55, 56, 57.. Are you tired of counting endless reps of push-ups?
Get more out of your push-ups by developing your skill of creating tension during the push-up.
Why is tension important?
Because the skill of developing body tension will take you far in your pursuit of strength, well beyond just push-ups. Without me switching into my fitness nerd and boring you - I'll just say this: the best lifters (the ones that get the most out of their potential strength ability) know how to get tight. That goes for body-weight, barbell, kettlebell, etc.
Tension specific to the push-up
Visualize that you are getting ready to do 50 push-ups. You don't really think about what it requires, you just use your minimal strength/energy requirement needed to go through a push-up motion 50 times (by the time you get to 50, it probably looks a bit different than the first rep).
Contrast that with creating tension in all your muscles and squeezing all the energy possible out of each rep. Imagine summoning the all the energy of your body creating a super rigid tight body while touching your nose to the floor. Then rise back up as one unit.
When you are good at it, you can turn your push-up into a total body exercise.
The cool thing is you are in control of your volume of intensity. So in theory after you develop the skill you could crank up your intensity and get 1 or 2 super tight crisp push-ups and then have to take a break because you squeezed all the energy out of your nervous & muscular systems.
Beyond just making your push-ups more challenging, you are formulating a strong core unit built for pressing. This skill will transfer over to your overhead presses , your bench presses, and if you dare, single arm push-ups.
Hands just outside the chest, feet are shoulder width or slightly wider if needed.
Hands push hard into the ground (often this will help you find your triceps), create torque by twisting right hand counter clockwise while left hand twists clockwise (often this will help you find your lats/back). Brace mid-section, as if a kick to the guts is on it's way (these are your "core muscles"). Dig your feet hard into the ground (often this will help you find your leg muscles). Now squeeze your butt muscles as tight as you can. Now "keep" that tension and do a push-up (don't forget to breathe, to stay tight & still breathe takes practice).
If you need more help to find tension, have a partner poke you in your mid-section, lats, legs, glutes - that can help bring "awareness" to where you are lacking tension & help to create it.
It often helps in the beginning to practice dialing in each of these cues one at a time. But the goal is not to focus on a specific muscle. It is to practice generating and collecting all this tension. Keep the tension while performing the movement, & still breathe while you keep tight.
Demo video below:
Yes, there is a lot going on. But think of the implications. You could turn the push-up into a total body workout, get a tough current session, and help to improve the tension generation of your pressing movements (bench &/or overhead press).
Play with it - have fun. It is a skill and takes practicing to make better. The beauty of it, is YOU have control of the intensity dial. You can make it harder or easier with your ability to generate tension. And the more you practice the better you will get at it.
If push-ups are NOT easy for you yet.. No Problem! You can still practice tension and scale the difficulty level.
If you need to scale down the difficulty level raise the hands to a higher elevation.
1. Practice 1 cue at a time, and when that makes sense add another.
2. Always bring your elbows in towards your ribs on the down of the push-up.
3. Do not allow your butt to fly up in the air.
4. Upper body & lower body should move up & down as a unit (no one should think you are trying to do the worm).
5. If you catch your self not breathing, take a break.
6. If you feel like you are successfully generating a lot of tension shake it off or rock to loosen your systems back to a resting state.
If you are interested in starting a minimalist home body-weight program check out previous blog (here).