Enter the Push Up

Push Ups are under rated.

I could leave this post there and you’d have as much as you need to know.

But lets expand.

You know how the plank gets touted as a great core exercise?
Well imagine if you added some movement to the plank?

There’s a stack of ways to do this, I’ll probably cover them in future blog posts, maybe even a pdf download…
But the most basic would be simply to lower towards the floor and back up while maintaining position.

This is often called a “Push Up”, some time, “Press Up”

But it’s not just a core training drill, although that’s most people’s limiting factor when starting on the exercise.
It’s also great for the shoulder joint.

When done with good form.

And by that I mean adhering to the following technique points:

  • Start in a good plank position, pelvis tucked under (posterior pelvic tilt), chin tucked in
  • The hands should be directly below the shoulders
  • This means the arms are vertical
  • Rotate the pit of the elbow forwards, or the point backwards.
  • As you lower towards the floor, the elbows stay close to the sides, they can flare out as far as 45 degrees, but no more.
  • The hip stays tucked under.
  • Lower under control, move deliberately
  • Keep the chin tucked, do NOT allow the shoulders to raise up towards the ears.
  • Press out powerfully, but don’t lose form.
  • Stop the set when form deteriorates.

There’s more to push ups than you’d think!

Using my "plank-o-meter" to check form

Good Start position, using my “plank-o-meter” to check form

Forward head posture Scapular winging out Low back collapsing

Bad Start Position: – Forward head posture
-Scapular winging out
-Low back collapsing


But done right we are working the entire torso. You should feel the Lats work, the lower traps, the abs, glutes, even the thighs. And of course you’re working into the chest and triceps.

Done wrong we stress the low back, we grind up the shoulder complex and over use the upper traps & neck. We achieve nothing good.

Good bottom position

Good bottom position

Bad bottom position

Bad bottom position

Actually those pics were taken today after I discovered my injured shoulder could just about take a push up, but I couldn’t get into a bad enough position to really show it because of the pain it caused.

Let that be a lesson.

If I can’t demo bad form without it hurting my injured shoulder, yet the good form pictures were comfortable, what makes you think poor form is good for your “healthy” shoulders?

One last consideration is depth.

Obviously we want to go as deep as possible.

Correction, we want to go as deep as possible while maintaining good form.

This means keeping the shoulders set. If our shoulder starts to roll forwards, we’ve probably gone too deep. Watch someone do a push up or video yourself from the front or side.
If you lower into a push up and as you approach the bottom you see your shoulder come up and forwards, you’re losing form.
You’ve lost the serratus tension, you’ve probably lost your lower traps and you default to your upper traps.

Not a healthy state to be in.

I deal with this a LOT when I get the Thai Boxers coming to me.
Help them keep the shoulder position, even if that means sacrificing depth for a short while and their shoulders magically stop hurting.

Have a look at these two images I found on google images, I’ve no idea who they are and am not doubting their work ethic, but look at how the shoulder has rolled forward in the bottom position:


Here’s a video:

Get this nailed and you’ll notice the immediate benefits.
I’d suggest getting a solid set of 20 reps done before looking to other variations, such as using the rings, going wider, narrower, explosive etc etc.
You’ll find loads of variations like these and more in the No Equipment, No Excuses eBook (hint, hint…!)No Equipment, No Excuses - Bodyweight Training for the Home, Office or on the Road



Dave Hedges




Spice Up Your Push Up Training

Women Push UpsPush ups have been a hot topic the last few weeks at Wild Geese. Several of my guys took on a “Hundred push up challenge” they found online, more on that in a moment.

Before we get to that, One of my lads was working with push ups and asked me to put up a few variations for him, always happy to oblige I gave him 10 including the standard push up.

He was kind enough to video this very quick demonstration:

Now back to the Push up challenge.
The program the guys downloaded looked unrealistic to me, but they’re a tough lot and had a crack at it anyhow. Most got stuck pretty quick and all progress stalled.
So here’s the method I’ve given then as an alternative:

Train five days per week using the undulating method.
Essentially it goes like this:
Monday – warm up and knock out a max set. We’ll call this 100%
Tuesday – 60%
Wednesday – 80%
Thursday – 70%
Friday – 95%
Next Monday go for a new maximum.

The percentages are variable, what is important is that you go all out on the Monday and vary the intensity over the rest of the week.

Have a play and see how you get on.

Dave Hedges

Bodyweight Minimum Standards, How Do You Measure Up?

What a weekend!

Saturday just gone I was over in Galway teaching the Bodyweight Workshop.
Sunday I was with Wild Geese Martial Arts founder, Paul Cox where we presented at the Filipino Martial Arts Exchange, then when I got home, the wife and I took a rare night out together at the movies where we saw Mama.
The Missus spent most of the movie clinging onto me with one hand and shielding here eyes with the other hand. Big scaredy cat!


But anyhow, back to the workshops..

Galway was cool.
I’ve run the bodyweight workshop in a few gyms now and always been blown away but the response I got from the attendees. In each workshop, at least half the attendance are instructors and coaches in their own right, and still they leave blown away by the possibilities of training with zero equipment.

Duckwalks - feeling the buuuurn!

Duckwalks – feeling the buuuurn!

Now I’ll admit, we did digress once or twice and grabbed the odd bit of kit to illustrate a point or show how to progress a movement by adding external resistance, but the majority of the work requires nothing more than your body and few feet of floor space.
The best thing is that when I created the workshop I actually wasn’t that confident that the first half would stand up to scrutiny, after all, how long can we talk about a simple Push Up and a Bodyweight Squat?

Well? How long?

An entire hour on each movement is how long. And that’s not even going into mad variations. We take the movement and dissect it, we strip it back to its absolute foundations, look at regressions, common errors and then progressions. The progression we build to are the unilateral versions, the Pistol squat and One Arm Push Up.

What makes the day workshop special is that it seems this level of technical detail in these simple exercises is largely missing, or possibly more accurately, it’s forgotten.
Very few people give these movements their due.

And that is a problem.

Each time I run the course, I have some very experienced gym goers and athletes humbled by these exercises that are considered basic.
Watching a person doing a Push Up or doing a Squat can tell a story. It shows limitations, structural imbalances and body awareness. It gives an idea of how well a person can move athletically.

So here’s a few minimum standards for these bodyweight exercises, see if you can pass them. Remember, quality is key here, I won’t accept half reps, poor quality reps, so neither should you. Accept nothing less than perfection.

And before you go on, no, I’m not perfect, some of these I struggle to meet:

Elbow Plank – Minimum acceptable standard: 2 minutes

Push Up – 50 real reps (25 for women), chest will touch the floor between the hands and the arms will come straight on each and every rep. Keep the spine in neutral throughout, that means no sagging heads or backs. (I rarely do high rep push ups, so don’t know if I can still do this. I’ll check this week..)

Bodyweight Squats – 500 reps, full range ie hamstrings meet the calves on each rep. Keep the feet flat, although 500 Hindu squats is also good.

Wrestlers Bridge – Weight on the forehead, for 1 minute. (This one gets me!)

Single leg bridge – 50 reps per leg, from floor to full hip hyperextension.

Pull Ups – overhand grip for 15 (5 for women) full reps. I give slight rider on these, I don’t expect guys to relax into a dead hang at the bottom, as that messes with my shoulder so I don’t like it as a technique. Keep the shoulders retracted the whole time.

Once you have these, try then the following:

One Arm Push Ups x 10 each hand.
Pistol Squats x 20 each leg

20 of these per leg please.

20 of these per leg please.

Just to reiterate, quality must come before quantity.
Do your bodyweight numbers add up?

Next week I’m up in Crossfit Causeway teaching Kettlebell Technique. That’s going to be a blast!

See you there!



Train to BE Good, not just LOOK Good

Don’t think bodyweight training is cool?

Check this out!

Awesome eh?

Did you notice the meatheads in the background? Did you see them looking on with bemusement?
I’ve actually had that happen to me when I’ve trained in a commercial gym.

It always amuses me that being able to move our own bodies with control, power and coordination causes such confusion. After all isn’t this the point of training in the first place?

Yet almost everyone goes to the gym and remains as stationary as possible for their training, we even have chairs to sit in for shoulder presses!
There’s even machines to sit on so we can train our legs. Think about that for a moment.

A machine designed to help you move as little as possible

A machine designed to help you move as little as possible

To get the very muscles that propel us over great distances or at great speed, we sit down. Where’s the logic?

Most are training just to look good standing still.

But we don’t live life standing still. We don’t interact with others standing still. We don’t fight standing still. We don’t kick a field goal standing still.

All these things require us to move our body though space.
They require coordination, not just of our limbs, but of our mind and body, of our central nervous system and of each muscle fibre firing at the right time in the right sequence.

Now we’re not talking about specific athletic skills, no boxer ever got good at throwing a punch without throwing thousands of punches.
We are talking about general physical ability or athleticism.

I have worked with many “gym bunny” athletes. Guys who do the whole stationary training thing. Guys who have bulging muscles that look the business but just don’t deliver when it counts.
After a few weeks of bodyweight based training, they ALWAYS report improvements in their athletic prowess. They move better, more fluidly, quicker and with less joint stress.

I’m not saying we don’t let then use weights, of course we do. But when we have them lift, they do so on their feet. We reinforce the lessons learned with bodyweight training by loading those same movements.
We increase the load by adding external resistance in the form of Kettlebells or Barbells, especially for lower body and total body strength. But for upper body strength I mostly change the leverage or the intensity of a bodyweight drill.

A push up can become a plyometric push up or better yet a one arm push up.
In my opinion, unless the athlete requires additional mass, the one arm push up is the absolute best upper body training drill.
Combine that with pull ups and there’s little else needed to build a powerful torso that will deliver in under any circumstance.

Here’s some footage from my Bodyweight Training Workshop detailing how we progress an athlete into the One Arm Push Up:

I’m running this workshop next over in Galway Kettlebells on Feb 23rd.
The day is dedicated to the mastery of bodyweight fundamentals and their progressions into ore advanced exercises. We also finish the day with Animal and Martial Arts based moves, some of which are featured in the showcase clip at the start of this post.

If you need to revitalise your training, improve athleticism, develop agility and move with the ease and grace of a professional fighter, drop me a line as places are limited.
For details on the workshop CLICK HERE