press up

Push Up, Or Shut Up!

Reinventing the push up into a viable bench press alternative.

 

You love to bench press. Everyone does. It’s a simple move, you can load up big weights on it, and it trains major muscles you love to see in the mirror. However, the bench press isn’t always the safest option. If you don’t have a spotter, it can be dangerous to overload yourself to a point where you might fail a rep and need the bar lifted off you. Furthermore, excessive bench press in your training can lead to a whole host of shoulder issues. Sometimes, when training your chest and triceps, it can be useful to revert back to the bench presses little brother; the PE teachers favourite; the push up.

You probably left the push up behind as soon as you discovered the bench press. You now probably view it as a warm up exercise, cranking out a few sets of 10 before you start your chest day. However, by a few simple tweaks shown in the exercises below, we can amp up the intensity of push ups so you can get great upper body results without even touching a weight.

Before you try some of the more intense and advanced push up variations, here are some key coaching points to make sure you’ve mastered the ordinary push up.

 

  • Make sure your hands are placed directly below your shoulders to ensure you’re stressing the correct muscles.
  • Keep your elbows tucked to your sides. Flared elbows are one of the most common mistakes when performing a push up. To help you keep tucked elbows, imagine you are trying to grip a business card in-between your arm pits.
  • Maintain a straight and rigid body. A rigid body during a press up involves straight legs, hips not sagging and a neutral spine position. To help with this, tense your glutes and core as well as pressing your legs and feet tight together before starting to complete your push ups.
  • Get low enough. Lowering yourself to the correct position in a push up ensures you work your muscles through a full range of motion. Lower yourself til your face is 2 to 3 inches off the ground then push away again.

 

Regular push up - start-finish position

Regular push up – start-finish position

Regular push up - mid position

Regular push up – mid position

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you can perform a good set of 20-25 push ups following the coaching points above, it’s time to attempt some more advanced versions of the push up. Caution! Huge pecs and massive triceps may result from completion of these exercises.

 

Staggered push up

Set up: Set yourself up for a normal push up; hands below shoulders, core braced, elbows tucked. Now, take one hand and move it forward until it is below your eye line. Your hands are now in the staggered position.

Execution: Lower yourself as normal, then focus on driving through your hand that is still below your shoulder on the up phase. Use your more forward hand as a support. When you’re done, take a short rest, switch which hand is forward, and repeat.

 

Staggered push up - start-finish position

Staggered push up – start-finish position

Staggered push up - mid position

Staggered push up – mid position

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This move increases the intensity on one pectoral at a time, by increasing the work each side does during one rep. It is a good first move to attempt after mastering the regular push up. Aim for 15 – 20 reps each side before attempting archer push ups.

 

Archer push up

Set up: Again, set yourself up for a normal push up; hands below shoulders, core braced, elbows tucked. This time take one hand and extend it out to the side of your body. Raise your extended hand off the palm onto just the fingers and make sure that arm is straight. Imagine looking down on your body and you should see an image similar to an archer with his bow. Your extended hand is ‘drawing the arrow’ while the hand still under the shoulder is ‘holding the bow’.

Execution: Similar to the staggered push up, focus on driving through the hand still under your shoulder. Your extended arm should bend slightly as you lower to the bottom point of the push up. Switch sides again and repeat.

 

Archer push up - mid position

Archer push up – mid position

Archer push up - start-finish position

Archer push up – start-finish position

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The archer push up is very similar to the staggered push up in that it isolates the work onto one side of your upper body. However, by moving the non-working arm laterally and further away from the body’s midline, the support is reduced, so the intensity placed on the working arm is further increased. Aim for 10 reps each side before moving on.

 

Lateral push ups

Set up: Slightly different to the others, you start lateral push ups with both arms extended laterally away from the body. If you looked down on your body, it would resemble a cross. You can keep your fingers facing forwards, or point them out laterally too; whichever is most comfortable for you.

Execution: Lower yourself down towards your left hand. You should be moving diagonally downwards, trying to get your left pec as close as you can too your left hand. Drive back up and away so your body becomes central again. Immediately repeat to your right side.

 

Lateral push up - mid position

Lateral push up – mid position

Lateral push up - start-finish position

Lateral push up – start-finish position

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This exercise provides a more dynamic version of the archer push up, and the different movement pattern makes it a difficult move to master. Aim to hit 16-20 reps before attempting the daddy of all push ups; the one arm push up.

 

Conculsion

It is hard to let go of the staple upper body exercise of the bench press. Most of us are comfortable and feel at home with a bar above our chest, but you can achieve similar results, in a safer and equally as challenging environment with the push ups shown above. And as if this article hasn’t already done enough to convince you to try some advanced push ups in your next upper body workout, always remember that push ups work your core at the same time as your pecs and triceps.

 

Mark Harvey
Loughborough University
BSc Sports and Exercise Science

 

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owenhubbard

Bench Press World Record Holder – Owen Hubbard

Celebrating the end of exams just found whole new meaning, recent Bournemouth University graduate Owen Hubbard left the partying to the rest of us as he flew out to South Africa to set the Junior World Record in the Bench Press! Just 1 hour after the final exam of his entire degree Owen boarded a plane to the IPF World Classics where at only 21 years of age and 83kg in bodyweight he bench pressed a staggering 190.5 kilograms…. That’s like three times the weight of Mo Farah holding a watermelon! As well as ginormous bench Owen can Squat 257.5kg and Deadlift 265kg giving him a combined powerlifting total of 705kg…… lightweight baby?! StudyFit caught up with the student power lifter, originally from Merthyr Tydfil, to find out more about him, how he built such strength while at University and what his future plans are. Naturally, there was only one question to open with.

You’re one of the UK’s strongest students! What’s that like?

“It’s not really something I think about too much, but it’s nice to be reminded from time to time! The great thing about powerlifting is that you can always get stronger, so I haven’t finished achieving yet.”

How and why did you start Powerlifting? How long has it taken you to build your strength?

“I started Powerlifting at quite a young age, around 15. As a younger child I was a bit of a fat kid sitting at 11 stone, aged 11. So to combat this I joined the local gym which was a real chalk, meat heads and rusty bars type gym. This environment introduced me to weight training pretty early on and through this style of training I ended up losing quite a bit of weight and getting down to around 8% body fat. Then I did what quite a lot of gym goers do, and became complacent. Luckily there were a few guys in the gym, who competed in powerlifting. I’d seen them gym shifting these massive weight and thought yeah, I wanna be able to do that! So I jumped in at the deep end, and 2 months later I was in my first comp totalling around 360kg in the 75kg class. From there I caught the bug and never looked back.”

Where do you train and do you train by yourself or with others?

“Throughout my time at Bournemouth University I’ve been fortunate enough to train with a powersports club, Bournemouth Barbell. This is run by a terrific coach, Paul Rees, who has helped me since my first year of University. It’s safe to say that without him I wouldn’t be where I am now. He creates a good lifting environment with other likeminded lifters which, I believe, is paramount to success.”

 

MASS_OwenHubbard2

How have you learned what works for you and what doesn’t?

“It’s a lot of trial and error. I train with my coach, Paul, 3 times a week but the rest of the week I train on my own due to work commitments. Over the years I have picked up a lot of things that I know works for me in both my nutrition and training. After every training cycle I review and adapt to what suits my needs at that particular moment in time. By doing this you can work on weaknesses and build on strengths!”

Which body parts do you find toughest to work on?

“I wouldn’t say there was a body part that I find toughest to work but there is an exercise for sure….. I HATE deadlifts! Probably because they are my weakest lift by far. But all I can do is keep working at it as much as possible until it gets better. I blame my short arms…” Weakest lift? You lift 265kg! Make the rest of us feel small why don’t you Owen.

What type of diet do you follow?

“This is an aspect of my training that I’ve done a lot of experimenting with in the past and I’ve finally got to a point where I can keep my performance up as well as maintaining my body weight around 83kg. This is very important for a power lifter who has to stay at a particular weight for his or her category. I usually train each day at around 5pm. Before I training my meals are mostly high fat, high protein (around a 50:50 ratio) with no carbs. Post workout this is where I introduce carbohydrates into my diet, around 150/200g altogether… depending on how hard the session has been! Over the years I’ve found I don’t really hit the higher rep ranges enough to warrant a ridiculously high carbohydrate intake throughout the day. Carbs just tend to make me sluggish for lifting more than anything. This is what works for me!”

What is the IPF and what was it like competing in the IPF so close to your final exams?

“The IPF is the International Powerlifting Federation and is the largest drug tested federation in the sport of Powerlifting. I was fortunate enough to compete in their World Classic Powerlifting Championships in South Africa in June this year. Competing there was pretty stressful considering my last Uni exam was the same day as my flight out to South Africa! My social life suffered a little leading up to the competition as I spent early mornings in the library so that I had enough time to train in the evenings. I’m glad I had the opportunity to lift out there and it was definitely worth the stress leading up to the competition!”

 

MASS_OwenHubbard3

How do you motivate yourself to train and eat clean?

“For me this is easy. I want to be the best and I know if don’t do it, someone else will. I have the ambition to become a World Champion and I know that’s not going to happen unless I’m training as hard as I can all the time.”

What tips have you for others who want to take up Powerlifting?

“The Great Britain Powerlifting Federation (GBPF) website is a good place to start or see if your University have a club, learn the rules and compete! Powerlifting is such a welcoming sport and that’s what got me hooked in the first place. I was a 15 year old boy with no idea what I was doing in my first competition and I was welcomed and supported by the other guys at my gym who had been lifting for years!”

What would you say is the key to managing training and diet as a student?

“Diet is preparation for sure. For the last few months of my degree I lived out of Tupperware in the library shovelling mackerel salad down my throat. I was probably the last person you would want to sit next to but it’s got to be done!

Training is similar and you get out of your training what you put into it. If I wasn’t too far away from a competition I would socialise and go on nights out without a problem, but I would do it strategically. Basically never go out the night before a heavy squat session as that hangover is just going to make it a write off! Bench on the other hand, your lying down so it’s not too bad!”

What do you like to do when you’re not lifting?

“Obviously the occasional night out never hurt anyone. Also I’m a bit of a secret nerd inside too so I love my gaming and anything do to with superheroes. Sad I know… “

What are your future plans?

“I’ve graduated from Bournemouth University now with a 2:1 in nutrition and am personal training out of 180 degrees gym in Sandbanks. It’s a nice place to be, training people on the beach!

Competition wise I have a bit of a break now until the British Classics in October held in Dover, so I’m training for some big numbers there.”

 

MASS_OwenHubbard4

Owen’s Training Regime

Training can vary depending on how far away from a competition I am. The closer to a competition I am the heavier the weights and my session become more intense and focused on the main three lifts; squat, bench and deadlift. On the other hand, the further away from a competition I incorporate more variance, assistance and repetitions.

Typically leading up to competition my training consists of the following;

Monday – Squats
  • Squats – 8 sets x 6 reps (preceded by at least 2 warm up sets)
  • Tuesday – Assistance Bench
  • Barbell floor press – 5 sets x 5 reps
  • Overhead press – 5 sets x 5 reps
  • Weighted dips – 5 sets x 5 reps
  • Bench press (speed work) – 10 sets x 3 reps (explosive)
  • Abdominal roll outs – 3 sets x 10 reps
  • Weighted sit ups (on a decline bench) – 3 sets x 10 reps
  • Finish with foam rolling and mobility work
Wednesday – Deadlifts
  • Deadlifts – 10 sets x 2 reps (building the weight up)
  • Deficit or block pull deadlifts – 6 sets x 3 reps
  • Weighted chin ups – 5 sets x 5 reps
  • Weighted side bends – 5 sets x 5 reps
  • Thursday – Bench
  • Bench Press – 8 sets of 6 reps (preceded by at least 2 warm up sets)
  • ‘Board’ or ‘chains’ Bench Press – 5 sets x 3 reps
  • Friday – Assistance work/active recovery
  • Bent-over rows – 3 sets x 10 reps (concentrating on technique and squeezing the scapula together)
  • Wide grip chin ups – 3 sets x 10 reps superset with Lateral raise – 3 sets x 10 reps
  • Barbell curls – 100 reps in as little amount of sets as possible
  • Abdominal roll outs – 3 sets x 12 reps
  • Weighted sit ups (on a decline bench) – 3 sets x 10 reps
  • Finish with 20/30 minutes of foam rolling
  • Saturday – Deadlifts and squats
  • Deadlifts – 5 x 5’s
  • Deficits speed deadlifts – 3 x 5’s
  • Squats – 5 x 5’s
  • Heavy bent over rows – 3 x 5’s
  • Weighted sit ups – 3 x 20’s
  • Glute ham raise – 2 x 20’s
  • Back raises – 2 x 20’s
Sunday – Bench

Similar session to Thursday’s but usually a little lighter and stricter. This means incorporating paused bench into the session. Paused bench involved a 1 second pause at the bottom of the rep before pressing the bar; this is how the bench press is performed in powerlifting. When training I usually pause the first and last repetition.

Owen’s titles
  • Commonwealth Champion 2010
  • British Classic Champion 2013
  • British Equipped Champion 2014
  • Junior World Record Holder in the Bench Press @ 83kg (190.5kg)
  • British classic record holder for both the junior and senior
Owen Hubbard
www.owenhubbardfitness.com
Twitter – @Hubbardfitness
Facebook – Owen Hubbard Strength and Fitness
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mattsallis

Training: Back to the Basics with Matt Sallis

The common mistake that beginner, and sometimes even experienced, lifters make is overthinking or overcomplicating their training. For a successful and easily tracked progressive plan it is a simple matter of manipulating the basic variables

 

Name: Matt Sallis
University: St Mary’s
Course: Strength & Conditioning
Year of Study: 3rd

The Basics

  • Compound exercises – a multi-joint/multi-muscle group exercise
  • Isolation exercises – a single-joint/single-muscle group exercise
  • Sets – a group of reps
  • Concentric – the lifting portion of the exercise
  • Eccentric – the returning/lowering portion of the exercise
  • Intensity – the weight at which the exercise is performed
  • Reps – ‘repetition’, one rep represents one complete movement of the exercise in question. Lower rep ranges, 1-6, tend to produce muscular strength gains. Rep range 6-12 tend to produce hypertrophic (muscular growth) gains, and higher rep ranges 15+ produce muscular endurance gains. Though specific rep ranges target different goals, this is an inter-relationship spectrum.
  • Tempo – the rate/speed in seconds at which the lift is performed. Tempo can be used to differentiate training. Quicker performing reps aim to produce speed and therefore muscular power, whilst slower performing reps are aimed at increasing time-under-tension (TUT) and therefore growth. For example, a tempo of 1-0-4-0 represents the speed in seconds of each part of the lift and can be read as LIFT-NO PAUSE-RETURN-NO PAUSE (in seconds).
  • Rest intervals – the amount of rest time given between sets. Rest periods can vary and is dependent on your goal. When training for strength rest times between 2-5mins are employed to enable the lifter to recover enough to perform again at the same capacity – also the case when Power is the goal. Shorter rest times between sets, 5-90 seconds, are used to induce metabolic fatigue/lactate build up within the muscle and employed when muscle growth is your goal. Though specific rest times are designed for different goals, it is an inter-relationship spectrum.
  • Steady State Cardio – low intensity cardio usually set around <75% MHR (maximum heart rate) and for longer periods of time. It uses predominantly type1 muscle fibres (muscular endurance fibres) and some type2 and tends to be most people’s choice for targeted fat loss.
  • HIIT Cardio – High Intensity Interval Training – short bursts of intense work followed by an active recovery. Performed in shorter periods but at >75% MHR depending on ability, fitness and goal. Employs type 2a and 2x muscle fibres, spares muscle wastage and although isn’t as effective at acutely utilising fat stores for fuel it has a prolonged fat-burning effect thereafter.

 

 

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There are a number of factors to take into account when planning your training, the key is sticking to the basics and arranging them so that everything plays a part in working towards your goal. To help you on your way to your ideal body it’s imperative to think about these things

Planning your attack

  1. What is your goal?! Do you want to compete!? Or add 20kg onto your bench press?! Be as specific as you can.
  2. How many times a week can you train? From this you can determine your training split, you want to be hitting all muscle groups ATLEAST once a week.
  3. When would you like to achieve your goal by? This will determine the number of phases your overall plan will consist of.
  4. Do you have weak parts you need to work on? Generally you’ll want to hit these with more volume, or with specific exercises.
  5. What is your training environment? Be sure to plan your sessions so that you can actually perform them, go check your gym out first and take note of what equipment it is. This will come in handy when that times come to change things up.
  6. Choose a mixture of exercises. Generally I choose 1-2 compound exercises, and 2-4 isolation exercises for each muscle group. Sessions should start with compound movements and move into isolation work.
  7. Know your numbers! Set rep ranges, numbers of sets and rest times, which will be dependent on your goal.
  8. Plan your attack! Once you have these basics set in stone you can then go as far as to use EXCEL to plan your attack. Use each column as a new week, and the rows as an exercise – from there you can input/plan your progressions over the weeks. Alternatively there are mobile Apps that can do this.

Once and only once you’ve mastered being CONSISTENT with the above then it’s time to look at ways of upping the ante with Intensity ramping, plateau busting methods….. click here for Matt Sallis’ Plateau busting training methods

Matt Sallis
www.mattsallis.co.uk
Instagram @mattsallis3
Twitter @matt_sallis
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