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10 Versions of the Push-Up

The motivation to write this article comes from a driving force to remind people that often times in life the simple answer is the correct answer. Unfortunately, what seems to happen more often yet, is over complication of simple matters. In the fitness world, novices or the uneducated are guilty of this most of the time. In my opinion this happens for two reasons. One, it just seems too simple to be true and thus something more complicated must be the answer. Two, people just want to feel or look smarter for coming up with a complicated equation to solve a simple solution. These two reasons, even though they are wrong, are the only reasons I can think of for the lack of popularity surrounding the push-up in strength training.

If you are a frequent visitor of this blog you know my thoughts on the importance using the barbell lifts to build strength no matter your goals. However, a close second is body weight exercises and for the purpose of this article specifically the push-up. The push-up has been around since the beginning of time yet most people brush it off when it is referred to as one of best exercises to build upper body strength. I can only assume that this is because most people perceive it as boring and too simple to be so effective. In reality, it still is and always will be, one of the most effective ways of building not only upper body strength but also shoulder stability and health. For these reasons, it is one of the best accessory lifts you can choose to build a bigger bench press or overhead press yet I rarely ever see anyone doing pushups in the commercial gyms I visit. This can also be because pushups are generally very difficult for the untrained individual. Now, I have never not done an exercise because I deemed it boring. Heck I’d watch paint dry if I thought it would give me a bigger bench press. However, I am also not naïve to the fact that some may find the push up boring and I also respect the push-up enough to know that it can be very difficult for some people. So in the following sections I have provided how I teach my clients to progress the push-up and also different variations of the push-up you can try with all being effective in their own way.

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How to Break Through Plateaus

It’s inevitable. You will hit a wall or plateau of sorts on your major lifts. Yes, you can cruise along for a relatively long time adding small amounts of weight each time you perform a lift. The more of a novice you are the longer this period will continue. Enjoy it and take full advantage of “beginner gains”. However, as you become more experienced and your training age increases the jumps in weight will become smaller and smaller until you hit a plateau and your increases start to flat line. At this point, an inexperienced lifter will become frustrated. He or she will continue to try the same weight over and over again until they eke out a rep even if it takes another number of weeks. On the other hand, an experienced lifter will know that this is just part of the game and will strategize and create a game plan of sorts to move past this plateau. In the following sections I have provided some of those strategies along with a few tips for less experienced lifters. Also, note that the major lifts are the bench press, deadlift, squat, and overhead press.

 

Beginners

  • Note: “Beginners” refers to anyone that is relatively inexperienced with the “big” lifts and also inexperienced with following a structured program. You can be a “beginner” even if you have been working out for years.
  • Stick to the 3-5 rule. Perform some combination of 3-5 sets with 3-5 reps.
  • Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength program is perfect for this. 5 sets of 5 increasing the weight each week.
  • Start light. Give yourself time to “grease the groove” and become proficient with the technique of the major lifts. Starting light also allows for more improvement for a longer period of time.
  • Small increases in weight. You don’t need to “max” out each week. Increasing the upper body lifts by 5 pounds each week and the lower body lifts by 10 pounds per week is more than enough, if you start light. Increases smaller than this might be even more beneficial.

 

Strategies for More Advanced Lifters

Use Percentages

 

  • Once you have experience with the major lifts and your technique is at least proficient I highly recommend the use of percentages in your program. Are there programs that don’t utilize percentages all the time? Sure, I previously mentioned the Starting Strength program which I love and which also does not use percentages. However, the use of percentages will allow you to have a long term plan and goal.
  • The use of percentages ensures that you are continuing along a path that is sustainable for a longer period of time and it also gives you a clear picture of how much you are improving.
  • Two of my favorite programs that utilize percentages are Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program and Chad Wesley Smith’s Juggernaut program.

 

Same but Different

  • This strategy is probably the most difficult to follow especially if you have an inflated ego which I’m sure is not the case with most young lifters right?
  • It’s tough to follow through with this strategy because it calls for completely ignoring the lift you are trying to improve on for a period of time and doing something a little different instead.
  • It’s called same but different because in this strategy you will ignore the lift you are trying to improve upon and perform a similar exercise instead. For example, instead of performing the flat bench press you will instead program around the incline bench press. Or instead of programming the back squat you perform the front squat for a period of time.
  • This works for two major reasons. One, your mind and body gets a rest from the exercise you have been desperately been trying to improve for a period of time. In my opinion, the mental rest is just as beneficial as the physical one. Two, by working on the same movement just in a slightly different way you are actually working on a portion of the lift that may be lacking and holding you back on your “main” exercise.
  • You don’t necessarily have to do the same but different exercise for an entire training cycle but for a substantial amount of time maybe a month or 6 weeks would suffice.

I have personally done and seen this strategy work wonders in a relatively short period of time.

 

Train Weak Points

  • This is not for beginners because everything is a weak point for you. So do everything and do it often. Do not overthink this part of your programming.
  • Training Weak points will always be a necessary part of your programming.
  • The toughest thing for some people will be realizing what there weak points are. If you are one of the many people unsure what there weak points are try this; think about the accessory exercises, movements, and/or body parts that are your least favorite to execute. Those are most likely your weak points. People avoid doing what they don’t enjoy and most become a weak point.
  • If still unsure what your weak points are sit down and evaluate your program. What is missing or what haven’t you done in a while. Take note of the accessory lifts you are doing when your numbers are increasing but also take note of what you avoided when you hit your plateau.
  • You can also ask other people. Ask your lifting buddy who sees you perform the lift, ask a more experienced lifter for advice, etc.

 

Rest Days

  • Yes, rest days are important and I know it may strange coming from me, heck it feels weird typing this out. However, rest days are very important if you want to gain maximal strength.
  • This article was written to give you advice on increasing maximal strength in your major lifts when you hit a plateau. We weren’t discussing bodybuilding or any other type of training.
  • Your body needs to be as fully recovered as possible when strength is the goal.
  • If you do something the day before that is going to negatively affect your main lift the next day that is counterproductive to what we discussed in this article today.

 

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7 Reasons Your Not Seeing Results In The Gym

One might think that after two degrees and a few certifications my education might be over. Think again, because the real education begins after college graduation. As a professional in the strength and conditioning and personal training worlds I am continuously trying to improve myself. At first thought, it would be easy to assume that with increased knowledge and experience comes a better understanding of what to do and while that is a correct thought I have learned that although I do learn about what to do and what works I actually learn more of what not to do and what doesn’t work. I have a saying that I tell some of my clients that might question when I tell them not to do something. I say, “I may not know everything that works but I do know what doesn’t.” In my opinion, knowing what not to do because it doesn’t work is just as if not more important than knowing what does work. In my experience, you can always find a new strategy or tool that helps you get over a hurdle or plateau, but the things that don’t work never change. These seven things listed below have never helped anyone achieve anything in the past or present, nor will they in the future.

Note: You may notice I don’t talk about the importance of nutrition and sleep/recovery in any of the points listed below. If you don’t realize that those two things are just as important as the act of working out itself then please don’t even bother reading on

1. Lack of Patience

It blows my mind the lack of patience people have in the gym. It’s not just one demographic either. I have worked with high school and collegiate athletes, stay at home moms, business professionals, you name it and almost everyone suffers with a lack of patience at some point. The reason this drives me crazy sometimes is because the lack of common sense some people display the minute they step in the gym. If someone wants to learn how to play the guitar they’d most likely realize that it’s going to take an enormous amount of practice to even learn to play one song correctly and they accept this challenge because well how can you expect to learn a song in the first week if you’ve never played the guitar? But then that same person that hasn’t worked out in three years becomes frustrated that they haven’t gotten their body back that they had three years ago within the first two months of training. I also see people visibly upset that their weight in a certain lift only went up five pounds in one month. Let’s do the math, five pounds per month x twelve months= sixty pounds in a year. Go ahead and ask any experienced lifter if they would turn down an improvement of sixty pounds in a year. The answer is no way in hell. Bottom line: be patient, work hard, and quit crying.

2. Ego

One of my earliest articles was on ego (A Bodybuilders Worst Nightmare). In my opinion, this is the most amusing on the list. I’ve been working out since I was 14 years old and most of the time I don’t have a gym buddy so every once in a while I have to find ways to amuse myself. There is nothing more amusing than finding that person with the inflated ego at the gym. Just watching them walk across the gym amuses me. How they interact with other strangers at the gym, giving unwanted advice to some teenagers, or talking about their 1 rep max no one has ever witnessed brings amusement to my workout. It’s amusing to me because I will see that person six months to a year down the road and they have made zero improvement. The ironic thing is that the people with an inflated ego are the ones that should read this but they don’t realize that I am talking about them. Bottom line, leave your ego at the door. Bottom line: learn from others that are where you want to be, learn what not to do from those that are screwing up, learn from everyone.

3. No Clear Path/Goals

This point is pretty straight forward but no less important. If you don’t know where you are going how do you know when you have arrived? Or better yet how do you even plan the trip? Yes, doing anything is better than doing nothing. But doing something with a purpose is better yet. The goals you set don’t need to be permanent but they can’t change every week either. Having goals, or a why, uh huh see what I did there, will be your motivation and compass. It is harder to skip the gym if in the back of your mind you know you are screwing up a bigger plan rather than just skipping a single day. Bottom line: set a goal, make a plan, and attack it.

4.Fear of Failure

A fear of failure is something I see fairly often in the gym and it breaks my heart. It hits me hard because I know it is a difficult mental hurdle to get past. A common reason people are afraid to fail in the gym is because of the ego that we discussed earlier. They see failure as a hit to their ego, to their perceived awesomeness. I believe that failure is mandatory for success to happen in life and the gym is no different. I try to explain to my athletes and clients to expect failure. Failure is coming whether you like it or not so expect it. If you expect failure to come one day then it doesn’t hit you quite as hard when it does. Sure, it sucks when it happens but if it was part of the plan from the beginning then no big deal, regroup and push forward. Training in the gym for fat loss, strength gains, etc., is not a linear journey. You cannot continue to improve forever without any bumps in the road. It’s physically impossible. Bottom line: expect failure, learn from it, say screw it, and push forward.

5. Inconsistency

This is a no brainer. If you don’t show up regularly you will not see results or the results will be minimal. Period. End of story. And yes, you do have time for twenty minutes a day for an at home interval workout that will burn more fat than the hamsters running on the treadmill or elliptical for an hour every day at the gym.Bottom line: if it’s important to you, you will find time.

6. You Get Bored

I have to be careful not to go on a rant about this topic. Does training need to be boring to be effective? Absolutely not. Will it get boring sometimes? Most likely, yes. If you need your workouts to be entertaining every day the entire time you are working out then you might want to rethink yourwhy.Is your goal to see results or to be entertained? I can honestly say 1000% if someone told me watching paint dry for five hours a day would make me see the results I wanted I absolutely would do it. Of course, there are always ways to make training fun and there are too many for me to begin to list them. That’s not the point I’m trying to make anyways. Bottom line: if you can make training entertaining then absolutely do it but don’t lose sight of why you are training in the first place.

7. Majoring in the Minors

This last point is one that most people don’t even realize they are doing. Majoring in the minors refers to giving major focus to minor details. In my professional opinion, based off of my experiences, your success, no matter what your goal is, is going to come down to you doing anywhere from three to five things correctly and consistently. Yet, for whatever reason I have witnessed people giving a crazy amount of attention to one minor aspect of their training that will have little to no effect on them achieving their goal. I know at the beginning I mentioned I was not going to discuss the importance of nutrition and sleep but a perfect example of majoring in the minors would be stressing about what brand of supplements to purchase when you are sleeping four hours a night and eating processed crap. Guess what? You can spend whatever you want on the “perfect” supplement and if you are sleeping and eating like crap you can say bye-bye to those goals. And that’s not up for debate. An easy way to determine if it’s a minor aspect of training or a major aspect is if you have to think about it, it’s minor. I hope you get the point I’m trying to make because this topic was actually more difficult to discuss than I initially thought. Bottom line is: majoring in the minors, you just know it when you see it. Avoid doing it.

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My Story, What’s Yours?

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I first started training to get bigger and stronger for football in the middle of my eighth grade year. I immediately fell in love with weight training. I loved seeing myself get bigger and stronger. This continued throughout high school, and into college where I continued my football career. After tearing my ACL for the second time, ending my football career after my sophomore year, is when I first began to look at weight training as something more than just to get prepared for football. I started reading articles and visiting websites about powerlifting. I knew I would love it because I already loved the barbell lifts and being as strong as I could be. However, I knew I wanted to train to look good also which lead me to dabble in the bodybuilding lifestyle. As time went on I realized there was no reason why I had to pick one set way of training. So I started training in a way that is now commonly called “powerbuilding” which combines bodybuilding training with training for power and strength. Up to this point I have never competed in a competition of any sort but I am currently training for a push-pull (deadlift and bench) completion in early April. The reason I am sharing this with you is so that you can see that I am in this with you. I have faced or am currently facing similar challenges as you. This is important for me to share with you because when I first started working out I often wondered if I was doing things right or if people were facing the same problems as me. I would look at older, bigger guys and think “man they have it all figured out, they have to know everything there is to know.” Well, as I started reading and watching videos of famous powerlifters and bodybuilders I started to realize that they face the same problems I was facing. Growing up my favorite people to follow were the ones that showed their human side. They showed their failures and struggles but they also showed how they overcame those problems. I found it refreshing that someone at the top of their “game” could face the same problems as me. This gave me confidence that certain challenges I faced were normal and I just had to find a way to overcome them. Because of this, I will share my failures with you as well as my successes. I look forward to in the future getting feedback from you, the readers, about what topics you would like me to write about. I think that we will find that many of you have the same questions about certain things.

Let’s Get Started

I want this blog to be a place where people can come to for advice and knowledge in the pursuit of bettering themselves in and outside the weight room. With the help of social media, I plan to be able to interact with people who read these posts and have questions that they can ask me directly. My first challenge to you, as a reader, is to find your “Why?” Why are you in the weight room? Why is training important to you? Why
img_6047 are you currently doing the programs or exercises you are doing? These are all questions that you should ask yourself. You got the answers to these questions? Write them down, right now. The answers to these questions will lead you to the type of training you do, how often you do it, the exercises you choose, the type of food you eat, the amount of food you eat, the list goes on and on. I do not know everything. As the saying goes, the more I learn the more I realize I do not know. However, I have been doing this for a while now both personally and professionally, and I am constantly learning. I will not try and seem like I know everything. I will simply share what I do know and what works for me and the people I have trained. Training is a very personal thing. Yes, there are things that are biologically set in stone and will not change from person to person. There are, however, a good amount of variables that each person responds to differently. Things that you can expect to be covered in this blog are bodybuilding tips, strength tips, training for athletes, ways to gain mass, ways to lose fat, training for powerlifting, etc.