Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Fresh New Moves

Certainly not the push-up I had in mind.
...Or was it?

Today we combine all of them into "bang for your buck" movements and in doing so, we'll get a whole lot of things accomplished at once.

It's no doubt that the push-up is a great exercise. The problem becomes that the standard version becomes to easy once proficient at it. However, how many of us can do a 1-handed push-up? It's tough, but the top position before lowering isn't. And that's what we'll be using to our advantage.

The purpose of the dynamic warm-up is to lengthen muscles that are in a flexed position more than they should be (like hip flexors), activating muscles used infrequently (glutes, certain trap muscles, serratus anterior for instance), and is very specific to mimicking motions in the proceeding training session. A key point to making sure the dynamic warm-up is effective is to increase the difficulty of the movements. Instead of a glute bridge, you might elevate your shoulders* or add light resistance to make it more difficult (Bret Contreras answered my question here). After all, you've most likely become stronger and accustomed to whatever you were doing the past 1-2 months.

What we're going to do is make the push-up more challenging and incorporate it into the warm-up. First behold, the bird dog from a push-up position!

I believe that's Kris Aiken.

I came across this a while ago over at Precision Nutrition's exercise library. I gave it a shot at first sight, but bombed doing it. On the bright side, this forced me to work with regressions (aka easier variations).

Something else I noticed was that I could translate other exercises into this push-up position. And thus, a semi-original idea was born on the blog!

Now, which exercises can you do from this position? 2 thoracic spine mobility drills and a few glute activation ones. I would have made video demonstrations, but the life of lifting alone doesn't help this blog. So of course I'm opting for youtube. Let's begin with t-spine work:

Work it Mr. KevLar.

Straightforward, but I'll elaborate just in case. To perform from the ground push-up, both are done similarly with the free hand or elbow going behind the supporting arm's elbow. The latter is almost like a T push-up, but less opening/rotation of the hips.

For the glutes I'll refer to this,

What qualifies from the video/can be done from a push-up:
  • Donkey kicks
  • Donkey whips (but less range of motion compared to what's shown)
  • Fire hydrants
  • Knee circles
  • Bird dog mentioned earlier
While holding the push-up, your posture should be:
- Chin tucked in & not protruding forward.
  • To prevent hyper-extension of the neck.
- Scapulae/shoulder blades protracted by pushing your hands into the ground thus separating them apart.
  • To activate serratus anterior.
- Glutes and knees squeezed & locked out to prevent hips rising or sagging
  • To activate the glutes, avoid movement in lumber spine (as opposed to what's shown in the videos)* and brace the core by expansion.
The problem is you may be lacking the strength to hold this posture while executing whichever movement you choose. The plan is twofold to tackle that problem . First, I'll share the plank progressions scheme I used to become strong enough to tame this beast.
Plank variations
1) Floor plank
2) BOSU ball
3) Swiss Ball
4) 1-arm floor plank
5) 1-arm BOSU ball plank
6) RKC plank (scroll down to "Surprises")
7) Repeat from step 1 with RKC plank

- Within each variation: Perform with feet on floor, then elevate feet once with stackable platforms or a 45 lb. plate, finally elevate feet a 2nd time before moving on to the next level.
  • For example, the floor plank should have been performed with your feet on the floor, elevated once, then elevated again before progressing to the BOSU ball plank.
- Perform sets of 30 seconds.
I outlined a thorough plan to bring up ab strength, but I personally was strong enough after step #6 so you may not need to move on to #7 - although it would give you a pretty strong core.

Second, to make yourself comfortable with performing the movements you can do them against an incline such as stairs or the safeties in a squat rack. Every 3-4 weeks, you can lower yourself and once you know it you'll be able to perform them from the floor.

That about sums it up. I recommend making use of these moves since I haven't found the slightest mention of them anywhere else.


Take it easy. Falling flat on your face hurts.

Trust me.

*I asked Bret for some feedback and he said the shoulders, not the feet, elevated increases glute activation as well as pointing out the excessive lumber spine movement.

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