Healthy Perspective by Todd Jones


There are many ways to make pushups more challenging and many of them are pretty commonly known: One handed, diamond, putting your feet up on something, etc. There are also however some very simple, subtle ways that you can increase the difficulty of a standard pushup simply by changing your positioning a little bit.

1) Keep your arms in tight to your body throughout the entire exercise. As you lower yourself to the floor, your upper arms should be touching if not pressed against your rib cage. Your elbows should point directly back behind you, and not out to the sides. If you have never done this before you will be surprised at how much more difficult the pushup will be in this fashion. Also, doing push ups in this fashion will go a long way in avoiding wear and tear on your rotator cuffs, as it distributes the workload more evenly among your muscles.

2) If you still want to make the pushup even harder, in addition to keeping your arms in tight to your body, lower the placement of your hands so they are closer to your waist as opposed to directly underneath your chest. You will find that lowering your hands even an inch or two significantly decreases your leverage, which is one of the key ways to progress in any bodyweight exercise and make them harder. You may also turn your wrists so that your hands point out to the sides which may alleviate some of the pressure on your wrists.

I have a client who, when I let him use his standard form, can crack of sets of 20 pushups with a 45 lb weight on his back. When I make him do them in the manner described above he struggles with 5, with no added weight! Remember, raw strength comes from how hard you can contract your muscles and not how many reps you can do of a particular exercise. When an exercise is so difficult that you can only do a handful of reps, your muscles are contracting harder than they would be with an exercise where you can crack off 20 or more. Don't get frustrated with an exercise and skip it because you can only do it a few times. Rather, train that exercise regularly, and turn it into one that you CAN do 20 or more of.

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