Upper-body Push Exercises

 

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Push-Up- Start by placing your hands directly underneath your shoulders and putting your body into a straight line, resting on your toes and hands.  In order to make sure that your body is in a straight line, squeeze your glutes and your abdominal muscles to keep your hips stable.  To descend into the down position, squeeze your uppper back by retracting your shoulder blades until your chest is on the floor.  It should feel like you are “pulling” yourself down to the ground.  Once in the down position, ascend by pushing through your hands, keeping your chest out and driving up.  At the top of the movement your shoulder blades can separate, or protract.  Your upper arms and elbows should be at a 45 degree angle to your body through out the entire movement.  Continue in this way until prescribed reps are completed.

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Fist Push-Up- Everything is the same as a normal push-up, you just make a fist and push through your knuckles rather than having your palm flat on the ground.

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Modified Push-Up- This push-up variation is for those that are not quite strong enough to do a normal push up, yet.  Start by setting up a bar in a squat rack or smith machine.  You want the bar to be as low as it possibly can be while you can still keep good form.  So, start high and work the bar down as you experiment with your form.  Apart from this, all things are held constant from normal push-up form (see above).

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T-Push-Up- This exercise is essentially a push-up with a rotation.  All the normal push-up rules apply, but once in the up position you are going to post on one hand while rotating your torso and opposite arm up.  To do this, keep your hips stable and “pull” yourself into the rotation using your upper back.  It helps to look at your rotating hand as you rotate.  You can either complete all reps rotating to one side before switching, or alternate each rep.

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Staggered Push-Up- All the same push-up rules apply here, but you will walk one hand slightly in front of your shoulder while keeping the opposite hand slightly behind the shoulder.  Do prescribed amount of reps in one staggered position before switching to the opposite position and finishing the set.

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Medicine Ball Switch Push-Ups- All the same push-up rules apply.  Simply start by placing one hand on a medicine ball, doing the prescribed reps on that side, then switching to the other side and repeating.  Finishing with both hands on the medicine ball is optional and will be prescribed by your trainer if it is desired.

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Band Push-Up- All the same push-up rules apply, this exercise simply adds more resistance by using an exercise band.  Loop the exercise band around one thumb, stretch it across your upper back and underneath your arm pits, then loop it around the opposite thumb.  From here, get into the push-up position and complete prescribed amount of reps.

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Chain Push-Up- All the same push-up rules apply, this exercise simply adds more resistance by using chains.  Have someone cross chains on your upper back, having equal portions in front of your shoulder and behind.  From here, get into the push-up position and complete the prescribed amount of reps.

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Triangle Push-Up- All the same push-up rules apply.  During this push-up variation, however, you will make a triangle using your thumbs and index fingers.  This variation puts more stress on the triceps.

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Single Leg Push-Up- All the same push-up rules apply.  During this variation you will simply lift one leg off of the ground to further stress your core stability.  You can either complete the prescribed reps on one leg before switching to the other or alternate each rep.

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Stability Ball Push-Up- All the same push-up rules apply, you will simply place your hands on a stability ball to complete this variation.  This will test your shoulder stability and core stability a bit more than normal push ups.  Make sure you take your chest the whole way to the ball while completing each rep and squeeze the ball to push yourself back up.

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Spiderman Push-Up- During this push-up variation you will follow all the normal push-up rules, you will simply bring one knee up to your elbow during the down phase of the movement.  The knee will come up slightly outside the elbow, not directly behind it; allowing you to go completely into the down position.  You can alternate legs each rep, or complete one side before moving on to the other.

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Spiderman Push-Up Circuit- This circuit is very similar to the regular spiderman push-up.  Start by doing a normal spiderman push-up, then on the second rep bring your knee right behind your elbow, on the third rep you will take your knee to your opposite elbow during the down phase.  After completing the circuit with one leg immediately start with the other leg.  When you have completed one round on each leg you have completed one circuit.  Continue until you have completed the prescribed amount of circuits.  The idea for this push-up circuit comes from Martin Rooney of the Parisi Speed School.

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Judo Push-Up- For this push-up variation it is alright to push your hips up high and “jack-knife.”  Start in a jack-knife position with your feet wide and your hands out in front of you.  From this position, you want to feel as though you are “swooping” down into the down position, allowing your chest and shoulders to go past your hands.  Push back into the up position by driving through your palms and driving your hips back into a jack-knife position.  You should feel as though you are “swooping” back into the up position as well.  Continue for the prescribed amount of reps.

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Clap Push-up (plyometric)- This push-up variation is used as an upper-body plyometric exercise.  To perform it, set up as you normally would to do a regular push-up and descend in the same fashion but slightly faster.  Once at the bottom, drive explosively through your hands a propel upper-body off of the ground.  While you are in the air clap your hands together quickly and get them back in position so that you can catch yourself as you return to the ground.  In some cases you will be asked to repeat immediately upon returning to the ground, in other cases you will need to gather yourself and perform each rep individually.

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Atomic Push-Up- This push-up variation requires you to start with your feet on a stability ball in the push-up position.  Once in position, tuck your knees to your chest and extend them again then perform a push-up.  Continue in this way until desired reps are completed.

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Push-Up w/ Dumbell Row- Start by placing two dumbells of the same size parallel and shoulder width apart.  Get into a push-up position, gripping the dumbells with your feet slightly wider than normal.  Then, do a push-up as you normally would only at the top post on one arm and row the dumbell up in the opposite arm.  It is important to make sure that your hips stay stable and that your body does not rotate in any way while completing the row.  After the first row is done, do another push-up and row the dumbell in the other hand.  Continue in this way until the prescribed reps are completed.

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Dips- This exercise requires a dip station.  Most gyms have them, if you are a member at a gym I’m sure you can find it.  Most dip bars are angled and they get wider as they go out from the uprights of the station.  The closer in you are, the closer the bars will be to each other and the more tricep you will use.  If you go out farther the bars will be wider and you will use more chest.  The prescription of positioning on the dip bar is subjective to each person and their goals.  To perform the exercise, grip the dip bars and start with your arms completely extended.  Descend by unlocking your elbows and letting your chest fall forward, sink until your upper arms are parallel with the dip bars.  As with push-ups, you should squeeze your upper back to descend.  Unlike push-ups, you do not want to separate your shoulder blades at the top of the movement.  To ascend back into the starting position, drive through your hands, squeezing your chest, deltoids and triceps.  Continue for the prescribed amount of reps. 

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Bench Press- Start by setting up on a bench with your eyes directly underneath the bar.  In most instances, you will want your hands placed on the bar about shoulder width apart or a little wider.  A very important part of bench press technique is setting the shoulder blades; you want them pulled back and down through out the entire set.  Think of squeezing your shoulder blades together and then trying to pull them down to your butt.  So, eyes underneath the bar, hands shoulder width apart, and shoulder blades back and down to set up.  Drag the bar out of the rack, using a spotter is recommended, but don’t unset your shoulders.  Think of pulling the bar out of the rack rather than pushing up on it to bring it out.  Once the bar is out, you want it in the up position, somewhere between your collar bone and your chin.  From here, you bring the bar down, touching about on your sternum.  To make sure the bar travels the right path, think of bringing your elbows down and in so they finish at about a 45 degree angle to your body.  As you bring the bar down, continue to squeeze your shoulder blades back and down while trying to push your chest up to the bar.  As you push to press the bar back into the up position, you want to continue to squeeze your shoulder blades and push your chest up, think about pushing yourself away from the weight rather than the weight away from you; this will help you stay in proper form.  Since your elbows traveled down and in on the down phase of the lift you want them to go up and out on the up phase.  The bar should finish in the same place that it started.  Through out the entire lift you should be driving through your heels to help keep your body stable, and also to help you generate more force.  Keep your core tight by trying to push your abs up the whole time.

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Single Arm Dumbell Bench Press- Start by gripping a dumbell and lying back on a bench.  As with any bench press variation, you need to make sure that your shoulder blades are set back and down throughout the entire exercise.  You also want to make sure that your chest is pushed out the whole time, reinforcing you in keeping your shoulder blades back and down.  When you have the weight in the bottom position your palm should be in a neutral position, or facing in towards your body.  As you press, you will rotate your hand so at the top of the press your palm will be facing away from your face.  Your elbow will move in the same fashion; at the bottom it will be tight to your body, but as you press it will rotate out.  You must brace your core through out the movement, as it will want to rotate towards the arm with the weight in it.  Drive your heels into the ground throughout the entire movement, during the down phase and the up phase.  This will help you keep your hips stable and help you to fight rotation, as well as allow you to generate more force.  Complete all the reps on one arm before switching to the other arm to finish the set.

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Floor Press- The floor press is very similar to the bench press, it’s obviously just done on the floor.  Start by setting up a bar in a squat rack at an appropriate height for your arm length.  You want the bar set at a height that doesn’t require you to separate your shoulder blades to get the bar out of the rack.  Get your shoulder blades set by pulling them back and down, once they are set keep them there throughout the entire movement.  Unrack the bar in the same fashion as the bench press, you want to start and finish somewhere between your collar bone and chin.  As you bring the bar down, make sure that your wrists and elbows stay in a straight line and that you are pushing your chest up toward the bar.  Also, you want to bring your elbows down and in so they end at a 45 degree angle.  At the bottom, do not bounce your upper arms and elbows off of the ground to begin the press, this is incorrect form and it could lead to an injury.  When you begin the press, make sure that your butt stays on the ground and that you are pushing your shoulders into the ground.  Your elbows should travel up and out on the press.  Continue this process for the prescribed reps.

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Dumbell Floor Press- It is best to have someone hand you the dumbells when you begin this movement.  Start with the dumbells at the top and lower them to the bottom position to begin.  The same rules apply with the bench press and barbell floor press, shoulders back and down, chest up while pushing your shoulders into the ground as you press.  For this exercise you can either keep your hands in a neutral position (palms in) or let your hands rotate naturally while you bring your elbows down and in on the down phase and up and out during the press. 

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Standing Barbell Military Press- Start by setting up a barbell on the outside of a squat rack at about shoulder height.  Set your grip narrow for this exercise, no wider than a thumbs width from the smooth part on the inside of the bar.  Unrack by setting your hands, getting your forearms and elbows underneath the bar, lifting the weight up by squatting it up and take a step backward with each foot.  You want to keep your core stable by engaging your abs and squeezing your glutes during the entire movement.  You also want to keep your shoulder blades pulled back and down throughout the movement.  This movement starts in the down position, so the bar should be resting across your upper chest and shoulders to start.  Your elbows should also be down and in at the start and they will go up and out as you press.  When pressing, you want to make sure that you push the bar straight over head, do not press in front of you as this will be unhealthy for your shoulders and could lead to injury.  When you finish in the top position your arms should be parallel with your ears.  Bring the bar down along the same path and continue this process for the prescribed amount of reps.

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Seated Dumbell Military Press- Start by taking two dumbells to a seated military bench.  This exercise starts with the weight in the down position, so rack the dumbells on your shoulders to begin.  Engage your core and keep your torso as upright as possible.  You also want to keep your shoulder blades back and down throughout the entire movement.  Keep your hands in a neutral position (palms in) throughout this movement.  When presssing, drive up from your shoulders and finish with the dumbells on the same line as their starting position with your arms parallel with your ears.  Return the dumbells to the starting position on the same line and continue until you have completed the prescribed amount of reps.

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Barbell Incline Bench Press- Set up on an incline bench with your shoulder blades pulled back and down.  Grip the bar shoulder width apart and drag it out to the up position without separating your shoulder blades.  Descend with the bar, keeping your wrists straight and in line with your elbow; your elbows should travel down and in on the descent.  The bar should touch in the bottom position on the middle to upper part of your chest.  As you press, push so the bar travels back toward your head slightly; you should be pushing your elbows up and out as you press.  Continue this process until prescribed reps are completed.

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Dumbell Incline Bench Press- Set up is the same as with the barbell incline press, you simply exchange in dumbells.  The procedure stays the same (see above), but hand position may vary.  Throughout the exercise you can either keep your hands in a neutral position (palms in) or allow your hands to rotate naturally from neutral to pronated (palms away).  If you stay in the neutral position your elbows will stay tucked throughout the entire movement.

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Standing Dumbell Military- Set up with your feet underneath you and dumbells racked at your shoulders with your hands in the neutral position (palms in).  From here, press so that the dumbells stay in the same line and when you arms are at full extension they are parallel with your ears.  Your shoulder blades should be back and down throughout the entire movement.

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Dumbell French Press- Start by setting up on a bench with your shoulder blades pulled back and down with two dumbells extended over your chest.  Your hands should be in a neutral position (palms in).  Descend by bending your elbows, allowing the dumbells come toward your face.  Your shoulders should be locked, this should keep your arms from going forward or backward during the movement.  The only movement should occur when the elbow flexes and extends.  The dumbells should descend to about an inch above your forehead, once in the bottom position squeeze your triceps to extend your arms back up to the starting position.  Continue this procedure until all prescribed reps have been completed.

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