humble push-up...one of THE most common and best
bodyweight exercises in existence...time to kick
it up a notch!
we need to set the stage for this version of the
begin with, exercises that move your body rather
than the weight (such as the push-up) have been
shown to fire more muscle fibers than exercises
that move the weight rather than your body (such
as the bench press). This means that the push-up
has the potential to activate a lot of muscle
we know that exercising in an unstable environment
also increases muscle fiber activation. This is
because your body compensates for the instability
by firing more muscle fibers in order to stabilize
the resistance. Anyone who's run barefoot on sand
knows the tremendous work your calves get from
it. The same concept is put to work in this exercise.
* NOTE: Effective exercise requires progression,
and that is essential for learning to perform
this exercise safely. Because you will end up
doing it in a very unstable environment, you need
to start slowly and work your way into it. Naturally,
if you're an advanced trainer or are used to working
in an unstable environment you may progress more
go as far as you're comfortable with these exercise
stages. Each stage holds great benefits but you
should always err on the side of caution.
through these exercise stages one at a time, then,
at the end of the article, you'll find a link
where you can view pictures of each stage.
Stage 1 - Dumbell Push-Ups
two dumbells on the floor in the approximate hand
position and spacing you would use for a push-up.
You will essentially be using the dumbells as
plates on the dumbell should be round (meaning
that they'll roll) for maximum instability. Use
fairly lightweight dumbells, e.g. 15 to 20 pounds
each, so they'll move around more.
variation by itself is an excellent exercise for
beginner to intermediate trainers. You may do
this variation with your knees on the floor if
you've not yet developed the strength for regular,
- Use lightweight
dumbells so that they move around more.
- Place them
in your normal push-up hand position.
- Your range
of motion will be greater than if you
were doing them on the floor.
- Be sure
to keep your abs and back tight.
- This version
can be used by beginning to intermediate
Stage 2 - Swiss Ball Push-Ups
a large Swiss Ball (the inflatable exercise ball)
on the floor where you've got some space.
your hands on the floor in your regular push-up
position then set your legs on top of the Swiss
Ball. Your shins should be on the top of the ball,
placed slightly to the sides so you can use them
to maintain your balance.
push-ups in this position. You will find that
the ball will shift around as you are doing the
exercise and you'll be forced to move your body
around to keep your legs on top of it. The ball
will roll slightly forward with you as you drop
down to the bottom of the push-up position and
roll slightly back as you push yourself up.
- Place your
shins on top of the ball and your hands
on the floor.
- The ball
will roll forward as you go down then
back as you push up.
- Use your
legs and abs to keep your balance on the
Stage 3 - Swiss Ball/Dumbell
that you've experienced instability at both ends
of the push-up, it's time to put them both together
and feel the burn!
sure you are comfortable with other two progressions
before attempting this one and be sure you are
not too close to anything should you lose your
balance and roll off.
the dumbells up as you did in Stage 1 and set
the ball up as you did in Stage 2. Place your
hands on the dumbells first then set your legs
on the ball.
do push-ups on three rolling, unstable surfaces!
sure you drop down and get a full range of motion
(the dumbell handles will allow you to go further
down than if you were doing them on the floor).
first few reps may feel easy but as you continue,
you will notice a burning sensation in the deep
muscle fibers of your chest. Keep going! This
is where it gets good. You are now hitting muscle
fibers that have most likely never been effectively
worked by standard chest exercises!
- This is
where the instability all comes together.
- Your hands
are unstable and your legs are unstable.
- Your chest
must work to stabilize everything while
you are doing the push-up.
- This will
activate many more muscle fibers than
with normal push-ups.
if you think you're getting a burn on the first
set, just wait till you do a few more sets. You'll
feel it across your abs and sides too!
reason this exercise is so effective is simple:
the vast majority of chest exercises are performed
in a reasonably stable position, there are some
muscle fibers that never get fully worked. They
aren't required to work because you're stabilized.
placing your legs and both hands on independently
moving objects, you demand massive amounts of
stabilizing work on the part of your pecs. Your
pecs never normally get this work with most chest
exercises. Now they're stabilizing your entire
body and your limbs while you're moving yourself
up and down!
this intense stabilizing work fires many more
muscle fibers than are normally required for a
push-up, resulting in a tremendously effective
exercise for the chest.
Stage 4 - One Legged
Swiss Ball / Dumbell Push-Ups
variation of the push-up is extremely
difficult and should only be attempted
by advanced trainers!
will experience the ultimate
in instability when you lift
one leg off the ball and do
your shin directly on top of
the ball and grip the dumbells
will be a lot of side-to-side
movement in your lower body
due to the instability.
your abs and back tight and
fight to keep yourself on the
ball while you do the push-ups.
you can do to really take advantage
of this increased fiber activation is
to do a superset.
one set of this exercise then immediately
follow it with a set of machine presses
(where everything is stabilized).
your stabilizing muscles are not being
worked in the machine press, all of
your effort can go into finishing
off your already fatigued pec fibers
rather than balancing yourself.
will push your pecs to the limit with
finally, now that you've got a massive
pump going in your chest, do a set of
light dumbell flyes with an emphasis on
the stretch position. Hold the weights
at the bottom of the rep for a ten count
and really feel your pecs stretching out.
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