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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Decisions, decisions, decisions

This might be the single most important thought I ever post on this blog.  Seriously.

I really should make this my new landing page for anyone stopping by for the first time.

It’s that important in my opinion.

Decision fatigue refers to the idea that people make worse decisions after having made a lot of decisions.

Limiting decision fatigue can catapult your fitness success.  It will streamline your workouts and relieve the anxiety of your workout choices.  It starts from the moment that you decide to rid yourself of all of the minutiae.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of decision fatigue, try this exerciseDrive to your local gym, walk to the middle of the building and stop once you feel like you are dead center in the gym.

Now, do a slow 360 degree spin, making sure to take in all of the equipment, classes, posters, tv’s, etc.  Take note of the vast amount of options that the gym has so graciously offered you in exchange for your monthly membership fee.

Now, take note of how overwhelming the number of options truly are.

Assume for a second that you walked into that gym with a limited knowledge on exercise, with no notes and no workout plan in hand.  Assume that you walked in just to improvise your workout for the day.

My question is this… Assuming that you’re not yet an expert in effective exercise, how in the hell are you supposed to make steady progress toward your goals (which are commonly weight loss, fat loss or lean muscle gain)?

How?

How are you supposed to make any lasting progress what so ever?  One great workout is not going to create change.  A series a great workout spread out across months and years is going to solidify your results, paying dividends on your physical efforts.

There is a niche machine or gadget for everything in that gym, and in my personal opinion, over 80-85% of them are not worth your time.  Yes, if you’re an able bodied person, put the blinders on to over 80-85% of the strength machines, ellipticals, treadmills and the like.

Just to take the heat off of the geriatric resistance machines and the hamster wheels, the equipment that I promote the most doesn’t help the situation much more.

Medicine balls, resistance bands, dumbbells, power wheels, kettlebells, barbells, sandbags, weight vests, suspension trainers, bodyweight specific movements, sleds, jump ropes, battling ropes, climbing ropes, plyo boxes, and on and on and on.  This is all equipment that I highly endorse, but there is an overwhelming number of options.  Where does it all fit?

I know how to design a program using this equipment, but it is insane to think that the average Joe or Jane, who is focusing their attention on building a career outside of fitness, should know how to incorporate all of this equipment.

You can experience this same sense of “decision fatigue” when you walk onto a dealership to shop for a car, peruse a website to compare digital cameras or enter a grocery store to purchase grocery items for the week.

Decision Fatigue

Grocery store decision fatigue.

The grocery store might be the best immediate example of how draining decision fatigue can be. There are tens of thousands of products in a grocery store, and probably less than 200 that are ideal for human consumption, assuming you are mindful of your health.  I recently read a marketing article stating that grocery stores put candy and other junk food next to the checkouts because by that point in the shopping experience, people are weakest.  If they are going to make a impulse buy, it’s going to be in the check out line because they have the perception that once they are done checking out, the opportunity to have that package of delightful candy is no longer.

Decision fatigue.  I don’t know why it took me so long to make the connection between decision fatigue and achieving body transformation/performance.

I have often stressed about paying attention to the details of your workouts, nutrition and recovery tactics, but now I have to admit that I believe that limiting the onset of decision fatigue might be the key to high level fitness results and reduced anxiety.

Off of the cuff, I have a couple of suggestions that can help relieve decision fatigue:

1)  Have Your Workout for the Day in Your Hands!

Unless you’ve had experience designing strength and conditioning programs, don’t wait until you arrive to the gym and “wing it”.  It’s a complete waste of time to sit down and brainstorm a workout once you arrive.  Have your plan in hand so that when you arrive you can immediately get to work, then get out.  Do not, for any reason, head to the gym expecting to make progress if you don’t know exactly what workout entails for that day.  Would you drive to a far off, highly populated unknown destination without a map?  Probably not.  So don’t put yourself at risk by showing up to the gym without some idea of what is about to take place.

Also, have an idea of what you accomplished in the previous workouts and a decent idea of what you hope to accomplish in the future workouts.  Keep measuring where you came from, where you are and where you are going.

Side-note:  I am convinced that the likelihood of a person to buy poor quality food in the grocery store because they didn’t make a shopping list is increased exponentially.  No list + no plan = poor choices. Decision fatigue beats you down until you have little to no willpower.

2)  Choose between 1-3 pieces of equipment.

The best workouts I have ever had usually involve no more than 3 different pieces of fitness equipment.  Weight can only come in so many forms, and to be honest, weight is weight.  The earth’s gravitational pull has established what things are going to weigh, so keeping that in mind, weight is pretty much weight.  The design of the grip points and the location of center of mass might vary between equipment.  Think kettlebells versus dumbbells here.

I choose “iron” when it comes to weight.  “Iron”, meaning dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells (cast iron).  You cannot go wrong with this type of equipment.  Using less equipment is great for acclimating yourself to that style of equipment.  Jumping around from innovation to innovation without working to master the basic (time tested) equipment teaches you nothing over the long-haul.

As I mentioned above, you have to measure your progress.  If you lift the same 100lbs on the barbell squat all year long, you’re not going to get anything out of it.  Your body will adapt quickly and then progress will flatline.  But, if you add weight in small increments, you’re going to get a hell of a lot stronger and your body will change in the process.  Staying consistent with that barbell squat will allow you to measure your progress over time.

Choose less and you’ll receive more.  Decision fatigue will entice you to touch everything in the gym for that “total body workout”.  Total body workouts are accomplished through movement patterns, not equipment.

3)  Choose less exercises.

Half reps, whole reps, tempo, single leg, double leg, off-center loading, overhead, goblet, racked, alternating grip, neutral grip, blah blah blah.  There are so many options it makes me sick.  “Options”, keeps fitness magazines profitable.

First off… squats, deadlifts, pull ups, chin ups, push ups, row variations, lunges, and a select few core specific exercises should make up the bulk of your training.  Choose an upper body movement and pair it with a lower body movement.  Sprinkle on a core drill after the second exercise in the tri-set, or address flexibility issues during your rest period.  Add a realistic amount weight that challenges your muscles and joints, lift it up and down a few times, set it down, rest, rinse and repeat.

Leverage the basics to the fullest and you’ll end up getting great results on your investment.

An example of a complete resistance training workout might look like this:

Tri-Set #1

A1)  Squat

A2)  Chin Up

Core)  Ab Wheel Roll Outs

Tri-Set #2

B1)  Lunge

B2)  Inverted Row

Core)  Lateral Plank

9 out of 10 people will see dramatic results from a workout designed with the format above.  Executed 2-3 times per week with adequate rest in between each session and a steady progressive loading plan, now you’re getting somewhere.  Drink some water, eat protein and veggies, get adequate sleep and you’re going to enhance the gym work.

It’s almost disheartening reading statements like that isn’t it?  I think our brains desperately want us to believe that there is something complex, some secret, some hidden element missing from our training efforts.  We subconscious crave the complicated and complex versus accepting and leveraging the simple tactics.

I didn’t believe in simplicity much when I went deeper into strength and conditioning rabbit hole some years ago.  I thought we needed more exercises, fatigue, fancy gadgets and variability all of the time.

It’s not true.  Simple is better.  Simple is better for the beginner population and simple can be a much needed element for the advanced population that has gotten sidetracked from information overload.

Our days are chock full of decisions.  Use your mental strength to make decisions about life, career and what is best for yourself and your family, not your workouts.  If you’re forced to workout in the evening, chances are quite high that you’ve been beaten down by the amount of decisions that you’ve had to make throughout that day.  More decisions is not what the doctored ordered.

Find a simplified and streamlined plan and execute like a savage.

Cheers to limiting decision fatigue and leveraging simplicity in your workouts!

KG

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*** The same can be done with nutrition.  Find out how to limit decision fatigue with your eating here***

Chin Up + Kettlebell Swing + Squat + Jump Rope + Push Up… Workout

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I’ve never felt inclined to name any of my workouts.  Thus, I give you the:

Chin Up + Kettlebell Swing + 2KB Squat + Jump Rope + Push Up…

… workout.

There is another organization that names all of their workouts, which isn’t a bad thing,  I just don’t feel like labeling my workouts with someone else’s name.  I could name this one “Brutus” or “Cactus Jack”.  Maybe I should name my workouts after WWF wrestlers past and present.  That would be cool.  Everyone seems to know WWF wrestlers names whether they admit to watching it or not.

I could use a numbering system I suppose, like “Workout #1” or “Level 5”, but maybe I’ll just call it what it is.

I selected the movements listed above because they represent most of the major movement patterns, and also because these exercise could be easily executed with the workout equipment that I had available the other day.

What did I have available?

As I mentioned, I typically only incorporate big movement patterns into circuits.  To be honest, I don’t like wasting time with exercises that hardly stress the prime movers.  Bicep curls and such are desert.  If I have time after I have completed what I often refer to as the “main meal”, I will work in the accessory exercises for fun.

 

I value my time.  Time is a commodity in my life (as I am sure that it is in your’s) so I prefer to get in, get out and get back out to experience other aspects of life.  Sure, I write about working out, structuring workouts, movement and nutrition a great deal, but that doesn’t mean that I am working out 2 hours a day.  Efficiency is the name of the game.  How effective can I make my workouts without taking away from other areas of my life that I also value.

Occasionally I will add an exercise or two that is slightly out of the box, but these movements are usually treated as a filler exercise (active rest) between more demanding exercises, or reserved for before or after the main circuit of the workout.

While I will admit that doing this is my personal preference, I would suspect that most of you will find that your own workouts are immediately enhanced by working in the big movements instead of a series of fillers.  More muscles engaged equals a greater training effective at the end of the workout session.

If you do more work in a smaller time frame, now you’ve primed your body for fat loss + muscle gain.

This is a great scenario, one that we need to keep advocating instead of “weight loss”.  You can lose weight by dehydrating yourself down to a raison in a sauna.  That’s weight loss, right?

Swap the fat tissue for muscle tissue.

Chase muscle and while running away from fat.

So what are the big movements?  In this case, the big movements that I leveraged for a training effect were:

I’m continually amazed at how effective bodyweight strength movements are, especially when organized into a circuit.

I can get the training effect that I desire while minimizing risk of injury and awful soreness in the days that is so commonly associated with resistance based training.   Of course, if you have never performed a push up or a squat, you’re going to be sore in the coming days.  That’s something you can expect with a new training stimulus and re-discovered muscle contraction.

Loading up on bodyweight style training sessions.  This type of training sessions should be heavily considered by anyone that struggles with achy joints, etc.  Bodyweight resistance exercise provides a low load introduction to basic strength drills, easing your body back into the swing of things.

Plus, being able to control your body exhibiting stability, strength and power through a healthy range of motion will do wonders for your performance, whether that performance be for sport or raking the leaves out of your yard.

So what does last weekends workout look like?

The structure looked something like this:

Metabolic Resistance Training Circuit

I loaded up most of the movements and went for 4 rounds, which took slightly over 20 minutes.  20 minutes continues to be the sweet spot for workout duration.  Anything more than that and I lose output, anything less and it seems like it wasn’t enough… as if I left some fuel in the tank.

20 minutes also seems to allow for focus on proper exercise technique (and grooving) while the fatigue continues to snowball.  Technique is important, don’t forget that.

If you take another look at the exercise selection above, I’d like to share a couple of substitutions that you could make.  If you cannot perform a bodyweight chin up, wrap a resistance band around the chin up bar you’re using, and stretch it down around your knee or foot.  This will assist you on the way up and ease you down from the top.

You could swap out standing broad jumps or squat jumps for the kettlebell swings, although there really isn’t a movement to mimic a kettlebell swing.  If you have dumbbells you could use those in a pinch, but again, there is no tool that functions quite like a kettlebell.

If you don’t have a suspension trainer, just do regular old push ups.  If you want a less expensive option that does a decent job of mimicking the push up+knee tuck combination, use furniture sliders or socks on a hard surface.  Both work decently.  I would go the furniture slide route if I had to choose.

If you don’t have kettlebells, dumbbells or a barbell for squats, you can do bodyweight squats just as well.  If bodyweight squats are easy, mix in pistols alternating each leg.  If you squats are too easy and pistols are too hard, use squat jumps.

If you don’t have a jump rope or a bike, run in place.  High knee with simultaneously arm action.  If you’re lucky enough to have a place to run a short distance, figure out how far it takes to run half of a 20 second shuttle run (10 sec out, 10 sec back).

As you can see, there is a progression, regression and alternative to just about every single movement known to man.  Once you know what a level up and a level down from an exercise is, you’re in business. Now you can OWN your workouts.

Replenish and refuel your body with some rock solid recovery nutrition, and you’ve just done your body good.

 

 

Cheers to Chin Ups, Kettlebell Swings, Squats, Jumping Rope and Push Ups!

KG

PS:  Seriously check out the nutritional link that I posted above.  If you want to see dramatic change in your body and performance, nutrition is at the bottom rung of the pyramid.  

A Simple Workout to Help Lessen the Damage from Easter Sugar

Quick Tips

Yes, it’s a kangaroo, but it hops like a bunny.

Happy Easter and here is a dose of reality…

You won’t be able to out work the amount of sugar that most of us will consume on this wonderful Easter Sunday.

Sorry.

Bless the lord, bless your family and loved ones, but you won’t be able to do it.  The damage is done.

Well, maybe you could, if you were training for an Iron Man or some other activity that has a similar caloric expenditure.  But most of the population isn’t into the Iron Man scene, so we have to accept that the sugar that we pounded like starved dogs is going to cause some damage.

Sugar and bread are two “foods” that sabotage our internal health and our external aesthetics.

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But hot damn if those Reese’s peanut butter eggs aren’t ridiculously good, right?  I’m a sucker for peanut butter, as I am sure that some of you reading this are also.  It’s a snowball effect if I even eat just one of those things.  One turns into two, two into three, and on and on we go.  So, I tend to avoid them completely.  It would seem like torture for most, but after you dodge sugar for a long enough period of time, you become hyper-sensitive to the sweetness of most candy.  The taste is almost too much to handle.

Anyone that has gone cold turkey on sugary snacks will no doubt agree with me here.

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 Load up the slingshot, aim at the tank…

You’ve probably read about my mandatory rule of training after nights with friends and during the holidays, when food tends to be a little less nutritious than other times of the year.  It basically involves me torturing myself after a night of excess.  I’m human, it happens.

I have ZERO research to prove that my ability to stay lean over the years has anything to do with these “next day workouts”, but I have to believe that getting up early and grinding through a solid workout has helped to off-set some of the damage.

At the very least, busting through a challenging training session is never a bad thing, right?

Always moving forward, except for holidays.  Then we hover.  🙂

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Time: >30 minutes

Warm-Up:  10-15 minutes

Workout:  10 minutes (up to 15 minutes when scaled to your training level)

Equipment:  Bodyweight and interval timing device of some kind (this one works just fine and it’s free)

Structure:

  1. 10 Squats
  2. 10 Push Ups
  3. 20 Jumping Jacks
  4. 10 Alternating Reverse Lunges (5 each leg)
  5. 10 Burpees (push up + jump)
  6. 20 Jumping Jacks

* Rinse and repeat without rest between exercises or rounds.

** Complete as many rounds as possible in the time frame that you set for yourself.

*** Don’t stop until the clock hits 10 minutes (or longer if you choose).

 

Fitness thoughts

The first thing that I want you to notice about a pure bodyweight workout like this (with no equipment present) is the lack of upper body pulling movements.  For me, no equipment means no pulling.  It’s the sacrifice that you make by using your body mass (and gravity) as the sole source of the training stimulus.  If you have access to something that can be used for chin ups, I would place them after the reverse lunges, or better yet, I would move the push ups after the reverse lunges and have the chin ups be placed immediately after squats.  Vertical pulling is a much more challenging movement for most people, considering you are pulling your full weight with each repetition.  Keeping yourself as fresh a possible before the chin ups will make it a much more enjoyable experience.

Second, attack this workout.  It’s 10 minutes of movement.  There is no reason to leave anything in the tank early on.  This is a variation of short burst training.  Your work output in the allotted time frame will largely determine the training sessions effectiveness.  Your fatigue levels are going to accumulate as the minutes pass by, so get after it and expect your fatigue to peak toward the final minutes of the workout.  Ideally, you’ll experience a large amount of system-wide fatigue around the 8-9 minute mark, leaving you perfectly cooked by the time the beeper sounds.

Third, the jumping jacks are a filler exercise.  They are by far the easiest movement in the workout and this is by design.  The jumping jacks  for a few seconds of active recovery before moving back into the strength based moves.  Don’t dog the jumping jacks.  Get your arms overhead, feet at least shoulder width on the jump and focus on calming your breath from the previous work performed.  Breathe in deep to your belly, and force it out from your belly.  Focus.

Fourth, scale the workout to your abilities.  Don’t be a hero, yet don’t coast.  It’s ten minutes of effort, so if you dog the first five minutes, you’ve lost half of the workout and remained in your comfort zone.  If technique breaks or you are not completing a full range of motion for any movement, well, you need to take a breather until you can complete a full range of motion.

Fifth, warm-up.  I will do a better job of describing what an effective warm up should look like, but in the mean time, this is a variation of a staple warm up for me…

Cheers to Easter bunnies, kangaroos, family and training hard as punishment for eating junk!

 

KG

Do More Push-Ups NOW: A Simple Technique to Increase Strength Instantly

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I really dislike the word easy, but this little trick of the trade is so easy a caveman could do it.

So easy a caveman could do it

Whoops, that’s not a caveman.  That’s Steven Tyler!

Creating tension in your body prior to moving weight, whether it be external loads (dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, etc) or your own bodyweight, is a sure-fire way to make yourself stronger.

I know that this sounds like voodoo, but it isn’t.  Creating body tension before and during a movement will help all aspects of that movement.

*** Please note that this post will heavily quote and reference Pavel’s awesome bodyweight book, The Naked Warrior***

Take an exercise like a push-up.  Most of us can perform a single push-up with some kind decent form.  If you can’t, it doesn’t take much work to get there.  Some simple progressions and frequency of practice will get you performing push-ups in no time.

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But anyways, an exercise like the push-up provides one of the best examples of how creating total body tension can improve matters.  Whether you are a beginner aiming to increase your reps or an advanced trainee shooting for the single arm push-up, focusing on body tension during the downward and upward phases of the push up will make you feel stronger instantly.  When I first messed around with Pavel’s theories almost 5-6 years ago, I added close to 15 reps to my best on the first attempt.  This is no joke.

I was a fairly strong kid to begin with, but I didn’t know that I could squeeze even more strength out of my body, which in turn helps everything (body composition, performance, etc).

Creating total body tension was the game changer, because lord knows I didn’t get that much stronger overnight.  It doesn’t work that way.

The first lesson was quite simple actually:

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You will get stronger by contracting your muscles harder.

I know, it sounds bogus at first.  I felt the same way when I read it initially.  But I figured that messing around with the concept certainly wouldn’t hurt anything.  My results were great.  Your’s will be too.

So, first things first.  Let’s use the push up example and apply the tension technique.

Follow my lead here…  seriously… follow my lead…

1)  Get down on the floor and set up for a traditional push up.  It should look like this:

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2)  Once you are in the start position, do the following and don’t laugh… this is serious shit… 🙂

  • Grip the floor with your fingertips, until they turn white.  (Grip hard!)
  • Tense your lats by attempting to twist both hands outward statically.  (To clarify your hands should not move at all, creating a corkscrew effect)
  • Squeeze your butt hard.
  • Brace your stomach hard as if you were going to take a punch.
  • Maintain your ability to breathe through pursed lips.

3)  As you begin to descend to the floor, actively pull yourself deep into the push up, versus “falling” loosely into it.

4)  Now perform 5-10 push ups without losing this muscular tension.

Stay tight!  Stay tight!  Stay tight!

What do you feel?

Do you feel a difference?

Really focus on all of the above tension techniques, especially gripping the floor with your finger tips and squeezing your ass.  Also, the concept of actively pulling yourself into the eccentric (downward) phase of any movement is a great way to keep tension.  It’s help my training immensely over the last few years.

The concept of creating tension can be applied to any exercise.  That is the pure beauty of the technique.  Once you stop approaching your strength training with a loose body and begin contracting hard before and during any movement, you’ll improve your lifts.  Improving your lifts will improve your performance and body composition over time.  It’s great.

Stop Sign Warning

Here’s the stop sign again…

Please don’t do what I did.  I messed around with one small set of push ups, felt “kind of” different, than ditched the technique for a few weeks.  Big mistake.  Once I re-focused on it, and applied Pavel’s teachings, it provided an instant improvement.

Lesson?  Don’t even try it if you’re only going to try it once.  Keep working at it.  You’ll feel a major difference once you connect all of the dots.

If you want a perfect example of an athlete that has to perfect the art of creating total body tension, look no further than the gymnast.

As gymnastics coach Christopher Sommer mentions in The Naked Warrior, “One of the main advantages to these advanced bodyweight exercises is that they require a complete, full body contraction.  In fact, at the advanced level, they are so demanding that it is simply not possible to complete them any other way”.

Exhibit A to make Mr. Sommers point:

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 8.51.37 PM

There are very few people on the planet that can execute this move.

The gymnast has mastered the art of bodyweight control.

I trained a former college gymnast for a while, and these guys are strong as hell.  His bodyweight-to-strength ratio, even after being 20+ years removed from competitive gymnastics, was incredible.  I could tell that he “set up” before all of the lifts that I was having him do.  His grip set up was especially noticeable.  No lift was done with a loose body, everything was tight.

Go and try this… tonight.  Don’t sit on it and waste time.  Try it out, apply it, then come back and learn something else that can help your workouts…

Cheers to the good kind of tension!

KG

P.S.  Check out my post about single arm push ups and pistols if you want more advanced bodyweight training.