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Push Ups: Progression For Greater Strength And Endurance

Dec 6, 2007
Push ups are one of the classic bodyweight exercises. Every bodyweight training program I know of uses push ups in one form or another. As a result, the ability to perform a proper push up, for high repetitions is a fitness milestone in bodyweight training.

But there is more to this classic bodyweight exercise than high repetitions and bragging rights. As a matter of fact, some people get so caught up in high repetitions that they forgo proper form, reducing the strength and endurance gains, and increasing the risk of injury. In this article I'll reveal an alternative to high repetition push ups.

But first, what is a proper push up?

A proper push up is an incredibly demanding full body exercise, requiring both upper body strength and a strong, stable core for proper completion. This is important. It is not just an upper body exercise. It is a full body exercise.

Start by lying on the ground with you feet together and your hands on the ground by your shoulders. Your elbows are flexed and should remain close to your body throughout the entire movement. Don't flair your elbows!

Perform a push up by pressing with your arms until your entire body leaves the ground. In the up position, only your hands and toes remain on the ground. The body has to remain stiff and straight throughout the entire lowering and raising. The only thing that should move during the movement is the arms.

This is very important. The body should be straight at the top, during and at the bottom of the movement. This is accomplished by using your core stabilizer muscles, butt and legs to make your body as ridged as possible.

As you can see, your whole body is involved in completing a proper push up, not just your upper body. Upper body strength and core strength must be coordinated to do a proper push up. If either your upper body or core is weaker than the other, errors will occur and performance will be lowered.

Ok, once you know how to perform push ups, most people try to go for high numbers. Yes, being able to do 100 push ups is a sign of great strength and endurance. But striving for high numbers is not the only way you improve!

You can also improve push ups by going from easy to difficult. Increasing the difficulty of the push up variation is an excellent way to build incredible strength. This method allows you to keep the repetition number relatively low, reducing the risk of overuse injuries. Plus, it reduces the possibility you will sacrifice quality for quantity, furthering your chance of injury!

Here is an example:

- Start with incline push ups
- The increase difficulty by doing the classic push up
- Increase the difficulty again by doing decline push ups
- And finally make it harder by doing handstand push ups

You could also throw in one armed push ups to increase difficulty. But the point is this, there are more ways to improve your strength and endurance with push ups than just increasing the number or repetitions you can do in one set.

Let this push up progression example serve as an example of other bodyweight exercise progressions. A lot of people say they get bored with bodyweight exercise because they only try to improve by doing more and more reps. Now you know, increasing repetition is not the only progression method in town. And in many cases, more strength and endurance improvements can be made by going from easy versions of an exercise to more difficult versions.
About the Author
Coach Eddie Lomax, author of Workout Without Weights uses 6 different progression strategies to get the most out of bodyweight training for combined fitness, fat loss and physique building.
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