You don’t need a gym or expensive equipment to perform Push-Ups and strengthen and stabilize your core. All you need is a nudge in the right direction. To get you going, here are some tried-and-true progressions that work on stability, strength and power.
Isometric Traditional Push-Up
Benefits: Stabilization exercises are the building blocks for all movement, strength and power. Therefore, before performing any other Push-Up variation, you should first perform a stabilization Push-Up. This will build lean muscle in your upper body by providing time under tension to your muscles—along with developing stronger tendons to all of your upper-body muscles, including your rotator cuffs.
How to: Position your hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart with your chest facing the floor. Your knees, legs and feet should be together with your ankle complex positioned slightly forward, for a more challenging core workout. Lower yourself to the floor and hold this position while keeping a neutral spinal throughout.
Sets/Reps: Beginners, 3×10-second holds, two minutes rest between sets; more advanced athletes, 3×30-second holds and one minute rest between sets.
Coaching points: For added strength, draw your abdominals in toward your spine and keep your glutes engaged throughout. Keep your upper trapezius muscles down and your neck muscles relaxed so they do not assist with the movement.
Benefits: Strength exercises create muscle mass (hypertrophy) and build strength in your body. This is an advanced Push-Up variation since it incorporates more core, shoulder and triceps stability, thus more strength in your rotator cuffs. Because you are in motion, strength Push-Up exercises engage the core movement muscles more than the core stabilization muscles.
How to: Begin with your arms in a traditional push-up position, but stagger your hands by moving one up about 6 inches (away from your shoulder) and the other down about 6 inches (toward your waist). Keep them shoulder-width apart. Your legs are locked; knees and feet are together with your heels up and your body weight forward on your hands. Continuously lower yourself down and rise up in a controlled manner.
Sets/Reps: Beginners, 3×10 with two minutes rest between sets; more advanced athletes, 3×24 and two minutes rest between sets.
Coaching points: Do not lean or hike your hips. Draw your abdominals in toward your spine and keep your glutes engaged throughout for added strength. Keep your upper trapezius down and your neck muscles relaxed.
Power Jumping Jack
Benefits: Power can be defined as optimal strength and quickness when performing a movement. When your body has efficient stabilization and strength, power progressions can flourish. This Push-Up variation builds lean muscle in your entire body while stretching your hip adductors and abductors, and engaging your core stabilization and movement muscles.
How to: As with the other Push-Up exercises, start in the traditional position and execute a Push-Up. As you rise back up to the starting position, jump your legs out as wide as possible (to form a “V” shape) and as high as you can get. After performing the Jumping Jack in the air, land softly back into the starting position.
Sets/Reps: Beginners, 3×10 with two minutes rest between sets; more advanced athletes, 3×24-30 with two minutes rest between sets.
Coaching points: While performing the Jumping Jacks, be sure to extend (lock) your knees for optimal posterior chain recruitment in your hamstrings and calves. Remember to maintain the neutral spinal position, and do not lean while performing this Push-Up.
Check out more Push-Up variations: