Home Posts tagged "pushup variations"

4 Yoga Push-up Progression Strategies

We use yoga push-ups a lot in our training programs, but one challenge with incorporating them over the long-term with more advanced athletes is that they're hard to load up. You can't use bands or chains as external resistance because they slide over the course of the set. And, weight vests really can't provide enough external resistance without getting too bulky and cumbersome. Luckily, there are a few other ways to progress the drill:

1. Slideboard Yoga Push-ups

2. 1-leg Feet-Elevated Yoga Push-ups

3. Feet-Elevated Spiderman Yoga Push-ups

4. Yoga Push-up with Opposite Arm Reach

5. Controlled Tempo

Last, but not least, you can simply slow down the tempo at which the yoga push-up variations are performed. I like adding a full exhale at the top position, too.

Speaking of upper extremity progressions, if you're looking for some more information on how we assess, coach, and program for the shoulder girdle, be sure to check out my resource, Sturdy Shoulder Solutions.

 

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Why I Don’t Like Scap Push-ups

I used to regularly program scap push-ups in training programs in an attempt to improve shoulder health. Nowadays, though, I realize there are much better ways to get the job done. Check out today's video to learn the problems with scap push-ups as well as some better alternatives:

If you're looking for some good serratus anterior activation drills in place of scap push-ups, check out these videos:


If you're interested in learning all my favorite strategies for getting serratus anterior firing, be sure to check out my popular resource, Sturdy Shoulder Solutions at www.SturdyShoulders.com.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 53

It's time for this week's quick strength and conditioning tips!

1. Elevate the feet to make stir the pot a more challenging core stability exercise.

Stir the pot is a great anterior core stability exercise, but a lot of folks claim that it gets too easy.  One quick solution to this is to just elevate the feet on a 12" box, as it effectively works very similarly to a push-up progression.  As an added bonus, you'll get a little bit more serratus anterior recruitment in this position, so you could actually consider it a shoulder health drill, too.

2. Work with gravity before you work against it.

I talk a lot to our staff about the importance of sequencing warm-ups correctly.  As examples, we always do our positional breathing drills before our mobility work, which would progress from ground-based to standing.  One more thing I like to emphasize is the importance of working with gravity before you work against it. 

I've talked about how the bench t-spine mobilization and back-to-wall shoulder flexion are two of my favorite drills for helping to get people out of extension - and we make sure to do them in this order.  With the bench t-spine mobilization, we're using gravity to help us get a good stretch on the lats and long head of the triceps, on top of taking the thoracic spine into some extension.  We just brace the core and resist extension at the lower back.

Conversely, with the back-to-wall shoulder flexion, we have to work against gravity to get the arms overhead the correct way.

This might seem like minutia, but the stiffness reduction we get by working with gravity makes it much easier to work against gravity, as there is less bad stiffness we need to overcome to get to good movement.

3. Hold light weights in your hands to increase the challenge on dead bugs.

Just as we saw with stir the pot, dead bugs can quickly become far too easy.  We'll always add a big exhale at the bottom position of each rep, but even still, this becomes too easy for most lifters.  And, while not every exercise is supposed to be made harder, we do have some wiggle room in this regard with dead bugs.  You can hold some 5-10 pound plates in each hand:

4. Buy a spice rack - or at least a bunch of spices that would theoretically go in a spice rack if you owned one.

Want to add some variety to your bland diet? Having an extensive collection of spices at your fingertips can go a long way in making the same food taste entirely different from one day to the next.  Try turmeric on eggs, or mix up some homemade Mexican seasoning for your chicken by combining chili powder, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, sea salt, and anything else you want to add to the mix! 

One of the biggest advantages of buying the rack as a whole is that it gives you a chance to sample a lot of different options. Once you’ve discovered the spices you like, you can always look to buy them in bulk later on.

spicerack

5. Think "chest before chin" on push-up variations.

One of the most common push-up technique mistakes I encounter is athletes who substitute forward head posture in place of scapular retraction.  When this happens, you'll see the nose get close to the floor while the lower back is heavily arched, the upper back is rounded over, and the elbows are flared out.  I encourage athletes to get the chest to the floor before the chin get there, as it encourages them to be patient and allow the torso to descend.  Of course, you have to be careful to not allow the athlete to crank into a big arch to puff the chest out - but it's still a super-effective cue, particularly with those with less training experience.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Coaching Cues to Make Your Strength and Conditioning Programs More Effective – Installment 7

It's been a while since we covered some strength training coaching cues that you'll want to have in your back pocket, so here's installment 7.

1. Follow your hand with your eyes.

It goes without saying the improving thoracic (upper back) mobility needs to be a big priority for many athletes.  However, individuals can lose out on the benefit of thoracic mobility drills can be performed incorrectly if one only moves through the shoulder and not the upper back.  Greg Robins covers that problem in this video, in fact:

To help ensure optimal technique, I encourage athletes, "Follow you hands with your eyes." It always seems to "right the ship" with respect to movement of the humerus.

2. Ease the bar out.

One of the biggest mistakes I see both lifters and spotters make is just picking UP the bar and handing it out from the pins on the bench press. This causes a lifter to lose his upper back tightness and start the lift from an unstable platform. Plus, the bar is more likely to drift excessively toward the hips, as opposed to staying right in the path the lifter prefers.

With that in mind, another Greg Robins video complements this tip well; check it out:

3. Get the chest to the floor before the chin.

Push-up variations are an incredibly valuable inclusion in just about any strength training program, but unfortunately, the technique goes downhill quite frequently, particularly under conditions of fatigue.  Everyone knows that we need to monitor core positioning so as to avoid excessive lumbar hyperextension (lower back arching).  However, what a lot of people may not realize is that this "sag" is only one potential extension-bias fault. 

You see, people who are in extension will find all the ways they can to shift away from a neutral posture and toward a more extended posture.  Take, for example, this shoulder flexion video. The individual doesn't just go into lumbar extension and a heavy rib flare to get his arms up overhead; rather, he also goes into a forward head posture.

I liken this to patching up a hole in a leaky roof - only to find a leak starting up somewhere else.  It's important that we patch them all!  With that said, with push-up variations, you can either cue "make a double chin" or tell folks that the chest should make it to the floor before the chin. As long as you've already controlled for excessive arching of the lower back, the cue will be spot-on.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 48

Thanks to Cressey Performance Coach Greg Robins, here are five nutrition and strength and conditioning tips to kick off your weekend on the right foot.

1. Train upward rotation without true vertical pressing.

At Cressey Performance, the majority of our athletes are overhead throwers. Training overhead athletes means that you need to train upward rotation of the scapula. While pressing overhead could serve as one option, we find that it isn’t always the best option. Too often, people are unable to achieve an overhead position, while also keeping the rest of the body in correct alignment. Namely, most folks will have considerable amounts of rib flare and lumbar spine extension.

Instead, it would be advantageous to train upward rotation with exercises that allow for considerable shoulder flexion, but also promote better overall positioning. So how is that done? A few of our favorite exercises are as follows:

Yoga push ups: These offer a close chained pressing movement that allows a person to get shoulder flexion, and when cued correctly, a considerable amount of upward scapular rotation. Make sure when performing this variation that you press directly into the upwardly rotated position, while shrugging and protracting the shoulder blades. One nice cue is to “push the floor away completely.”

Landmine presses: These exercises are my favorite class of open chain pressing movement to stress upward rotation. Instead of completing the movement with the shoulder blade still packed back, shrug and protract the shoulder blade a bit. A perfect cue with this one is to “reach out” when pressing.

Obviously, if you're already someone who is shrugged up and protracted all day (desk jockey), it's not a good fit for you.  In a more athletic population, though, it's usually a very good fit.

2. Use the “stir the pot” exercise...safely.

Anterior core weakness is something we combat on a daily basis here at CP. With the plethora of overly extended athletes that come through our door, we are always looking for new ways to challenge their core stability. While the standard prone bridge is a staple, after some training, we need to progress individuals to something more challenging.

Stir the pot is a fantastic way to do just that. The added demands of both the stability ball, and the small amount of movement from the shoulders adds a difficult variation to the aforementioned prone bridge.

Please note that even with former Division 1, high caliber athletes, this exercise may be a little too advanced. We recommend that you wipe the sweat off your forearms before doing this drill, and be sure to dismount the ball safely - or just omit this exercise until you're prepared to do so. Watch the video below (all the way through) to see exactly what I mean:

3. Make your “fillers” more effective

The idea of “fillers” has become quite popular, and for good reason: everyone is busy, and utilizing them is a terrific way to maximize training efficiency. So, what’s a filler?

Most commonly, fillers are low-level activation, mobility, stability, and motor control drills. They should not be strenuous enough to take away from your program, but when used correctly, they can aid in improving movement quality, outputs, and results. In order to make them the most effective, fillers should be personalized to fit your body type.

Hypermobile (excessively “loose”) people should spend time getting stable, and hypomobile (“stiff”) people should spend time getting loose.

Loose people are already able to get to just about any range of motion they desire. In fact, they are generally able to get to some ranges that are not desirable. Therefore, they are better served doing low-level activation and stability based drills between sets. This will help them “own” positions better and promote better control within their ranges of motion.

Stiff people, on the other hand, need to fit in some extra mobility work as often whenever possible. Their time is best spent working on various mobility drills, as well as some low level activation drills. Doing so will help them to move better in general, and get into more advantageous positions when performing the exercises in their program.

The drills each population chooses can be individualized based on the needs of the person and / or the demands of the exercise with which they are paired.

Many hypermobile people need better core, hip, and shoulder stability. So, drills like dead bugs, bowler squats, wall slides, body weight Turkish get-ups, and rotator cuff activation drills work great.

Many stiff people could use more thoracic spine (upper back) mobility, hip mobility, and ankle mobility. Drills like ankle, hip, and thoracic spine mobilizations are solid options.

Regardless of your body type, choose variations that don’t compete too heavily with the exercises with which they are paired. Furthermore, choose variations that hit areas which need extra attention for YOU, or that will aid in YOUR ability to reach good positioning with the exercise in question.

4. Put your lacrosse ball in an old tube sock.

If you use lacrosse ball to roll out against the wall, chances are you have a heck of a time getting the thing not to slip, and fall to the ground. Next thing you know, it’s like the meatball from the old nursery rhyme, rolling across the floor and out the door - or however it goes.

One tip I picked up while reviewing the book The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Claire Davies was to place your ball in a long tube sock. By doing so you can keep your hand on the sock and make sure the ball stays up the entire time. Give it a try!

TriggerPointTherapyWorkbook

5. Try an Icee for a Refreshing Treat!

With a few days well over 90 degrees here in Massachusetts, I’ve been pulling out every trick I know to stay cool. It’s a well known fact that 80% of my shirts are black to conceal the mass amount of sweating I do on a regular basis. One of my favorite tricks also happens to be great way to curb hunger and keep my sweet tooth at bay. If you’re looking for an easy, low-calorie way to cool off and stay satiated try out this recipe:

Ingredients:

4-6 oz of water

5 or so large ice cubes

1 cup frozen strawberries

1 fresh squeezed lemon

(optional: add stevia for sweetness)

Directions: Place all these ingredients in a blender, blend, and enjoy.

This strawberry lemonade ice will hit the spot on a hot day, or any day, where you need to quiet the groan of your hungry belly!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Exercise of the Week: Slideboard Bodysaw Push-up

It goes without saying that push-up variations are among the best exercises you can incorporate for athletes for a number of reasons.  One problem with them, however, is that some athletes eventually get to the point that they can't progress them to make them challenging enough to provide an ample training effect.  That's why I like the slideboard bodysaw push-up; check out the video below to learn why:

Looking for more exercise tutorials like this?  Be sure to check out Elite Training Mentorship, where several coaches (myself included) upload these on a monthly basis - in addition to staff in-services, webinars, articles, and case studies.

EliteTrainingMentorship-1

 

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 40

Today, Greg Robins has five more tips to help you get your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs on track.

1. Clean up your unilateral deadlift technique.

If there is one exercise that I see butchered on a daily basis, it’s the 1-arm, 1-leg RDL. Furthermore, it makes coaches look like they are speaking French when they try to get people to do it right. It’s a great exercise, but here are the issues:

• It’s used right away in the majority of popular programs as the staple of unilateral hip hinging.
• It’s there because it’s difficult to hurt yourself doing, mainly due to the lack of weight in an effort to maintain some semblance of balance. Therefore, people just assume that over time people will figure it out and get better.

Just because doing it incorrectly with 5lbs is “safe” doesn’t mean it’s that productive; especially if you still can’t get the form right. It’s a hard exercise that I feel has somehow got the reputation of something easy.

Instead of getting frustrated, try doing the exercise to a dead stop every rep. You can use a KB, or elevate a DB on some mats. Allow yourself to reset every rep, just like a normal deadlift. Having two points of contact, albeit for just a moment, is enough to keep you in check.

2. If you’re stuck, evaluate your approach.

“Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick. Now that I've understood the art, a punch is just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. The height of cultivation is really nothing special. It is merely simplicity; the ability to express the utmost with the minimum." -Bruce Lee

There are three types of people in the gym. The first is a group of people who don’t know a thing about training philosophy. The second is a group who know enough to understand what’s important and what’s not. The third is a group who knows just enough to completely twist up their training.

The majority of you are in the third group. The other two groups are the minority. The majority is making little progress. The minority is continually improving. If this was graph here’s what it would look like:

Progress

 

If you are making good progress, keep going. If you are stalling, you may be somewhere in the middle of my chart. In this case, really evaluate your training approach. Somewhere along the way you may have begun to acquire just the right amount of exercise variations, percentage schemes, and who knows what else to halt your progress.

At this point, do two things:

One, ask “why?” Why does jumping help, why does speed work help, why this and why that? You can’t go back to group one, so you have to try and get to group 2. This means you take something you read, and you look at where that person gets their information. When you do that, you might find that jumps aren’t doing what you thought they did, either is speed work, or that new exercise with all the bells and whistles.

Second, get back the secret of group 1. When you are in the gym, shut down your analytical side. Work hard, have fun, and trust your gut.

3. Utilize benches for better push-up regression/progression.

4. Do more complexes.

Maybe it’s me, but complexes are not talked about or used nearly enough. They had a stint three years ago or so where they were all the rage, but are slowly becoming worthy of a spotlight on VH1’s “Where Are They Now.”

I can assure you they are not hung over, face down in a pillow like 70% of the other people on that show. Instead, they are alive and well and deserve a spot in your training.

A complex is any series of exercises, done in sequence, with the same weight, preferably without putting the weight down.

Why I like them:

• Limited equipment
• Time efficient
• Helps groove form on major lifts
• Time Under Tension
• Doesn’t involve running
• Sucks in just the right way
• Tension, again

Things to remember:

• They are taxing. I prefer to see them used at the end of a training session.
• If used on off days, I prefer to see them done at a conservative intensity OR done all out if you are not lifting the next day. For example, if you take the weekend off lifting, Saturday would be a good spot to hit complexes.

Here are two of my favorites:

Barbell:

Barbell RDL x 6-10
Barbell Row x 6-10
Barbell Squat and Press x 6-10
Barbell Reverse Lunge w/ Front Squat Grip x 6-10/leg

Kettlebell:

Double KB Swing x 5–8
Double KB Clean x 5–8
Double KB Press x 5–8
Double KB Front Squat x 5-8

5. Consider another variation of the "plyo push-up."

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Strength Training Technique: Scapular Movement During the Push-up

I absolutely love including push-up variations in strength training programs, but only if they're done with correct technique.  Check out today's video to make sure that you're getting the right scapular movement on your push-up variations:

Addendum: several folks have asked for a video of what a good push-up looks like, so here you go!  Take note of how the shoulder blades protract - but still remain "snug" to the rib cage - at the top of each rep.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

3 Coaching Cues for Strength and Conditioning Programs – Shoulder Edition

Since this series was so popular this year, I figured I'd try to squeeze in just one more collection of suggestions before the 2012 wraps up. Here are three more coaching cues for your strength and conditioning programs:

"1. Pull the elbows to your hips."

As I discussed a while back in my Cleaning Up Your Chin-up Technique post, you want to be careful about extending the humerus past neutral at the top position of a chin-up. If the elbow moves behind the body In this position, the humeral head can glide forward, irritating the biceps tendon and anterior capsule. Additionally, the thoracic spine becomes excessively kyphotic, and the scapula may anteriorly tilt, closing down the subacromial space and exacerbating impingement on the rotator cuff tendons. Here’s what the bad looks like:

I’ve found that encouraging athlete to pull the elbows to the hips prevents this excessive humeral extension, and it also makes athletes stricter with their technique; they have to get the chest to the bar instead of just reaching with the chin and creating a forward head posture.

Conversely, if you encourage many young athletes to “just get your chin to the bar,” you get some garbage kipping concoction that looks like Quasimodo on the monkey bars with his pants on fire.

"2. Keep the biceps quiet."

Piggybacking on our previous point, just like excessive humeral extension can create anterior (front) shoulder stress, uncontrolled external rotation can be equally problematic, as the humeral head will once again want to glide forward if it isn’t appropriately controlled by a combination of rotator cuff recruitment and scapular stability.

If an athlete feels external rotations in the front of his shoulder even in what appears to be the correct position, he’s performing them without monitoring humeral anterior glide. If this occurs, I’ll have him place his opposite hand on the front of the shoulder to monitor any kind of anterior glide of the humeral head, and encourage him to “keep the biceps quiet.” I’d say that 90% of the time, athletes are good to go once this correction takes place. In the other 10% of cases, we’ll regress the athlete to supine and prone external rotations, as well as manual resistance “holds” at the 90/90 position.

"3. Try to touch your butt to the ceiling."

The yoga push-up is one of my favorite push-up variations. Just like all other push-up variations, it gives our shoulder blades freedom of movement, which is important when you consider that they’re essentially stuck in place during bench press movements.

I especially like the yoga push-up because it doesn’t just combine protraction/retraction, but also involves near-full humeral flexion. By elevating the humerus further, we force athletes to work on getting more scapular upward rotation.

If you tell an athlete, “Push your butt away from the floor,” you get greater recruitment of serratus anterior and upper trapezius to really get that last bit of scapular upward rotation – and, at the same time, get some good thoracic spine extension.

That wraps up this installment of cues.  If you like what you're reading, I'd encourage you to check out the Muscle Imbalances Revealed - Upper series, which features a collection of outstanding webinars from some really bright guys in the industry.  Rick Kaselj, who organized the collaborative effort, has the product on sale at a great discount with a 60-day money-back guarantee.  You can check it out here for yourself.


 

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more

Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 21

Here's this week's list of strategies to get your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs headed in the right direction.  This is a collaborative effort between Greg Robins and me.

1. Add amplitude to your conditioning.

Let's face it: jogging on the treadmill and riding the elliptical or recumbent bike is about as fun as watching paint dry.  While an exercise causing boredom doesn't mandate that it be thrown by the wayside immediately, it does become concerning with this exercise modality doesn't broaden the amplitude - or range of motion - that you encounter in your daily life.  Moving better is about improving mobility, which is defined as one's ability to reach a certain posture or position.  For some folks, this means actually lengthening short tissues or reducing tension in overly stiff tissues, while for others, it's about establishing stability in the range of motion that one already possesses.  Unfortunately, while you're burn some calories on these cardio machines, you aren't going to do much to improve your mobility.

The solution is to implement variety in your conditioning, whether it means taking a bunch of mobility exercises and doing them right after another, or integrating several strength training exercises with lighter loads.  Step-ups, sled pushing/dragging, side shuffles, lateral lunges are all ways to get your hips moving in ways they normally don't.

In the upper body, innovative rowing and push-up variations can keep things fun while improving your movement quality.

The next time you're planning to do some interval training on the bike, try substituting some wider-amplitude movements and see how you like it.

2. Get your Vitamin D right.

I've seen studies that have shown great benefits from getting vitamin D levels up to normal, but to my knowledge, those effects were most observed with respect to body composition, hormonal levels, and tissue quality.  Interestingly, I just came across this study that showed a significant improvement in power production over four weeks in the vitamin D supplementation group, as compared to the controls. These results are tough to interpret, as the subjects were overweight/obese adults; ideally, we'd study trained athletes with smaller windows of adaptation ahead of them to see just how beneficial vitamin D supplementation is on performance. However, it certainly makes sense that if we're improving body composition, endocrine status, and tissue quality, folks are going to get more out of their training and make faster progress.

Vitamin D is one of very few supplements that I view as "must-haves' for the majority of the population.  I'd pair it up with a good fish oil and greens supplement to cover one's nutritional foundation. This is one reason why I'm a big fan of the Athletic Greens Trinity Stack; you can a high quality version of all three in one place.

 

3. Plan out regressions and progressions.

People like to be good at things. This is especially the case when they are surrounded by a bunch of other people. In the case of group exercise, your attendees are going to have a much better time, get better results, and stay safer if they are performing movements correctly. Group settings aren't ideal from a coaching standpoint, though, as you can't spend as much individualized time coaching technique. Therefore, exercise selection becomes paramount to these classes' success.  In other words, you need to have both progressions and regressions in your exercise library.

A common flaw in group classes is that each week, there are 15 new exercise variations on the agenda. The week before, it was 15 other ones, and the following week, it will be 15 more. I know, I know; people want you to "keep it fresh." In my mind, by changing the exercises so often you are taking the easy way out.

Instead, have people become incredible at the basics. Have them squat, swing, push up, row - all basic movements. From there, set up progressions and regressions. This is much easier to do when you keep the original exercises basic.

Here are a few examples:

TRX Supported Squat > Counter Balanced Squat To Box > Goblet Squat > Double KB Front Squat > Offset KB Front Squat

Hands-Elevated Push-up > TRX Chest Press > Push-up > Feet Elevated Push-up > Push-up vs. Band

This is mostly for teaching purposes, as an example. The goblet squat is accessible to most people, and it falls in the middle, with two levels of regression and progression built in.

I'm a big fan of more work up front and easy sailing there out. You might need to take some time to develop your class program, but it will make for a better product and better results thereafter.

4. Use leftover vegetables in your omelet.

I don't know about you, but leftover vegetables never taste quite as good as they do when they've just been cooked.  They're cold, and often soggy to the point that even heating them up in the microwave doesn't really make them sound appetizing.  Rather than throw them out and skip on your veggies for a meal, try adding them to your omelet the following morning, as the other ingredients - eggs, spices, oils, cheese (if that's your thing), salsa, and ketchup - can help to liven up their taste.  I've done this with previously cooked asparagus, broccoli, peppers, onions, spinach, kale, mushrooms, cauliflower, green beans, and tomatoes.  Some vegetables - squash and turnip, for instance - don't have the right consistency to make for a good omelet ingredient, though, so experiment carefully!

5. Learn to stand correctly before you even try to train correctly.

Many people think moving well is all about picking the right corrective exercises to get the job done. While that's certainly part of the equation, the truth is that before you even talk about exercising, you have to educate yourself about how to simply stand with good posture.  As an example, if you have an excessive anterior pelvic tilt and lordosis, you need to learn how to engage your anterior core, activate your glutes, and prevent your rib cage from flaring up up when you're standing around. Conversely, if you do all your exercises in this aberrant posture, you just get good at sucking!

Have a great week!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Name
Email
Read more
Page 1 2
LEARN HOW TO DEADLIFT
  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series