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The pushup is one of the most classic bodyweight exercises, but also one of the most easily outgrown as you build up your strength. In order for the pushup to continue to be challenging you have to find ways to make the exercise more difficult as your experience increases and your upper body strength improves. In this video, I show you four pushup variations that are way better and more effective than the original pushups.
First, it helps to understand why the pushup is limited to truly appreciate the changes that make it better. Because your perform the chest exercise with your hands planted on the ground, you are limiting your bodies ability to complete a full chest contraction. The pectoralis major requires horizontal adduction at the shoulder (bringing the arm across the chest as in a cable crossover) in order to fully contract it. The pushup does not allow for movement of the arm across the chest unless you make a change to the exercise as shown.
The first way we can do that is by using the banded crossover pushup. Here, anchor a band to something sturdy to your side and hold it in one hand. As you perform the ascending portion of the pushup you want to lift your outside hand and bring it across your other and place it down on the other side of the opposite hand. The resistance of the band is going to add an overload while the action of simply lifting the hand and crossing over the body will give you the missing key element of adduction from the regular pushup. Do this on both sides to ensure proper development of the chest.
The next way to do this is to perform a rotational pushup. Here, you are not necessarily lifting your hands and dragging them across your body but you are changing the relative position of your body to create adduction at the shoulder (with the same end effect on the chest). Perform this exercise by keeping your hands in closer than usual and then performing a pushup. On your way up, push through your fingers and left your body rotate to one side. The hand on the opposite side of the rotation will stay in contact with the ground as you feel the added squeeze of the relative adduction on the chest. Alternate to both sides to ensure a complete development of the chest.
We don’t have to do a concentric adduction to get the benefits. You can do the physioball squeeze pushups shown as well which gives your chest a different stimulus. Here you want to place your hands on the sides of the ball and squeeze inward on the ball as hard as you can throughout the set. Now you are combining the adduction with the regular pushup in an isometric fashion and getting an incredible challenge as well.
Finally, you can simply make the pushup better by adding enough elements in that it becomes an exercise that is hitting more muscles at once. We can do that with the knee drag pushup. Here the core is lit up as well by including the cross knee drag up the shin. At the same time, you are prolonging the time under tension and getting the chest to perform two reps for every one single rep of the pushup. Bottom line is, more bang for your buck and a better alternative especially when you are short on time and looking for more of a challenge.
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