Get Stronger with Advanced Pushup Variations

For those who are limited on equipment, one of the biggest problems with an exercise like the pushup is that it’s very easy to outgrow its usefulness – you’ll see lots of growth and muscle development by going from being unable to perform one full pushup to doing 15, or maybe even 20, but beyond that, it becomes more of a test of endurance, and in the long run excessively high pushup reps could even reduce your strength on exercises such as barbell or dumbbell presses (short explanation: muscle fibers turn more slow-twitch and are less efficient at producing lots of power).  If all I have is a floor, what should I do then?

Getting Creative with Progressions

The pushup, like any exercise, can be made harder or easier by changing angles and leverages.  Keep your knees on the ground, and the exercise becomes easier.  Move your hands in closer and keep the elbows a little tighter, and the range of motion gets longer and it becomes harder.  With that premise in mind, here are four of my favorite twists on the pushup (plus one bonus exercise that’s just a little bit different but is quite an impressive feat when done properly.

#1. Suspended Pushups

The premise behind the suspended pushup is twofold – 1) the range of motion becomes longer because your chest can now drop below your hands (similar to using pushup handles), and the dynamic movement of the handles creates instability in the shoulder girdle and the core.  These can be done with gymnastics rings, Blast Straps, TRX bands, chains suspended from a pullup bar, whatever you have access to.  Setup is pretty easy – just set the straps so you’re as close to the floor as your strength permits.

#2. Pushup Plus

These are great for somebody with bum shoulders or pain during conventional pressing exercises such as the bench press. The extra movement in the scapulae creates more stability throughout the shoulder girdle and strengthens a lot of the smaller muscles that serve to keep you injury-free.

#3. Pseudo Planche Pushup

Now we’re starting to get into more advanced pushups that have roots in gymnastics training. The planche is more or less one of the best examples of how to get a lot of strength and power development out of a bodyweight exercise – ultimately it’s intended to be done with the feet in the air using only your hands as a base of support. This is a more stripped-down version that I was introduced to through my coach Luke Leaman. While it looks a lot like a regular pushup, in the bottom position the hands should be as close to the hips as possible, keeping the lats and upper back contracted and the elbows held close to the sides.

#4. Pseudo Maltese Pushup

Even harder than the pseudo planche pushup is the pseudo Maltese pushup. The hands are rotated so that the fingertips point down toward the feet, and the hands are placed at about 45 degrees out from the hips.

#5. BONUS EXERCISE: Russian Dips

While technically not a pushup variation, it is extremely badass to perform and is a step up from regular dips, which are also typically used as a major bodyweight movement in a limited-equipment program. As a warning, you definitely need to have healthy shoulders to do this one.

Ten Takeaways from the BioSignature Convention

I spent most of the early part of September traveling to conferences and seminars through the Poliquin Strength Institute, including 3 days in Las Vegas for the first BioSignature Convention. Here are ten of the best tips that I learned while attending.

#1. Do Your Own Meal Prep.

According to Jeanette Bessinger, the “Clean Food Coach,” even though home meal preparation has increased, there is now an average of less than ONE fresh item used in a homemade meal.  With the lack of fresh ingredients comes a decrease in the amount of time spent on meal preparation each day – in the 1980’s we spent an average of 2-3 hours a day on it, versus in the 2010’s we spend less than 20 minutes for an entire day’s meals.

If being lean and strong is your goal, take more time to prepare your own meals, and use as many fresh ingredients as possible.  Take the time to learn how to make healthy meals that actually taste good.

#2.  Use Vegetables as Substitutes for Starch.

Jeanette’s presentation included her preparing several meals on the spot, with no heating elements or way to cook the food, so she used a lot of raw non-starchy vegetables as the foundation of her meals.  One of the substitutes that I hadn’t seen before was using jicama as a replacement for rice – to peel, chop, and pulse in a food processor takes less than 12 minutes, compared to roughly one hour to cook rice in a rice cooker.  Cauliflower for potatoes and zucchini for noodles are also great options.

#3.  Have the Right Tools.

Anybody trying to follow a Paleo diet, especially a low carb one, should have the following tools in their kitchen:

  • a vegetable spiralizer (for replacing noodles in pasta-style dishes)
  • a bamboo cutting board, with one side designated for pungents such as garlic, onions, and hot peppers
  • a chef’s knife (Jeanette recommended a santoku knife as the best option)
  • a paring knife

Knives should also be honed once a week and sharpened professionally once every few months.

#4.  Food is a Key Part of the Life Experience.

Deanna Minich’s presentation concentrated primarily on how the act of eating is not just a way to keep us alive, but a way to make use feel alive.  The average person interacts with food and eating approximately 200 times every day – that’s about 6 million interactions in a lifetime.

However, most people do not take the time to actually experience their food.  91% of people do something else while eating – reading, working, driving, etc., depriving themselves of the pleasure of the meal itself.  Deanna recommended the book Mindless Eating as a good resource for how to get around that.

#5.  Watch Out for Shady Food Labeling.

A few interesting notes from Kaayla Daniel, “The Naughty Nutritionist” regarding label misrepresentation:

  • agave nectar is the equivalent of high fructose corn syrup
  • foods containing the word “hydrolyzed” in the ingredients list likely contain MSG
  • “fake organic” foods have been found for sale at Whole Foods

#6.  The Many Dangers of Soy.

Soy has been shown to have many negative side effects to body composition, well-being and overall health.

  • Soy has been linked to thyroid and reproductive problems
  • The FDA poisonous plant database contains 256 studies on soy
  • Soy is used in Tibetan monasteries to lower sex drive
  • Chinese restaurants use edamame (soybeans) as an appetizer, using generally about 6 pods,  Americans use handfuls at a time as a snack
  • Men who eat soy twice a week will produce 41 million fewer sperm than men who don’t

#7.  Meat’s Unique Benefits.

Kaayla spoke in depth about the necessity of meat in the diet to fulfill essential nutritional needs.  Vitamin A, vitamin D3, CoEnzyme Q10, carnitine, and vitamins B6 & B12 are only found in natural forms in meat.  Not coincidentally, these are some of the most common vitamin and mineral deficiencies in vegetarian diets.

#8.  Not Quite Paleo.

The convention ended with an extensive Q&A with Charles Poliquin, where the topic of the Paleo diet came up almost immediately.  Charles refers to modern Paleo diets as “metro” Paleo diets at best.  If you want to live a legitimately Paleo lifestyle, go kill your lunch with your bare hands.  True Paleo diets use predominantly raw ingredients and would not include things like coffee, protein shakes, etc.

#9.  All About Estrogens.

A few points regarding estrogens and detoxing from Charles:

  • If using DIM to detox estrogens and side effects such as rashes occur, the level of xenoestrogens are too high.  Base nutritional factors need to be replenished first, which can take up to 18 months
  • Low protein intake can create issues with detoxification from a lack of essential amino acids
  • People in certain geometric areas can have greater issues with local xenoestrogens, creating problems replenishing zinc and magnesium, among other things

#10.  Use Probiotics.

In consultations with five of the top nutritional scientists, Charles asked them each to give him their top five supplements, and each of them ranked probiotics at #2, right behind fish oil.  Probiotics should be used twice a day, taken after meals to ensure the highest survival rate.  It is also important to only use medical brands of probiotics – cheap probiotics that are often found at grocery and health food stores are usually dead before you even get the bottle open.  This is one supplement that it is NOT okay to go cheap on.

The convention was, I thought, a great event and I look forward to many more takeaways from next year’s event.