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Push Ups A.K.A. Earth Downs

"Strength has a greater purpose" - Pavel Tsatsouline



Bodyweight movements are excellent for athletes, weight room warriors, and really just about everyone. Push ups can be used to build high volume safely (to increase mass within a training program), as a means to balance out problematic upper body muscle imbalances, build upper body strength in youth athletes, increase strength endurance in all athletes, learn neural control across the shoulder joint for decreased shoulder injury through enhanced function, and establish an excellent foundation prior to more advanced movements like the bench press, military press, etc. We all have a foundation that we need to grow or maintain for our functionality. Push ups help develop the basis for all pushing movements around the shoulder joint. 



Push Up Form


When positioning yourself to do a push up from the floor, your hands should be placed slightly outside of your shoulders with palms flat against the ground close to your armpits. From this position your elbows should be able to freely move vertically toward the ceiling. The hands are not truly positioned forward, but instead turned about 45 degrees away from the body. You want to keep the thumbs nearly parallel to your body. In this position you will be able to activate your chest, triceps, and front delts (as well as your lats and upper back) through a fluid motion. Your core should be activated and locking the body into a solid plank position from your heel to the top of your head. You should be in a perfect, straight line. You must engage your lats now for the best control. Shoulders stay packed. Maintain tightness. As you start to push and your body leaves the ground both humerus bones become level with your torso, and here there should be a 45 degree angle formed between your arms and torso. As your body continues to rise from the ground, your triceps drive your arms into a locked out position. Your body then lowers in a controlled manner back down to the ground with the same tightness and control as on the way up. When doing multiple reps, there can be a brief pause at the bottom and top of the lift or use different modalities: Ballistic, Tempo, Triphasic, you name it.


Push Up Variation


Some individuals may find that push up form from the floor is difficult to maintain and might need a movement to help progress them to a regular push up. Push Ups can be done with the hands placed in the same way on a high surface with the legs lower. By getting into an inclined position, the force is moved away from the upper body and the lower body takes more of the load. So, push ups can be easier with a greater incline. The next video shows a simple variation to improve. As the incline push up becomes controlled and mastered, the catch bar on the rack could be lowered to provide a greater stimulus for continuing your strength progression. Once the incline push up is low enough or strength is obtained, you can move back to the push up from the floor and begin trying more difficult variations. I’ve found that when teaching the incline push up, asking the lifter to bring their shoulder more over their hands tends to help bring them into a better position. But again, the same rules apply as the push up from the floor. There are many other variations of push ups, but they all tend to follow the same rules of tightness, control, and positioning: Wall Push Ups. Kneeling Push Ups, Decline Push Ups, One-Arm One-Leg Push Ups, Spiderman Push Ups, Clapping Push Ups... Honestly, the list goes on and on. I invite you to search Google for more names of push ups. But for now, I'd hammer out how to do these the right way. 

Push up variations can change the strength demand on the front delts and triceps or on the chest. To target the front delts and triceps, a closer hand stance would work. To target the chest, a wider hand stance would work. Closer grips could be triangle push ups (see video below). Wider grips would mean a wider hand stance.


Below is a sample program to start building your strength in push ups if you're a beginner. You need to stick with one form of push ups for the duration of the program OR if you're ready to graduate to a tougher variation I'd suggest starting back at the start of the program. For every rep you push, I HIGHLY suggest doing some kind of pull whether its rowing a luggage bag, putting a towel around your door and doing body rows, doing TRX Rows, etc. So that your push reps = your pull reps. Starting week 1, choose a push up variation that you can do between 15 and 30 times consecutively - no more, no less! Between each set take plenty of rest so that you can get all of the reps. If the day calls for one set of push ups, then do them without rest (if you take rest on these days between push ups make it as short as possible).


Week 1

Sunday = As Many Push Ups As Possible

Monday = 15 push ups

Tuesday = 20 push ups

Wednesday = 2 sets of 15 push ups

Thursday = Last Sunday's number + 5 more reps

Friday = 2 sets of 15 push ups

Saturday = 20 push ups


Week 2

Sunday = As Many Push Ups As Possible

Monday = 2 sets of 15 push ups

Tuesday = 4 sets of 10 push ups

Wednesday = 2 sets of 20 push ups

Thursday = 5 sets of 10 push ups

Friday = 3 sets of 15 push ups

Saturday = As Many Push Ups As Possible


Week 3

Sunday = 3 sets of 15 push ups

Monday = Last Saturday's Number for 2 sets

Tuesday = 4 sets of 15 push ups

Wednesay = 6 sets of 10 push ups

Thursday = Last Saturday's Number for 3 sets

Friday = Rest Day

Saturday = As Many Push Ups As Possible


Then, reassess your number! If you can do 35 or more push ups, you're ready for a tougher variation. 




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