EXERCISE BREAKDOWN: DEEP PUSH UP
HOW TO DO IT
GET YOUR SET UP RIGHT – it’s vital that you get the set-up just right, so that you can do all your reps well, making sure you go deeper than where the floor would be (otherwise it won’t be a ‘deep push up’). That means you either have to elevate your feet and add a weight vest to make it hard enough, OR elevate your hands to make it easy enough. It’s worth the couple of minutes it takes to get your set-up right on these otherwise you’re simply not getting the effect we intend.
OPEN AND STRETCH YOUR CHEST ON THE WAY DOWN – and feel for that chest stretch controlling the move.
MAINTAIN TORSO POSITION THROUGHOUT – otherwise there will be too many moving parts, an inconsistent stimulus, a lack of an strength and a higher injury risk.
PAUSE DEEEEP — stay there, feel the load on your muscle fibres.
SQUEEZE BACK UP — from your chest and then your arms.
MAINTAIN TENSION AT THE TOP — rather than relaxing and losing position, keep the weight in your arms and keep squeezing your chest.
HOW YOU PEOPLE MESS IT UP (SOME OF YOU)
YOU ARCH YOUR BACK — this is probably the greatest error on these. Firstly, they can be hard to control as they feel slightly different than a normal push up, hence it feels almost natural to let your hips sag. Secondly, there is a higher strength demand on your abs, so this error is more likely. Thirdly, they may suddenly be much harder than you’re used to, so you might well want to drop your hips and get the load off your chest. Naughty! the fix: Practie the Dish — as that’s what your abs should feel like to resist your back arching. Then, erm, just practice keeping your hips in line!
YOU’RE TOO SHOULDERY — one of the main reasons for doing these is to get away from the defensive rounded shoulder/poor pushing mechanic postures that so many rookies and not-so-strong-trying-to-do-too-many-rep folk fall foul of. But of course, until you’ve learnt well, it still happens. The fix: take time to understand good pushing mechanics with air-push ups, then start in an easy position with your arms elevated as much as you need, then only move onto harder progressions once you’ve established good mechanics.
YOU DO IT TOO QUICK — we must lower slowly, with strength, pause at the bottom briefly to feel the load, then drive back up nice and quickly. Try to go down too quickly and you will, most likely, bugger it up.
YOU PIKE YOUR HIPS — probably to take the stress out of your chest (the brain always subconciously looks for ways to avoid the work). The Fix: Keep your body in line, feel for your dish.
YOU GOT NO RHYTHM — This seems particularly prevalent on these for some reason. Rather than keeping a steady rhythm throughout, folks tend to fiddle around an awful lot at the top. As with most things, ideally we want a steady rhythm: smoothly lower, pause at the bottom, power back up, brief pause at the top. The last rep in the set should look identical to the first.
OPEN AND CLOSE THE CHEST — grab yourself an anatomy chart. Look at the lines of the fibers on your pec major. Now, imagine they are elastic bands. As you descend into your push up, imagine stretching those bands, you’ll feel it right across your chest. To come back up….you’ll feel those muscle fibers contracting. This is especially the case on these deep push-ups, and that’s a major reason why we do them.
DISH! – brace the abs, open and close the chest. That’s how it’s done. It should feel like you’re doing the dish, (gently) throughout. That ensures the torso doesn’t move. Then you make sure all the movement comes from opening and closing the chest.
FEEL THE CHEST FILLING WITH BLOOD — the more you open and close your chest, the more you’ll feel the muscle pump there. The more your chest fills with blood, the better you’re likely doing.
PUSH THE FLOOR AWAY — focus on pushing the floor away from you, seems to help.
This can be one of the trickier exercises in the programme to get the logistics right for, so I understand if you need an alternative. However, I’ve found it to be so beneficial that I’ve still deemed it to be worth including in the programme. So, figure it out if you can, but if it’s not possible or going to be a barrier for you, please, just pick an alternative. Here are my suggestions, as ever, in order of preference and similarity:
—> STICK TO NORMAL PUSH UPS
—> HAVE A BREAK FROM BODYWEIGHT AND DO SOME FULL RANGE DUMBBELL PRESS
—> BENT ARM PLANCHE WORK
—> ANOTHER PUSH UP PROGRESSION OF CHOICE
—> JUST FOCUS ON THE OTHER STUFF
LET’S START WITH THE OBVIOUS: WHY SO DEEP? – Well, there’s no rule that you have to stop push ups when the floor comes, except on the floor. It’s just that it tends to be in the way! Ignoring the fact that most folk don’t even go that low anyway.
However, if we train properly, ie, choose the exercises to fit our bodies and a particular stimulus we want, we might decide that we want to use more range of motion than the floor normally allows us. There is NO BIOMECHANICAL RULE THAT WE SHOULD STOP LEVEL WITH THE FLOOR.
Thus, we use deep push-ups, and set ourselves up so that we can go as low as we need.
MORE RANGE OF MOTION. BETTER MUSCLE ACTIVATION – this is a very good (general) principle in strength training and bodybuilding. All things being equal, want better muscle activation? >>>Use more range of motion. This is how you do it without the floor getting in the way (don’t you just hate that!).
HARDER THAN PUSH-UPS – If you’re strong enough to go all the way to the floor, then going deeper is a logical progression. As long as your feet are elevated level with your hands, then deep push-ups take more strength than regular push-ups and therefore are very much a progression. Don’t be fooled by my use of these with elevated hands for beginners–yes it helps to teach them like this, but feet level with hands and we are talking serious strength.
GREAT FOR LEARNING PUSH-UPS – IF you get your set-up right, you’re likely better using a deep push ups because they give you a better sense of how to use your muscles well in the push up. Plus, this way, when you attempt real push ups on the floor, you may just be pleasantly surprised how it feels, all most like you’ve trained in a greater range of motion than you need on the real thing.
AND OF COURSE, IT’S STILL A PUSH UP – so the usual benefits apply, you’re strengthening through your chest and triceps (and the front of your shoulders–particularly with narrowing hand placement).