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.
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,