Do These 3 Upper-Body Plyos Instead of Plyo Push-Ups

Plyo Push-Ups might not work for you. Do these three safer exercises instead.

Plyo Push-Ups and Clap Push-Ups are popular upper-body plyometric exercises. They appear to be the upper-body equivalent of jumping, and they look super cool. However, according to STACK Sports Performance Director Brandon McGill, you should reconsider adding these exercises and similar variations to your workouts.

They're Not Actually Plyometric

Plyo Push-Ups appear to be extremely explosive. Sometimes they are, but that doesn't necessarily make them a plyometric movement.

RELATED: The 10 Best Plyometrics for Athletes

Plyos improve your ability to absorb force and quickly exert it again by training the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC). Here's how the SSC works with a Plyo Push-Up:

Phase 1: Eccentric – When you lower into a Push-Up and make contact with the ground, your muscles absorb the force from the landing as elastic energy.

Phase 2: Amortization – This is the transition period at the bottom of the movement, when your muscles switch from the eccentric to concentric phase.

Phase 3: Concentric – Your muscles powerfully contract, releasing the stored elastic energy to propel your body up into the air.

During Plyometric Push-Up variations, athletes often get stuck in the amortization phase, spending too much time with their hands on the ground. McGill says, "Athletes often don't have the strength to utilize them properly. Time is the critical factor. If you can't move fast enough, all that energy is lost as heat."

RELATED: Kettlebell Push Press: An Upper-Body Plyometric Exercise

When performing any plyometric exercise, you should try to spend as little time on the ground as possible. If you feel like you're getting stuck on the ground or moving through mud, the exercise is too difficult for you. This is often the case with  Plyo Push-Ups and their variations. Removing the amortization phase makes them a traditional power exercise, similar to slowly lowering for a Push-Up over three seconds, then exploding up.

They Place Excessive Strain on the Wrists

Your feet and ankles are designed to handle force when at a 90-degree angle. Your wrists, however, are not. Any type of Plyo Push-Up variation places a ton of stress on your wrists, according to McGill.

It may not cause an injury immediately, but placing extreme force on your wrists can cause painful long-term issues. This is particularly problematic for athletes who rely on healthy wrists, such those who play baseball, basketball, hockey, tennis and many other sports.

The risk simply outweighs the reward.

Better Alternatives

Safer alternatives to Plyo Push-Ups offer actual plyometric benefits with minimal injury risk. As a general guideline, you should be able to perform 10 Push-Ups with perfect form before attempting any of these exercises.

RELATED: 3 Effective Upper-Body Plyometrics Exercises

Med Ball Chest Pass

Med Ball Chest Pass

Trains explosive upper-body pushing in a shorter range of motion, which trains the SSC. It also limits impact on your wrists.

How to:

  • Holding a med ball in front of your chest, stand 3 or 4 feet in front of a wall with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Keeping your core tight, explosively throw the med ball at the wall by pressing your arms forward.
  • Catch the ball on the rebound and immediately repeat.

Sets/Reps: 4x4

Single-Arm Med Ball Chest Pass

Single-Arm Med Ball Chest Pass

The single-arm variation offers similar benefits and also helps make your left and right side equally powerful.

How to:

  • Holding a med ball in your right hand in front of your shoulder, stand 3 or 4 feet in front of a wall with our feet hip-width apart.
  • Keeping your core tight, explosively throw the med ball at the wall by pressing your arm forward.
  • Catch the ball on the rebound and immediately repeat.

Sets/Reps: 4x4 each arm

Ladder In-and-Outs

Ladder In-and-Outs

This is a plyometric upper-body movement that actually trains the SSC. You hop back and forth, but the stress on your wrists is still significantly less than a Plyo Push-Up.

How to:

  • Assume a push-up position with your hands inside an agility ladder box.
  • Keep your shoulders down and back, and maintain a tight core.
  • Hop your hands to the outside of the box.
  • Spending as little time on the ground as possible, hop your hands back into the box.
  • Continue for the specified number of reps.

Sets/Reps: 4x4

Read More:

15 Advanced Push-Up Variations

10 Plyometric Exercises Every Athlete Should Do

The Many, Many Things WRONG With P90X Plyometrics


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