Plyo Push Ups | Introduction, benefits and warnings

Plyo Push Ups

What are plyo push ups? These are variations of push-ups that emphasis concentric muscle contraction force to the degree that the upper body, lower body or the entire body becomes air borne.

Which muscles do most of the work?  Pectoralis major,  Deltoids and  Triceps brachii, Coracobrachialis,

Pectoralis Major –  Most of the power for push up comes from your pectoralis major that brings your arm toward the midline of your body.  This is called adduction.

Deltoids –  The front section of your detloids assist the adduction.

Triceps Brachii –  Your triceps straighten your elbow as you  move your arm toward your chest. This is called elbow extension.

Coracobrachialis –  This muscle connects your shoulder blade to your arm. It assist the adduction of arm.

Which muscles stabilize the body for plyo push ups?  In order of importance, all your shoulder muscles must work together to dissipate the force of the  impact. Your core muscles must work together to stabilize the spine, your leg muscles must work together to stabilize your pelvis and knee. In short, every muscle in your body is engaged in this motion.

Any specific tips to improve performance?

  • Spend a few months building your soft tissue, especially your tendons to prepare for impact. Tendon adaption takes longer than muscle.
  • Perform shoulder stability exercises in three dimension. This includes pull ups and bent over rows.
  • Spend time with the  modified version on your knees and catch yourself falling.
  • Coordinate your breathing with the push.  Part of your Pectoralis Major is connected to your obliques. You can activate your obliques through forced exhalation that stabilizes the origin of your  Pectoralis Major so that it can transfer the energy to the insertion point at your arm effectively.


Pectoralis Major | Origin, Insertion & Action

Pectoralis Major

Pectoralis Major

Origin:  Medial half of the clavicle, sternum, upper costal cartilages (1-7) and the aponeurosis of the external oblique.

Insertion:  Lateral lip of the intertubercular  groove of the humerus,  crest of the greater tubercle of the humerus

Actions: Flex, extend, adduct and medially rotate  the arm at the shoulder.


Human Body Muscles | Three types of muscles in human body

Human Body Muscles

It is easy to become captured by the beauty of human motion and the role skeletal muscles play in  human body muscles. The 700 or so muscles give a surgeon the incredible precision to operate on a brain and they give a world-class powerlifter the strength to lift  a half ton.  The knowledge of human anatomy could inspire great artist like  Leonardo da Vinci 1 and enhance the work for hundreds of years.

It is clear that the knowledge of human body is a necessity for physicians and others in the field of healing and training.  However in our world today with so many suffering from chronic aches and pains related to motion,  a basic knowledge of human body from anatomical point of view could help you at the very least understand how to actually implement the instructions you receive from your physician,  chiropractor, therapist and even your trainer.

Human Anatomy Banner

To move with efficiency is the most effective way to get results and reduce chances of injury.  An additional benefit of basic anatomy of human muscle is actually saving time. Many of the motions your perform are redundant motions. You can eliminate these movements and save time. You can also focus on true variety that brings balance to your body. A basic knowledge of human anatomy cold help you recognize these redundancies. As I said it is easy to get lost in the amazing skeletal muscles of human body. But before we go to far let’s cover the other muscles responsible for your digestive system and blood vessels to work and the muscles of the heart that are unique. Human body muscles are in three general categories.

  1. Visceral Muscle. You can find these inside your organs, your stomach, intestines, and blood vessels.  You don’t even feel them working. You only notice the negative effects of these muscles not working well.  Diarrhea and constipation are two examples.   These muscles are controlled by the unconscious part of the brain that most cannot control directly so they are called involuntary muscles. They are also called  smooth muscles to describe a very smooth, uniform appearance they have  under a microscope in comparison to banded appearance of cardiac and skeletal muscles.
  2. Cardiac Muscle.  Heart is especial in so many ways. It has been called the center of wisdom and superior to brain. Interestingly enough  cardiac muscle are autorhythmic which means that generates its own rhythmic action potentials independent of the nervous system.  No wonder that poetically most of the emotions are expressed in terms of the heart for example heart-broken or heart-felt. Anatomically the muscles of the heart are different. They are designed for continuous work.
  3. Skeletal Muscle. Only skeletal muscle are controlled consciously in healthy individuals.  This voluntary control allows your motions to match your intentions. Can you imagine what happens if you sit when you wanted to walk or your body turns left when you wanted to pick up a glass of water.  As odd as it may sound we are slowly giving up this incredible gift and ability to move voluntary.

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Barbell Curls

Barbell Curls

What type of exercise is barbell curls? Resistance training, bodybuilding, isolation motions.

Which muscles do most of the work? Biceps Brachii

Which muscles assist?  Brachialis and Brachioradialis

Which muscles stabilize the body for the barbell curls? Latissimus Dorsi,  Deltoid, Trapezius, Upper & Mid Trapezius, Wrist Flexors

Any specific tips?

  • Biceps assist your lats in pulling actions. Don’t tire them out before your lats workout.
  • Momentum of the body gives you the illusion of strengths. Keep the body still. You won’t be able to curl as much but it will help you build size and strength.
  • Allowing your elbow to travel gives you a more complete biceps contraction. Stopping your elbow from traveling gives keeps the lever arm short and removes the rest points.
  • Straight bar creates supination which may stress your wrist.


Standard Push Up

Understanding what a standard push up is the first in learning how to do push ups and performing different types of  push ups safely, efficiently and effectively.  Five body zones are engaged in doing a push up in very specific ways. These zones are:

  1. Foot and ankle
  2. Knees
  3. Hips
  4. Shoulder
  5. Neck

As your ability and expertise grow, you would  notice how even the smallest change in these areas will impact your performance and your joint function, especially at neck and shoulder level. Since your shoulders carry most of the load in a push up, let’s go over a common harmful motion during a push up called anterior humeral glide.   Anterior humeral glide is moving the head of your upper arm bone, humerus bone forward which is usually combined with a downward motion.


Anterior Humeral Glide

The following two steps can  help you prevent this.

  1. Be aware. Nothing could replace your awareness.  Don’t let speed, reps and sets distract you from how your body feels and the right push up form.
  2. Keep your elbows at about 30-45  degrees away from your body.  Closer you bring your elbows to your side it is more likely that you are doing an anterior humeral glide, especially at the bottom of your push up.
  3. Keep your hand at shoulder height. Moving your hands lower than the shoulder pulls your arm forward and down.


Stability Ball Push Ups

Stability Ball Push UpsStability ball push ups create a neuromuscular challenge in your brain to determine where to send the signals first. Does it send the signal to stabilize your body first or send the signals to the muscles that actually do the work? As your brain tries to figure this out, your body shakes which means it is moving between stabilization and motion.

Why does the brain have a hard time with this? It really doesn’t. The brain’s challenge is how to use the weak stabilizer muscles effectively during the motion so that your motion doesn’t harm you.

The solution to stabilization is not in motion, but in stillness. Can you bring your body to a stable and still point before you do stability ball push ups? If not, that is where your focus should be.

By practicing and reaching this still point and stabilizing within it, you establish a neuromuscular pattern to include stability in motions and you develop the strength in stabilizer muscles.

Muscles Engaged in Stability Ball Push ups

The usual muscles that are engaged in your regular push ups, your chest, triceps and shoulders. Also your core and your scapula stabilizers kick into overdrive.

Steps in  Stability Ball Push Ups

Kneel on a stable surface with your feet about shoulder width apart. Choose a surface that is not hurting your knees. Thick carpet is great. Slippery mats aren’t so great for the obvious reason that they could slip under you as you are trying to stabilize your body.

Place both hands on a stability ball and lift your knees up. Focus on reaching a high plank position and holding it for around 30 seconds before you begin your push ups. As you build your stability to this 30 second perfectly still high plank position, you are building both your neuromuscular pathways and your stabilizer muscles.

After you reach a 30 second stable hold on stability ball, begin lowering your body to one-quarter push up and then half and then full push up.

The next stage is to narrow your base of support which we’ll discuss in another lesson.


Suspended Push-ups Tips & Techniques

Suspended Push-ups


Suspended Push-ups

Suspended  push-ups have a very special place in training. Not because they are safe, easy or they can replace other exercises like bench press.

Suspension training by design brings an additional element of instability to your workouts which mean one more thing that could wrong. It also requires to continuously be aware of your core to keep your lower back safe. There is not chance that you can increase your load to even come close to what you can do in a bench press.

And these are exact reasons why suspended pushups are special.

Ask someone to walk on a two feet wide board six inches off the ground and they have no problems. Move the same board up a hundred feet and you’ll find the same people crawling if not shaking with terror. What happened? Perceived or real danger entered their mind and because of it they became more careful.

In a suspended pushup, a part of your brain that is fully aware of the weakness in your stabilizer shoulder and scapula tells you to be careful and stabilize to move. This helps you to be open in learning motions in a safe path. Without this perceived danger, most people do not reach inside for the patience required to learn safe paths.

In suspension training, you feel loss of control over your control very quickly. In most cases, to gain control and keep it throughout the motion you’ll have to engage your core. In other exercises, you can get away with loose core.

You can put on weighted vests and put chains around your body. It doesn’t matter. You can always lift more weight in a bench press than in a suspended push-up. You’ll also find out that it is possible to get intense muscle activation and build strength without loading up the bar. After you experience this first hand, hopefully, you incorporate a more complete exercise of suspended pushups into your chest workouts.

Electromyographic Comparison of Traditional and Suspension Push-Ups