Are you looking to get the greatest potential from your upper body?
Then start following this simple formula:
Explosive Movements = Power
This is a pretty basic strategy. And the more demanding an exercise is (like push ups), the more your muscles need to step in and make it happen.
I know this sounds like a weird question but I gotta ask you:
“Are your muscles on the same level as your effort?”
If you’re taking the time to fit in an exercise session each day shouldn’t your gains match that effort? Just if you’re lacking in the POWER department, this post is going to delve into the art of using explosive push ups to get you set.
[For Beginners: this is surely going to help you skyrocket your strength potential.]
Let’s Start With A Quick Experiment…
I want you to do me a favor.
This will probably be the only time I ever tell you to run over to the TV.
Are you there? Ok. Good.
Now, sit on the couch and pick up the TV’s remote. It’s pretty light in your hand, right? This is what I want you to notice. To handle a remote we aren’t demanding a lot from our bodies. Not much muscle recruitment is asked for.
Ok, now click over to a show like The Walking Dead. Did you feel a difference there? We’re still at a point where we’re not asking much effort from your muscles.
The takeaway here is:
The lighter the object the lesser amount of muscle fibers get used.
Now, on to the next phase in the experiment.
Get up from the couch, turn around, squat down and see if you can lift the couch up off the floor. (Remember—use the knees, not the back.) You get a gold star if you got the couch to budge.
What’s the point of this experiment? It’s not to see how heavy a couch is versus your remote. It’s really meant to teach you how to feel your muscles react when faced with contrasting weight situations. If we’re trying to conquer an exercise like Explosive Push Ups it’s paramount to put the muscles in a situation that will teach them to respond appropriately.
Off the bat our bodies can’t tell the difference between a remote and a couch.
Sure, we can mentally recognize the weight differences between the two just because from experience we know a couch is much heavier than a dinky remote control.
When we’re lifting heavy objects the muscles shoot off signals to the brain. Depending on the need, the muscles might need just a few fibers put into action, or need backup…lots of backup.
So this takes us to another revelation:
The heavier a weight is the more muscle recruitment we need use to get the job done.
Now, The Science Behind Muscle Movement
A rep just isn’t a rep. Actually, it represents a lot more than that.
It’s power—in both potential and kinetic states.
When we’re first starting to work on improving the abilities of our muscles we’re at the mercy of Gravity…the invisible force that keeps us safely planted on terra firma.
Think Push Ups and Pull Ups, or—if you’re lifting weights with an exercise like squats—we prepare our bodies to go head-to-head against Gravity.
Each rep brings us closer to that goal.
For most, the process of muscle contraction can get lost in the moment. But it’s what’s key to Owning our good friend, Gravity.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how an exercise functions:
Concentric: Here’s where we take gravity head on. If we’re doing bodyweight exercises we press the muscles against ground force. The muscles contract and begin the ascent.
Isometric: This is when we’ve reached the peak of the movement, but it can really be anywhere during the exercise. It’s just usually at the midpoint. Most people choose to either hold the resistance in place for a brief period, or quickly transition into the next stage.
Eccentric: This is the point of the exercise movement when we bring the body or weight back down to the beginning. We either reset for another repetition or move into another exercise pattern.
While explosive push ups take full advantage of the benefits that come out of the Concentric stage, in the end it’s not the whole package.
In truth, we should also put an emphasis on the Eccentric stage.
I’ll discuss this a little further down below, but the interesting thing is there’s probably more opportunity for strength when we start lengthening the muscles and not only contracting them.
Quick Note: Your breathing patterns should go as follows—breath “out” during the Concentric stage of an exercise, and breathe “in” during the Eccentric stage.
How To Apply Explosive Push Ups for “Max” Power
I’ve got a keyword to share with you here. It’s “Plyometric”…and the type of training that’s evolved because it relies not only on bodyweight resistance, but it puts us against the ground reaction force that gets created when we snap the muscles to explode on command.
Now, Plyometric exercises are generally thought to revolve around the lower body. Think box jumps and bounding lunges. Thankfully, there’s enough room in the resistance world for some upper body development, as well.
Let’s take a look at adding an explosive element to Push Ups.
The purpose of this exercise is to force the body in an upward motion with enough force to lift the hands off the ground.
Why The Eccentric Stage Is Just As Important
Most people often discount the negative of a movement as nothing more than the after effect of muscle contraction.
But there’s research that shows the Eccentric stage (or the lowering motion) can actually have a greater strength impact than simply the Concentric Stage.
So, it would seem that it’s a big mistake to discount this side of a movement.
Muscle contraction is the first step to building muscles.
Again, we’ll look at the Concentric stage of an exercise. What make the positive side of an exercise so valuable is the muscles shorten, contract, and end up stimulate more muscle fibers as a result.
However, you can’t just let the weight fall back down to the ground. Lowering the weight in an Eccentric stage means you’ll be in full control of the weight on either side of the lift. You’ll be using less fibers during the process of bring the weight back down, but there’s more force put on the fibers.
This is why for anyone who need to build back strength to start adding pull ups, negatives are a great starting point. We’re putting more stress on the muscles, even though they are limited.
The Explosive Push Up Plan
Now that you know a bit about how to do plyometric push ups, I’ve devised a little chest routine to help you introduce them into your workouts.
To help set you on the path getting the most out of explosive push ups:
To begin, start with Standard Push Ups (to get an equal amount of activation in the pecs and triceps), Wide-Grip Push Ups (to take some load the triceps and add more emphasis on the chest), and then finish off with Narrow-Grip Push Ups (to reload the tri’s, and work the inner chest).
The key is to shoot your body off the ground as fast as possible, don’t pause at the top, and slowly descend as you reset for another rep.
After each set take either 45-60 second rest before starting on the next exercise.
How to Tweak To Get Even Better Results?
The one disadvantage to teaching your muscles how to master a certain weight is you have to keep coming up with new ways to get them fatigued, and at all different sorts of angles.
So, once you feel like you’re ready to move on from traditional explosive push ups, here are a few examples that will lead you to new training territories:
- Box Push Ups – Grab two boxes, even a cinderblock will do, and place them just outside the width of your shoulders. When you explode out of the push up you plant your hands on the boxes. That’s rep #1. Repeat, but switch out the push ups from floor to box as you go.
- Medball Push Ups – This is a similar idea to the box push ups, but only you keep one arm steady on a ball. There are two variations to these (1) stick with one arm at a time, or hand off the ball from one side to the next during the transition phase of the push up.
- Decline Plyo Push Ups – Remember the couch you tried to lift at the top of this post? Well, plant your feet on the cushions and get started. This specific exercise is great for blasting your upper pecs…creating a great angular look to your chest.
I always like to treat my workouts like they’re a game. If there aren’t fun then I’m more likely to skip them.
Now I have a little challenge for you:
I want to you to treat explosive push ups like a game, and leave me a comment below with some detail how you plan on doing them in your workouts.