13 Push-Ups for Athletic Dominance

13 Push-Ups for Athletic Dominance

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Build Your Chest, Boost Your Athleticism

Move like an athlete and build your chest at the same time. Pick a push-up variation you’ve never tried and get to work! Try one of these.

Why does the push-up get zero respect? Push-ups (when done correctly) are shoulder-friendly, and you can make them harder or easier based on your needs and goals.
But I get it. When it comes to upper-body strength, there’s nothing quite like pushing a heavy barbell off your chest and locking it out. But as I said in 6 Pulling Exercises for Gains and Healthy Shoulders, sometimes all that pressing leaves your shoulders beaten up.
So let’s do a quick refresher on the proper push-up technique, then dive into different variations you can try.
Push-Up Technique
Even though push-ups are a standard bodyweight exercise, that doesn’t mean we mindlessly blow through them without thinking about form or technique. Here are a few things to focus on:

Place your hands outside shoulder width. Go too narrow and you’ll put a lot of stress on the anterior shoulder. Go too wide and you’ll also stress the shoulder, plus perform what amounts to a pec flye on the ground.

Use three points of contact. While I’m not militant about achieving a “neutral spine,” it’s good practice to get the back of the head, upper back, and buttocks in as straight of a line as possible at the start. Not sure what this feels like? Use a PVC pipe or broomstick and place it on your back. Make sure there’s only a little daylight between your lower back and the pipe. If you can drive a Mack truck through that gap, tuck your pelvis slightly to engage your abs and core.

Reach LONG. One of the biggest benefits of doing push-ups compared to traditional supine pressing exercises (like the bench press) is allowing the scaps to move. So at the top, think about reaching long and pushing through the floor to get the scaps moving and opening the upper back.

Lower in one smooth motion. Back in the day, we were cuing to actively “pull” the scaps back when lowering down. While well intentioned, I don’t think it gave us the benefits we were looking for. It essentially jams the scaps together and then directs most of the stress to the glenohumeral joint. To fix this, lower and press in one smooth motion.

Keep the core engaged throughout. Once you’ve got those three points of contact, work to maintain them throughout the movement. Think about your torso and legs being a board. Even though your arms are moving, the board stays straight throughout. This is especially true at the midpoint when transitioning from the eccentric to concentric phase. Keep the core tight and don’t let the lumbar spine sag in the bottom.

Let those scaps move! You’re doing a push-up instead of a supine press because it lets those scaps move. So let them move! They should naturally fall together at the bottom. Up top, keep the chest up/out while reaching LONG through the floor to get a full range of motion.

Beyond Conventional: Push-Up Variations
Lifters think push-ups are boring or not hard enough. But there are ways to make them challenging and fun. Take a look at these four different classifications:

Loaded/Resisted: Find ways to overload the push-up and get stronger.

Stability: These variations are for athletes that need dynamic stability and control through the rotator cuff and core.

Dynamic and Rotary: These push-ups create more stability and rotation around the thorax and spine.

Corrective and Restorative: These push-ups can optimize body position, restore motion, or just help you move and feel better.

Now let’s break each of these down:
Loaded Variations
The great thing about loaded variations? You do them almost exactly the same as a standard push-up. These are great options if you’re looking to continue building strength but want to get the scaps moving (or if the bench press is taking a toll on your shoulders).

Band-Resisted: Simply wrap the band around your upper back and through your hands.

Chains: You can either put them around the torso or the neck.

Weighted Vest: Just put it on and strap it up.

Feet-Elevated: Rest your feet on a low bench or box.

Technique here is straightforward: chest up/out, core engaged, reach LONG at the start and finish.
Stability Push-Up Variations
I love stability variations for jacking core and shoulder stabilization needs through the roof. Here are a few options:

Med Ball Push-Up: Place each hand on a medicine ball, then set up like you would for a standard push-up. Lock in and connect your hands to the balls. Your core engagement will naturally increase due to the instability. Make sure to keep it locked in throughout.

Push-Up to Single-Arm Support: Start with your hands in the standard position, but take your feet wider than usual to increase your base of support. Perform a standard push-up and then, at the top, lock in the core and place one hand on the opposite shoulder. Hold for a one or two-second count, then repeat on the opposite side.

Suspension Trainer: These are great because the immediate instability requires you to lock everything in from top to bottom. I prefer a more balanced hand/shoulder position, in between a pronated and neutral grip. Stay tight throughout.

Dynamic and Rotary Push-Up Variations
If you want to move better and feel more athletic – or if you play rotary sports like tennis, golf, or baseball – these are fantastic options:

Walking on Box: This is a blend of a push-up, plank, and lateral bear crawl. It gives you a lot of bang for your buck. Start off with one hand on a low box and the other on the ground. Perform a push-up, then “walk” laterally across the box with your hands before doing a push-up on the opposite side. Walk back across and repeat for reps. Enjoy the shoulder burn.

Offset on Med Ball: Place one hand on the ground and one on a small medicine ball. Perform for the allotted number of reps, then switch sides.

Alternating Med Ball: Start with one hand on a medicine ball and the opposite hand on the ground. Do a push-up, then roll the ball across the body to the opposite side. Place that hand on the ball, do a push-up, then roll the ball back. This will take a little work depending on the surface, but it’s fun to change surfaces and mix it up. You’ll really be feeling your core on this one!

Spiderman: This one is really challenging since it requires a tremendous amount of dynamic core stability throughout the movement. Set up just as you would for a standard push-up. As you lower, bring one knee up/out to the side, and then, as you press up, return it to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side.

Corrective/Restorative Push-up Variations
When someone comes to me with known movement issues, I’ll use push-up variations to help them out. Here are two of my favorite options:

Push-Up to Downward Dog: Lots of lifters have an anterior weight shift, where their center of gravity is too far forward. A big forward weight shift robs your body of its natural mobility. The push-up to downward dog will help you shift your center of gravity back and open the back side of your body. Simply do a standard push-up and then, at the mid-point, push your hips to the sky while extending your knees and driving your heels down. Inhale in that top position to really lengthen everything out.

Offset Push-Up on Box: This one is great if an athlete’s body is twisted to the right or left and you want to push them back in the opposite direction. Setup is straightforward: place one hand on the box and the other on the ground. At the top, reach long on both sides while keeping the chest up/out.

I did a 20 down push up routine with ProblemChildFitness (look him up) recently and it completely broke me
I had doms for a week

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