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October 15, 2012
Push Up Progressions for a Massive Chest
A huge chest is a clear sign of a legitimate physique. As a result most guys hit the gym on Monday for bench, Wednesday for DB flyes, and Friday for cable crossovers.  But, is this really the best way? Getting stuck in a rut of “chest work” is likely limiting your athletic ability and keeping you from developing the physique that you want.  Push ups might be the answer.  Push Ups can be done anywhere, and have tremendous total body benefits that make them a far superior choice to traditional chest work.  The key is to perform them correctly and program them appropriately.

Push Ups

Push ups are one of the most fundamental movements.  They are great for developing upper body strength and muscle mass.  They are key to maintaining optimal shoulder function (see Sparta Point).  And they are one of the best core stability and postural movements out there, which is important for transfer of GRF (see Sparta Point).  There are a few coaching keys for getting the most out of your push ups.

Coaching Keys

  • Start with a good hand position
  • Create a neutral spine
  • Maintain shoulder alignment – elbows at a 45 degree angle

Progressions

The number one goal is always movement quality.  It is easy to get caught up in doing more reps or more weight, but you should never sacrifice quality.  For this reason, we prescribe push ups as max reps (with prefect form) with a cap.  For example; 4 sets x Max Reps (up to 15 or until form breaks down).  This method allows for adequate volume to build a solid foundation, and continually reinforces proper movement quality.  Once an athlete can complete all the reps with perfect form, we change the variation or add load (plates on the back).  We use some basic variations for Men an Women
  • Men
    • Push Ups
    • Dumbell Push Ups
    • Push ups – 3 Sec. Hold
  • Women
    • Bar Push Ups – Thigh Level
    • Bar Push Ups – Knee Level
    • Push Ups

What About the Bench???

Not to hate on the bench, but it just is not the best “bang for your buck” for most athletes.  Most athletes are much better off getting the added postural, core stability, and coordination benefits of push ups instead of dedicating time each week to multiple variations of the bench press. When it comes to developing a huge chest, try doing 4 sets of 15 reps – 3 Sec. Hold Push Ups with 1 minute rest between sets.  If you can maintain perfect form, then you have developed a solid foundation of quality movement.  The result will be healthier shoulders and more efficient movement as well as some serious muscle mass.
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October 15, 2012
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6 thoughts on “Push Up Progressions for a Massive Chest”

  1. Yord – nice take on an old favorite. Why is the 3-sec hold concept mentioned here for pushups and not any other movements (that I’ve seen)? Does it have applications elsewhere? Squats? Pullups?

    1. Time Under Tension is the concept behind the 3-sec holds (http://spartascience.blogspot.com/2012/09/why-6-second-abs-was-onto-something.html).
      TuT certainly has applications for other lifts, however the benefit is more muscular in nature and has less benefits for the nervous system (think muscle size vs. power).
      I really like TuT for push ups because of the hypertrophy stimulus and the opportunity to focus on good technique, posture, and shoulder position.

  2. Pete – I’ve also seen it pop up for bent over rows. They start with 6 second holds (which I just did today – woof!), then 3 second, then normal tempo as the weight goes up.

    I think they also mention it for deadlifts to knee level with snatch or clean grip.

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