Author: T Nation Articles

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Tip: One-Arm Push-Up Tutorial

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The one-arm push-up is my single favorite whole-body pushing exercise. In fact, it’s what’s dethroned the bench press as my new king of upper-body pushing exercises and it’s what I use to gauge an athlete’s pushing strength.
Generall…

HardPuppy Fitness Gym 0

Tip: One-Arm Push-Up Tutorial

[embedded content]
The one-arm push-up is my single favorite whole-body pushing exercise. In fact, it’s what’s dethroned the bench press as my new king of upper-body pushing exercises and it’s what I use to gauge an athlete’s pushing strength.
Generall…

HardPuppy Fitness Gym 0

Tip: One-Arm Push-Up Tutorial

[embedded content]
The one-arm push-up is my single favorite whole-body pushing exercise. In fact, it’s what’s dethroned the bench press as my new king of upper-body pushing exercises and it’s what I use to gauge an athlete’s pushing strength.
Generall…

HardPuppy Fitness Gym 0

Tip: One-Arm Push-Up Tutorial

[embedded content]
The one-arm push-up is my single favorite whole-body pushing exercise. In fact, it’s what’s dethroned the bench press as my new king of upper-body pushing exercises and it’s what I use to gauge an athlete’s pushing strength.
Generall…

HardPuppy Fitness Gym 0

Tip: Bottom-Up Bulgarian Split Squat

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The Bulgarian split squat is a great single-leg squat variation to build strength and size in your lower body and also address imbalances between the left leg and the right leg. It will show its strength the more load you can lift. In our training we use it as a squat variation and we also do singles.

In order to be able to progress the load, you need to have a stable base on the ground. Too often you see people not having this stable base, which leads to:

  • Not being able to achieve full depth
  • An inconsistent movement pattern (every rep looks different)
  • Not being able to handle the loads you could possibly handle

How Can This Be Solved?

Start from the bottom up. This helps you to get comfortable with the bottom position. Once you’re comfortable with the bottom position and have consolidated your movement pattern, the weights you’ll be able to lift will follow.

As a rule of thumb, I’ve found that my athletes are able to use 80-90% of their back squat weight for the same amount of reps. For example, if they can do 3 reps of back squat at 200 kg, they can do 3 reps of 160-180 kg in the Bulgarian split squat.

No, you won’t be able to achieve the same depth in the Bulgarian split squat as in the back squat. However, if you standardize the back squat depth and the Bulgarian split squat depth, it’s a valid relation.

So, get the technique right first, get comfortable with the bottom position, and you’ll soon be able to load up the weight.

Related:  The 3-Squat Drop Set[1]

Related:  The Paused Bulgarian Split Squat[2]

References

  1. ^ Related:  The 3-Squat Drop Set (www.t-nation.com)
  2. ^ Related:  The Paused Bulgarian Split Squat (www.t-nation.com)
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Push-Ups for Real Strength

Nowadays, push-ups are either mocked, considered useless, or worse, forgotten about altogether. That’s a huge mistake, and one that we need to address ASAP.

Why Do Push-Ups?

  1. They’re great for the shoulders. Push-ups not only improve timing between the scapulae, shoulders and elbows, but they also work to open up the upper back. One of the reasons we have so many shoulder problems today is because we don’t put a strong enough emphasis on proper push-up technique.
  2. They’re great for the core. If you want to get stupid-strong, you need to bench press. But one of the downsides to the bench press is that it’s performed on your back. In a push-up, you have to unify or tie together your upper and lower body. Your core is the tie that binds, and if it’s weak, unstable, or imbalanced, it’s going to affect your ability to do the push-up correctly.
  3. They can be done anywhere. There’s always enough space to get a quick and dirty push-up workout in.

How Do You Do Push-Ups?

I can’t tell you how many “experienced” lifters I’ve worked with who have absolutely no clue how to perform a proper push-up. Seriously. No clue. Here are some areas that need focus:

1 – The Upper Body

Too many people want to think in absolutes. Either they want the elbows flared out to 90 degrees, or they tuck them in hard by the sides. Neither option is great for your shoulders.

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With the elbows flared excessively, a ton of stress is placed on the shoulder joint. It’s also an incredibly disadvantageous position biomechanically, so not only will it feel like crap, but you’ll perform like crap, too.

On the flip side, tucking the elbows in hard to your sides isn’t a great idea, either. While most do this with the intent of sparing the shoulders, what ends up happening is that this excessive tucking causes the humerus to glide forward in the glenoid fossa. In normal people talk, you start to get an “owie” in the front of your shoulder.

Instead, find a balance. Make a 45-degree angle with your elbows, or simply “make an arrow.” This cue works like a charm for shoulder health and performance.

2 – The Lower Body

This part is easy. Just keep the lower body tight. Sure, you can squeeze the glutes and flex the quads, but you don’t need to go full-blown high-threshold when you’re doing a standard push-up. Instead, find a normal amount of tension for the task at hand. Save all those high-tension strategies for when you’re doing those single-arm, blindfolded push-ups on a medicine ball.

3 – The Core

This is arguably the most important part of the body when performing a push-up. After all, tying together the upper and lower body is the reason we perform push-ups versus bench presses. Find and hold a neutral spine position throughout. If you laid a PVC pipe or broomstick on your back, you should have three points of contact:

PVC Test
  1. The back of the head
  2. The upper back
  3. The buttocks

If you want extra credit, make sure that you only have a slight (1 inch) space in between your lumbar spine and the stick. This will make sure your abs are optimally engaged.

Now getting into this position may be relatively easy, but the hard part is staying there when you actually do the movement. What you tend to see is a lowering of the body, followed by deepening lordosis, a caving of the upper back, and a head that droops towards the floor. Instead, lock the spine in throughout and you’ll not only get a great upper body workout, but a great core workout as well.

4 – Natural Movement

Most people make push-ups unnatural and unathletic. If you’re thinking about “pulling” your shoulder blades together when you lower yourself down, stop!

When most people think about pulling the shoulder blades together, they inevitably slam them together at the beginning of the movement and run out of motion at the scapulae. At this point, they continue to lower down, and all of that movement (and stress) moves to the shoulders.

To remedy this, think about making the movement athletic again. Don’t think about pulling the shoulder blades together. Simply think about moving the scaps, shoulders, and elbows at the same time.

But if you’re really patterned to first pull the shoulder blades together, you may need to think about the opposite: bending the elbows first. It sounds counterintuitive, but thinking about bending the elbows first will typically clean up the movement in a matter of reps.

5 – Reaching

The second critical element of a great push-up is to focus on reaching at the start and the finish. Many athletes are locked into a poor position through their upper back and thorax:

  • The thorax is pushed forward, which doesn’t give the scapulae a place to rest.
  • The scaps are looking for stability, so muscles such as the rhomboids become overactive and “pin” the shoulder blades back and down.

Push-ups are a great tool to help remedy this, but only when done correctly. You may have seen that bro on Instagram cranking out sets of 50, 75, or 100 push-ups, but you’ll note that he never actually finishes a rep. Sorry, but that’s making things worse.

Instead, think about finishing each rep. Keep the chest out while simultaneously reaching long through the arms, or thinking about pushing the body away from the floor.

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When done correctly, it should feel like you’re stretching the area in between your shoulder blades at the start and finish of each rep.

How Do I Make Push-Ups Harder?

It’s funny when someone says, “Push-ups are easy! Can’t we find a way to make them harder?” Then when you actually watch them do some push-ups, their hips are dragging the floor, their shoulders are all over the place, and their neck is protruding like an 80-year-old with osteoporosis.

Push-ups aren’t the sexiest exercise, but first learn to do them correctly before seeking new challenges. Once you do that, there are three routes you can typically take to make them harder:

1 – Strength-Focused Progressions

Chain Push-Up

Use these if you want to go full-blown meathead and just get super strong. These include anything that increases the external resistance:

  • Bands
  • Chains
  • Weighted vests
  • Plates loaded on your back

2 – Stability-Focused Progressions

Ring Push-Ups

These are great options if you want to bulletproof your body and make sure things are in balance. It’s not uncommon to see super strong guys who have shoulder or lower-back problems, so doing stability-focused progressions can clean up those weak areas and fix them up for the long haul.

Stability-focused progressions would include any exercise where there are elements of instability involved: unstable surface push-ups (TRX, Blast Straps, Jungle Gym, gymnastic rings, etc.) and push-ups with the hands on medicine balls.

3 – Rotation-Focused Progressions

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Strong and explosive athletes have a tendency to get locked in the sagittal plane (driven into extension). If this becomes excessive, they lose access to their frontal and transverse planes, which can cause injuries up and down the kinetic chain.

To remedy this, offset push-up variations can be crucial in getting trunk rotation back. Push-up variations in this category can include: offset variations off a box (see video), offset variations with one hand on a medicine ball, and push-ups to a single-arm support.

Based on your needs and goals there are tons of different options at your disposal. And if you want the best of all worlds, simply rotate your emphasis every 2-3 months to help build a strong, well-balanced, and bulletproof physique.

Related:  The Very Best Push-Up for Pecs[1]

Related:  Push-Ups: You’re Doing Them Wrong![2]

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Tip: The Bodysaw for Real Core Strength

This might just be the toughest ab and core exercise you’ve never tried. Take a look.

by Ben Bruno[1] | Today
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The bodysaw is very similar to the ab wheel rollout. The goal of both exercises is to resist extension of the lumbar spine (avoid arching your back too much).

To do the bodysaw, start by getting in a plank position with your feet on something slippery such as Valslides, a slideboard, furniture sliders, a paper plate, a TRX, etc. From there, maintain that body position and push back and forth on your arms, like this:

Bodysaw

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Go back only as far as you can handle while still maintaining your original spine position. If you start to arch excessively and/or feel them in your lower back, you’ve gone too far. They’re a lot tougher than they look, so it probably won’t take much range of motion to feel them working.

Once you’ve got that down and it feels easy, you can progress to doing them on one leg at a time or, if you want to get really frisky, doing them with straight arms starting from the bottom of a push-up position, which extends the lever arm and makes them pretty brutal.

Straight Arm Bodysaw

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Don’t jump into this version too fast, though, because you don’t want to hurt yourself.

Advantages

The bodysaw has a few advantages over the ab wheel rollout:

  • Most people feel them more in their abs.
  • Bodysaws don’t fatigue the shoulders like rollouts can, so they’re easier to pair with upper body exercises.
  • They’re more user-friendly for people with preexisting shoulder injuries and/or poor shoulder mobility. They’re easier on the lower back too.

Related:  Not Your Average BS Core Training[2]

Related:  The 12 Minute Fix for Abs and Glutes[3]

References

  1. ^ Ben Bruno (www.t-nation.com)
  2. ^ Related:  Not Your Average BS Core Training (www.t-nation.com)
  3. ^ Related:  The 12 Minute Fix for Abs and Glutes (www.t-nation.com)
  4. ^ Follow Ben Bruno on Facebook (facebook.com)
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Tip: How to Make the Cable Crunch Really Work

If you can do a ton of weight or a ton of reps on this exercise, you’re doing it wrong. Here’s how to make it really work.

How-to-make-the-cable-crunch-really-work

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If you can do a ton of weight or a ton of reps on this exercise, you’re doing it wrong. Here’s how to make it really work.

Isolation ab exercises are mostly a way to improve the mind-muscle connection with the abs. When doing isolation work, the goal is not to use more weight or do more reps – it’s actually to try to fail with as few reps as possible!

This indicates that you’re good at tensing your abs hard, so they fatigue sooner. If you have to do 20 or 30 reps to feel your abs, you suck at recruiting them.

When doing an isolation exercise like the cable crunch, there are two things you have to do:

  1. Before starting a rep, contract the abs as hard as possible. Imagine you’re about to get punched in the gut. Every rep should start this way.
  2. When initial tension is established, CURL your torso. (It’s not a flexion, it’s a curl/rolling action). When you roll forward and reach the end of the range of motion, again tense the abs as hard as you can and return to the starting position.

The Most Important Point

The goal isn’t really to “crunch” but to shorten the distance from the pelvis to the sternum. Your hips come forward as your upper body “crunches.” Try to touch your junk to your chest.

Related:  Ugly Ab Training[2]

Related:  Blitz Cycles for Abs[3]

References

  1. ^ Christian Thibaudeau (www.t-nation.com)
  2. ^ Related:  Ugly Ab Training (www.t-nation.com)
  3. ^ Related:  Blitz Cycles for Abs (www.t-nation.com)
  4. ^ Follow Christian Thibaudeau on Twitter (twitter.com)