EYC Podcast #12 Text Breakdown
Key Concepts in Approaching Push-Ups
A couple of the concepts that I have demonstrated in the videos I have posted, and that have come up in previous podcasts, but I’ve never discussed specifically are leverage, and weight-to-limb ratio in your exercises. Concepts like these are important because they allow you to change the exercises to suit where you are at the time, or to serve a certain purpose, like warming up, or practicing regressions, for example. I want to get a bit deeper into them because applying these concepts can be the difference in someone pursuing training vs abandoning it. And this is really useful for beginners because it helps establish an ideal starting point based on your current capabilities which will build confidence and help you stay consistent. You aren’t necessarily jumping into something that is outside of your current capabilities which can be demoralizing. One more thing to note, there are other concepts out there, which I will discuss in future podcasts, but I am starting with these because they are great ways to introduce variation into your pushup routine, and can also help beginners find a place to start . Furthermore, they are in no way limited to pushups, I’ve just chosen to put my focus into pushups because you have to start somewhere, and it is an exercise that many people are familiar with, and can hopefully relate to. As time goes on, I will explore many different exercises and how these concepts apply to them.
The videos I’ve posted on my Facebook page can be a good way to visualize the topics of leverage, and weight to limb ratio – by the way, the videos mentioned demonstrate the hinge pushup, the archer pushup with the typewriter pushups, and a couple clap push-up variations. Beginning with leverage, in regards to the the push-up, without getting too complicated, the hands making contact with the ground is considered the fixed point, and the body the horizontal extension. The further the extension from this fixed point, the greater the mechanical disadvantage. In other words, if you perform the push-up with full extension, your body straight, with the toes supporting the body, it will be more difficult to perform a pushup than if you shortened the lever to your knees. This is primarily because the core is forced to stabilize to a greater degree, but also you are pushing slightly more weight. If you were to visualize this using the video of the hinge push-up, the exercise could be made easier to perform if I were to bend at the knees, and use them as the base. This applies to any of the other push-up variations seen in the videos. Knowing adjustments like these can be made is especially important at the beginning stages of training because it allows you to ease your way into it, and build confidence. At the start, even the standard pushup can be a tall order, however by understanding how to shorten the lever, it can be more manageable. Some of the other ways that leverage can be applied to the pushup are as simple as moving the hands closer together like in the close pushup. Another is by straddling the legs, which establishes a wider base for greater stability, and shortens the lever. Straddling the legs is often seen in one arm push-up variations for greater stability and to help recruit the larger muscles of the torso. It can also be applied in the standard pushup. If you find you have made great progress in kneeling pushups, straddling the legs can lengthen the lever, making it a bit harder to perform. Since the push-up uses two limbs as the primary movers, moving one of these limbs away from the body will also decrease mechanical advantage, as is seen in uneven variations. There are so many possibilities out there, however I hope that this does shed some light on the almost endless variation that you can introduce into your pushups.
Another way to manipulate the pushup is by changing the weight-to-limb ratio, which is related to leverage.
That is essentially how much load you have on the working limbs. In the case of the push-up, the working limbs are your arms. So, if we want to make the push-up easier, then we shift weight away from the arms, and if we want to make it harder, than we introduce more weight to the arms. To shift weight away from the arms, we can introduce an incline into the pushup which will use more of the legs to assist you in the movement. In the video with the back clap and shoulder tap push-ups, this is the approach I took. I used a portable parallet to give the exercises a bit of an incline, which shifted some of the weight to my legs. I made the video to demonstrate this concept. The beauty of adding an incline, is you can micromanage and figure out where you need to start, then improve inch by inch. Similar to using leverage, it is such a great way for beginners to tailor the workout to their capabilities, and build confidence. These concepts will always be present in training, no matter how advanced you get. Along these lines, you can also use weight to limb ratio to make the pushup more difficult, and introduce more load onto the working limbs. This can be seen in both the Hinge Push Up #2 video, as well as the archer and typewriter push up video. In both, I am shifting more load onto the working limbs. In the hinge push up video, I am doing this by elevating the legs, or creating a decline, which shifts more weight onto the arms. In the archer and typewriter pushups, I am using wider hand placement in order to be able to shift my weight onto the individual limbs. If we were to look at the extreme, elevating the legs to the point of being completely vertical would be the handstand pushup, which puts the greatest load on the working limbs. The opposite would be to introduce an incline to where you were almost standing straight, thereby demanding the least from the working limbs. So not only can weight to limb ratio make a push-up variation easier, but much more difficult as well.
These concepts can also be combined – if you wanted to regress a pushup variation even further, you could introduce an incline, and shorten the lever to the knees. This is really useful if you want to introduce more intervals into your training in order to progress.
Keep in mind that the push-up variations that are in the videos are more advanced, which for beginners, will take time to work toward. The reason that I used them is to not only to demonstrate some cool variations, but to show the broad range of application for leverage, and weight to limb ratio. They can be applied to the most elementary variations, as well as the most difficult. This is important as well, because it helps demonstrate that, while you may see some variations out there that seem completely out of reach, there are always steps that you can take to work toward them, and that is the essence of progressive calisthenics.
As a final note, I wanted to discuss these topics because as mentioned early in the podcast, I feel like they can be the difference in someone beginning training and quitting, vs beginning and sticking with training. I love hearing about people starting their journey to health and fitness, and I hope that these concepts help them stay consistent.
You can check out the videos that I discussed on the Facebook page with is elevateyourcraft. There’s more pushup videos and discussions to come, so stay tuned.