Try These Push-Up Variations

Animal Flow, Bodyweight Workouts, Ido Portal

Push-ups are one of a handful of premiere bodyweight-based upper body exercises a person can do. 

Being that push-ups are one of the greatest bodyweight-based upper body resistance exercises a person can do, it’s important (as with any other exercise) to explore the progressions and variations within the push-up category.  

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.  

First, bodyweight-based training is FREE.  You spend zero dollars to do something highly beneficial for your body.  So, for anyone tight on cash, bodyweight training is your best friend.

Second, bodyweight training is a natural form of movement.  No, not “natural” like the organic potato chips you just bought, but natural because your body can become a tool for working out by leveraging different movements, angles, time, etc.  Yes, I understand life often demands that we be able to lift, carry and drag objects, but these situations represent a very small percentage of our existence.   

Third, basic calisthenic exercises are a logical starting point for anyone interested in movement/fitness/exercise and probably should be considered a prerequisite to all else.  It makes sense that a person should be able to handle their body weight with exercises like push-ups, squats, lunges, crawling and vertical pulling exercises pull-ups/chin-ups before external weight ever enters the equation.

Finally, at the bookends of life (babies and elderly) 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.  

Of course, we are not cavemen and cavewomen anymore, the conveniences of human evolution are all around us.  But, our bodies are wired for self-propelled movement.  Gaining mobility independence as a youngster is just as important as preserving mobility independence as we get older.  

Movement is freedom.

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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Carpet Slide Push-Ups (with reach)

How-To, Motion

A pair of carpet slides is an essential tool for every home gym.

Carpet slides add a new training dimension to a boat load of exercises. Slides can be used with exercises like reverse lunges, lateral lunges, crawling drills, hamstring curls, core work, and in this particular case, push-ups.

Probably best of all, they’re incredibly economical at $2-$7 for a pack of 3-4 sliders.  How?  The carpet slides marketed for fitness purposes are dangerously close in design and functionality to the furniture sliders available at your local home improvement store.

In the past, carpet slides have received the most attention when incorporated with lower body training.  Think hamstring curls and reverse lunges.

But carpet slides are extremely useful for upper body training also.  Using slides to introduce new variations of push-ups can be refreshing, and brutally challenging.

Carpet slide push-up variations are amazingly challenging.  Not everyone is ready for the coveted single arm push-up, and for those of you that are, maybe you’re looking for a new variation.  Something you can integrate into a work capacity circuit or load up with a weight vest and grind it out.

This is it.

Progression-wise, the carpet slide push-up w/ reach exists somewhere between a traditional two-arm push-up and full-blown single arm push-ups.

Some (not all) of the load is from the moving hand does take on some loading during the exercise, although this can be limited by the exercisee.

Exercise Technique…

 

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  •  Begin in the top position of a push-up, hands centered on top of the sliders.
  •  Slowly lower yourself to the floor, hugging sliding the non-working arm out in front of your body.
  •  Keep the elbow of the working arm pulled into side body
  •  Pause briefly at the bottom, working elbow at 90 degrees.
  •  Press up and repeat on the other side, alternate for scheduled reps.

Workout Integration…

  •  Rep range:  6-12 reps per side with bodyweight, beyond than add more weight.
  •  Load:  Bodyweight until 12 reps are achieved, then add weight.
  •  Sets:  This depends on goals, 3-5 sets is plenty.
  •  Tempo:  Slow it down on the descent to the bottom, 3-5 seconds on the way down.
  •  Technique break down = rest

Where does this exercise belong?

The strategy of building fitness progressively from the ground up is awesome.  Your current fitness level and past training experience will determine how and where you place this exercise into a workout.

For some, this will be a strength training drill, you’ll need adequate rest after the set.  3 simple sets of 6-8 reps will leave you drained.  That is fine.  Beat on it for a few weeks, aim for improvement.  Expect to be sore through the chest and tender around the obliques in the coming days.

For others, the carpet slide push-up will provide a delightfully saucy challenge in a short burst metabolic training session.  I’ve worked it into a long circuit or kept it simple as part of a 3-exercise burner.

Here’s an example of where this exercise could live within a total body workout:

Alternating Split Squat Jumps x 8 each side

***Carpet Slide Push-Up (with forward reach) x 8 each side***

Airsquats x20 or Goblet Squats x8 (load up here)

Suspension Trainer Inverted Row x10 or 1-Arm Bent Rows x 8 each side

Own the exercise from top to bottom to top…

I have to admit I’ve seen several YouTube videos of carpet slide push-ups.  85-90% of the people in the videos are dropping into the bottom of the push-up too quickly.  More like falling into it.

Address the concept of OWNING the eccentric descent in this exercise.  Pause at the bottom, stay tighter than a pair of skinny jeans, contract and push up and out of it.

Again, slooooooowwww down, spend more time under tension and focus on remaining as rigid as possible.

At most, the descent into the bottom of the push-up should take 1-2 seconds, with NO bounce out of the bottom.  Pause at the bottom, hang out there.  Press out.  Strict.

Core training?  This is core training…

Without sounding like a physique zealot, because I’m not, this exercise provides an unbelievable stimulus to the core.  All without any bells and whistles, just basic rigid body position, technique, and gravity.

You won’t be able to execute as full extension carpet slide push-up without activating the torso aggressively.  It’s self-limiting.

To help make my point on how much core is involved with an exercise like this, drop down into a push-up position, raise one arm forward in full extension, while the other supports the body.

Stay in this position for time.  Just remain in that position without changing posture.

Too easy?  Inch the feet closer to together, narrow the base of support.  Any exercise can be made harder.

The challenge to the core during the carpet slide push-up with reach will be intense, felt from the hip flexors, through the torso, up to the collar-bone.

There will be a tremendous anti-rotation stimulus while supporting the body with one arm. Think about it for a second… the other half of the body wants to sag toward the floor (damn you gravity). Even with the sliding arm providing some assistance, your core will be lit up.

Maintaining a rigid body from head-to-heel is a must. Stay straight. Creating rigidity will require adequate tension through the mid-section.

Progression: Make it harder…

To increase the challenge, gradually lighten the hand contact of the sliding arm, which will lessen the amount of assistance from the sliding arm while increasing the load of the working arm.  Removing assistance from the sliding arm also drastically increases the amount anti-rotation stress as the exercise inches closer to a true single arm push-up.

Increasing the difficulty can be accomplished several ways, but the most honest approach would be to lessen the contact to just the fingertips.  Start with all five fingertips, progress to three fingers, two-fingers (thumb and pointer)… etc.

Before you know it, you’ll need a weight vest, at which point you’ll begin from the bottom rung of the progression once again, with palm firmly on the carpet slide.

Regression:  Make it easier…

To decrease the challenge, wrap a band around your torso and anchor the band to a point directly overhead.  The band will assist you during the hardest point of the exercise when you’ll need help the most.  For most, the hardest point will be the bottom of the push-up.

No carpet?  

Carpet slides work on hard surfaces also.  I’ve used them on hardwood and cement floors with great success.  Of course, this will limit the lifespan of the carpet slides, so if you’re going this route, purchase cheap slides at your local home improvement store.  A pack of carpet slides at Menard’s near me costs $2.99.  Cheap.

A suspension training set to the lowest possible height (without making contact with the floor) will also work.

The other option tools like the Ab DollyHAVYK Sliders, or a more budget friendly option like Core Coasters.  All have wheels which make them ideal tools for hard surfaces.  These options cost significantly more than the carpet slides, but you’ll find a plethora of uses for each, making them a worthy investment.

Early in the article, I suggestioned using furniture slides as a viable alternative to carpet slides designed for fitness.  There is a slight difference in my experience, being that fitness specific carpet slides typically have a much better integrity.  The manufacturers know that these are going to be used frequently, the design is more durable.

Here are some fitness carpet slides on Amazon.

No equipment at all?

Worst case scenario, I’ve done these push-ups without any tools period.  Doing so requires minimal weight on the sliding hand, but it works just the same.

User beware, going this route is intense.  There’s going to be way more friction on the floor  without a slide.  This is ok, just be aware that it might be too aggressive.

The end…

That’s all folks.  I’ve written too much already, way too much.

Give this baby a try.  Mix it in wherever you see fit.  Ask questions as you have them.

 

 

Kyle