Jun 8, 2017
Beyond the Push-Up

There’s nothing fancy about push-ups. They can be done anywhere by any athlete with no equipment or complex instructions. That may be the reason they are sometimes overlooked in a training program. However, they should be perfected by all athletes and then used as a starting point for progress.

According to a blog by Ryan J. Faer, CSCS, former Director of Strength & Conditioning at DeLand (Fla.) High School, the push-up can be made into much more than an entry-level exercise. The positioning of an athlete during push-ups allows easy transitions into other movements, creating what Faer calls a push-up complex.

“The hands and feet position (the High Plank) puts the athlete in a great set-up to execute a variety of movements to accomplish many different training goals,” he writes. “And, string movements in succession and you will yield a physical challenge to the whole system as well – much more challenging than the traditional Push-Up.”

The number of exercises that can be used in a push-up complex is almost endless, and depends on what you want your athletes to focus on: mobility, stability, or posture. Here is an example of a complex from Faer:

With any push-up complex, each movement should flow straight into the next. Faer suggests going through all of the motions five times without stopping, and counting this as one set. He recommends athletes do three sets, but continuously change the chosen movements or amount of repetitions depending on the athlete’s ability level.

“One set may only require 5 push-ups, but the result is a strenuous complex or flow that challenges shoulder and trunk stability, hip mobility, posture, and hamstring flexibility,” he writes. “Not challenging enough? Simply make each Push-Up x 2 (10 push-ups per set) or x 3 (15 per set)… you get the idea. Or, you can add more movements to challenge other aspects of mobility, stability, or posture.”

No matter what movements you choose, one major benefit of the complex is that it constantly strengthens posture.

“What’s great is that, by simply reinforcing the importance of the High Plank position and reminding the athlete to move consciously and with purpose, posture is greatly emphasized in every Push-Up Complex,” writes Faer. “That is because every time we leave the High Plank position, we must eventually return to it and re-establish proper alignment, thus getting great kinesthetic exposure each set.”

Another benefit of the push-up complex is efficiency. Because your athlete is going through multiple motions, they are engaging various areas of their body all within one exercise. This also adds variety and keeps athletes from becoming bored by the monotony of regular push-ups.

To see the above complex in action, check out this video from Faer.

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