumulate 25-30 minutes of a work:rest style circuit.  I didn’t feel like being monotonous with the exercise selection so included 10 different exercises, stringing them together strategically so that I could give an honest effort to each exercise without sacrificing anything (mostly due to fatigue) to the next exercise in the circuit.

It really worked out well and challenged a number of movement patterns.

The equipment that I used:  24kg kettlebells x2, jump rope, Jungle Gym Suspension Trainer

Here is how the workout was structured…

—> 20 seconds of work: 20 seconds of rest of the following:

24kg kettlebell snatch right hand

rest

24kg kettlebell snatch left hand

rest

Bodyweight Chin Up

rest

Double 24kg kettlebell squat-to-press (aka: Thrusters)

rest

Mountain Climbers

rest

Kettlebell Figure-8 (advanced and technical, but great drill)

rest

Bodyweight Push Ups

rest

Double 24kg Lunge (alternating sides)

rest

Hand-to-Hand 24kg Swings (alternating every rep)

rest

Burpees (jump and push up)

rest

Jump Rope (combination of two foot bounce and running)

—-> Repeat 4 complete cycles of the above…

The best part about this workout is that you don’t have to worry about keeping track of reps.  When I am doing work capacity style training, counting reps can be a major pain.  It’s really the last thing I want to be doing while I am huffing and puffing.  Instead, the work starts on the buzzer and ends on the buzzer.  It’s really convenient.

Know thyself… If you’re a beginner, this workout might not be scaled to suit you.  If you’ve been working out for a while, this might work great for you.  If you’re a tough guy or gal, bump up the weight for kettlebell exercises, add a weight vest to chin ups and push ups, use a weighted jump rope, etc.  I can provide exercise progressions to bury anyone if that is what you are seeking, hopefully that isn’t the case though.  Smart training reigns supreme.

You might see a lot of volume in a workout like this, and you’re absolutely right, so nice observation.  However, I preach workouts that can be managed.  I managed this one nicely.  Notice how explosive work is ordered first in the workout.  That is on purpose.  People tend to get hurt when they attempt to move weight quickly under fatigue and will poor form.  I am not foolish enough to place a highly technical lift at a place in the workout when I am most fatigued.

Also notice that all of the exercises are non-competing, and ordered in such a way to respect that.  In fact, look at the kettlebell figure-8 + bodyweight push ups + double 24kg lunge… sequence.  Very different muscles are being taxed there.  Figure-8’s are combination of squats with rotational power where the kettlebell moves from a high front to low back to side and finally diagonally across body to high position (hybrid movement).  Push ups are an upper body push dominant exercise, and lunges are mainly a lower body hip dominant exercise.  This allows for an increase in heart rate and work, without gassing out the body for the next exercise.  You tax one movement pattern, than move on to the next.

Different movement patterns, different muscles, quality technique, short rest, big training effect.

Now I don’t own a calorimeter or a metabolic analyzer, but I would guess that the calorie burn from a workout like this was quite high.  Maybe 650-800kcals total, and that doesn’t include the residual calories that are burned post-workout.  Shortened rest periods combined with resistance based lifts that leverage a sub-maximal muscle contraction are notorious for creating an after-burn effect, it’s been studied quite extensively in the last few years as the concept of fat loss slowly gains momentum versus weight loss.

Metabolism can stay elevated for several days leveraging workouts like this.

If you leverage some quality eating habits during that period of elevated metabolism, you’ll burn some fat no doubt.  Rinse and repeat the process and you’re going to end up burning a bunch of fat.

I should also note that I designed this workout knowing that the coming days were going to be either complete rest (no workouts) or at the very most, a short yoga/static stretch session.  It’s important to rest, recover and let your body heal in between workouts.  Your body can only handle so much stress before adverse events begin to occur.  You really don’t want to play chicken with overtraining or chronic fatigue in general.  The point of recovering in between workouts is to give your body the best possible chance to leverage the work done in the previous workout, while allowing enough time to enter the next training session and make gains.

I think that a lot of people could lose greater amounts of body-fat (faster) while boosting performance if they decreased the amount of cumulative stress from workouts.  You want your body to recover in full.  Always entering a workout in a state of recovery is bad for business.  If you haven’t acquired a full taste for physical activity, this is good news for you, as each dedicated workout can be used to accelerate

Instead, choose fewer weekly workouts that create a larger (but quality) training effect.  Make them count.

Focus on accelerating other areas of life while you recover in between sessions.  Focus on establishing quality eating habits.  Re-think your water intake.  Read more books on success and self-growth.  Calm the mind with yoga, foam rolling and a long static stretch session.  Get more sleep.

Learning how to workout is great, and building fitness is empowering.  But keep your training efforts sustainable.  Win the war, not just the battle.

Give this workout (or a variation of it) a go.

Cheers to kettlebell and bodyweight workouts!

KG

30 Minute Workouts, Bodyweight Workouts, Kettlebell Training, Quick Tips

I’ll Train Anywhere, Man

Bodyweight Workouts, Quick Tips

There was a song a number of years ago by Johnny Cash, “I’ve Been Everywhere”.

As I sit outside on a gorgeous Fall day here in Wisconsin, I got to thinking about how fitness has evolved over the years. It wasn’t all that long ago that a workout only took place inside of a commercial gym.  Sure, there were some outlying people here and there, maybe some underground gyms that were doing some really great stuff, but for the most part, a membership style big box gym was the only place to get your hands on some equipment and train.  At least that is what most people thought.

Gone are those days.

I haven’t trained in a big box gym for 5 years running.  

At first, it was hard.  Looking back, I have to assume that it was a far more mild withdrawal than what a smoker experiences when they go cold turkey, but it really was difficult.  I felt lost trying to figure out how I was going to create a sustainable training plan without all of the equipment that I had become so accustomed to using.

I think that a lot of people go through these feelings when they think about organizing a training plan that doesn’t involve a gym.  I can assure you that the thought that you need thousands of dollar worth of equipment to get a quality workout is a myth.

Does equipment help?  Yes, absolutely.

At some point, it is nice to have access to a traditional barbell, some dumbbells and a nice cable machine.  But you can survive and progress for a really long time without it.

I had 4 kettlebells, a first generation suspension trainer, some resistance bands, a foam roller, a Tiger Tail, chin up bar, and a jump rope.  That was my gym.

After thinking things through, I realized that I really wanted to try and create a training regimen that I could use to preserve the muscle, strength/power, soft tissue health and solid quality of movement that I had built over the years.

My training really went to another level once I took my training wheels off and left the gym. I came to the conclusion that if a person clings hard to the fundamentals and principles that really great programs are built on, you can get an unreal training effect no matter what equipment you have available, or your environment.

I’ve trained everywhere.

Outside in backyards, parks, school tracks, football fields, etc.  Inside in a room that’s slightly larger than a small bathroom, a guest bedroom, a hotel, etc.  If you have a few feet of room in all directions from where you currently stand, you can make it happen.  Trust me, I have done it.

Not on purpose or as a topic to brag about in conversation, but out of necessity.  I have made the commitment to a physical lifestyle.  It makes me happy and keeps me challenged to see what I can do next.  When I travel or when we are away from the house, I feel comfortable knowing that I can engage in some quality physical activity no matter what the environment is.

Winter in Wisconsin is a bitch.

But even then, you have options to get a training session in.

So when I start ranting on and on about people’s lame excuses for not getting a sweat in on any given day and how weak that this, now you can understand where that is coming from.  You can train anywhere with anything, you just have to WANT to.

I aim to always be a resource for all of you.  Sometimes you what I write about will really hit home for you and your situation, sometimes you may be offended by my tone or sometimes you may think my article is so boring that you hardly make it through the initial few paragraphs.

Either way, I aim to create change and get you to think…

KG

Simple Tests to Measure Your Fitness/Performance

Bodyweight Workouts, Human Performance Discussion

I have never liked the word fitness.  It just reminds me of people like Tony Little and Richard Simmons bouncing around like circus clowns.

I think I might go as Tony Little this year for Halloween now that I think about it.  Interesting.

A net worth of $200 million. Unreal.

Anyways…

What I want to talk about today is how to measure your training to make sure that you are moving forward.  Just like improving your eating is going to help your body composition and weight issues, measuring improvements in your training goals is also going correlate with the amount of fat you lose.  I suppose this is assuming that you don’t ruin your workout by eating an ice cream sundae.

If I were you, these are some simple measures of physical fitness that I would measure…

  • 1 mile run
  • 400 meter run for time
  • Distance ride for time (amount of time it takes to ride 5 miles on a stationary bike)
  • Maximum # of push-ups (full reps)
  • Maximum # of bilateral squats (bodyweight and 2-legs)
  • Maximum # of single leg squats (are both sides equal?)
  • Maximum # of pull-ups and chin-ups
  • Maximum # of inverted rows (aka:  body rows)
  • Time to complete:  24 squats, 12 fw lunges r/l, 12 split squat jumps r/l, 24 squat jumps (beginners= 1 set, intermediate/advanced=2-3 set repeats)

Take note of the last bullet where I recommend that an intermediate or advanced trainee complete the circuit 2-3 times.  Record the time it takes to complete one full circuit.  Your rest period before starting the next circuit will be twice the time it took for you to complete the prior circuit.

Example: Intermediate trainee required 96 seconds to complete circuit…  2 x 96 seconds=  3:20/rest

This is a lower body work capacity circuit for an intermediate or an advanced trainee, and probably a combination of strength and work capacity for a beginner.  If you are beginner, GREAT!  You may have to modify it a bit to complete the circuit, but that is no problem.

Kudos to you for taking action.  

Most people don’t.

Just remember that what is easy for one person, may be difficult for another.  It is quite common for a beginner to get one hell of a training stimulus from simple bodyweight moves.  Heck, I still use bodyweight moves in my own training just because they are so effective and require zero equipment.

Very simple to implement.

Let me be clear that there are far more extensive tests that I could recommend, there are.  But, when it comes to training at home, not everyone has the equipment necessary to properly measure your performance. That’s fine.  You’re not training for the olympics, I wouldn’t worry about it.  Use what you have.  That will work.

If you are making solid improvements in most of the performance based tests I listed above, I guarantee something great is happening to your body.  The correlation between increasing performance is closely tied with leaning out and getting fit in my opinion.

Especially when you begin to make significant improvements in load lifting, work capacity efforts and

Improved performance comes with this great little by-product called leanness.

With the olympics still rolling in London, now is as good of time as ever to make that point.  Performance and leanness seem to go hand in hand.  Take a look at 99% of the athletes in the olympics.  Of course I would exclude the olympic lifting, archery and table tennis, but hey, most of those athletes are pretty lean also.  I should probably add in the ridiculously skinny/atrophied long distance guys/gals too.

Maybe we should all train like athletes?  (Hint, hint)

Don’t be afraid of sweat and effort. 🙂

Let me know how it goes…

 

KG

(P.S.  This is performance based testing.  Keep in mind that movement quality should be evaluated also, I will show you how to measure that in a future post).

20 Minute Workout: “Country Jam” Training

20 minute Workouts, Bodyweight Workouts

In honor of our local Country Music festival here in Eau Claire, WI, I decided that I would throw together a workout.

The template for designing a crazy effective workout is simple.

My rule has always been… Keep it simple.

Simple means big bang movements using minimal equipment while closely considering loading (weight), rest period(s) and total time of workout.

Avoid complexity at all costs.   Complicating a workout with fancy technical lifts only moves the risk versus reward pendulum deep into the RISK category.

I equate HIGH RISK with HIGH INJURY.

Enough babbling, start training.

 

Give this a go…

 

Country Jam Training

The Details…

—> Time:  14-20 minutes

—> Work-set:  2 minutes

—>  Rest:  Remaining time after work is completed

—>Rounds:  7-10

—>Equipment:  Bodyweight + Suspension Trainer, Gymboss interval timer or equivalent

 

Procedure:

15 Push Ups

30 Mountain Climbers

15 Squats

30 Jumping Jacks

15 Full Burpees or 15 Inverted Rows (if you have a suspension trainer)

 

*  Complete full reps of each movement for the set amount of reps.  Pay attention to full range of motion and technical perfection.  Your rest period is determined by the speed with which you complete the final rep of burpee.  Rest begins then.  Each round starts at the top of EVERY 2nd minute.

An example of what I am desc is seen below:

Minute 20… Start set

Minute 18… Start 2nd set

Minute 16… Start 3rd set

Minute 14… Start 4th set

… and so on.

 

Customize the workout to your training level…

  • Beginners/Intermediate:  Start with 5-7 rounds of this (10min-14min total work)

—–>  If it is easy, add more rounds of work.

  • Advanced:  Go for the full 10 rounds (20min) and don’t look back.

—–>  If it is easy, add load to the movements or add rounds (12-14rounds… 24-28 minutes)

 

Did you get your heart rate monitor yet?

Don’t underestimate the power of a bodyweight workout.  No excuses, just get the work done and get on with your day.

Remember the equation:

 Intense physical exertion + clean eating = Ramped up fat loss

See you soon… let me know how it goes…

 

*****  Did you see this girl?  She knows how to put a kink in the obesity hose*****