Pushup Strategy #1: Banded Push Ups

I get asked a lot of weird questions.

One of the weirdest I get asked is “If you were stuck on a desert island and could only do one exercise what would it be?”

I get it, it’s a version of the famous desert island album question: “If you were stuck on a desert island and could only listen to one album for the rest of your life what would it be?”. (It’s probably this one)

My answer is normally “I would swim away from the island”, mostly because it’s a silly question. You’ll never be limited to one exercise unless someone is watching your every move and threatening you with death if you perform more than one exercise.

BUT

If you were limited to only one exercise for the rest of your life the push up would be a good choice.

It’s a foundational movement pattern because it works nearly your entire upper body.

It builds strength in your chest, shoulders, triceps and forearms.

It builds stability in your trunk, abs and glutes.

It teaches your body to function in unison and promotes proper posture and alignment.

TLDR: Push ups are awesome.

The problem is that people are often intimidated by push ups.

They don’t know how to start performing pushups, and once they know how to do 1 or 2 they don’t know how to scale the movement to perform many.

There are a few strategies you can use to either learn how to perform a perfect push up, or to learn how to scale your pushup from 1 to 10 or even 20.

When you start any exercise the key is to learn how to perform it properly with a low load. That’s difficult with bodyweight exercises like the push up.

And no, push ups from your knees don’t work. Performing them from the knees completely changes the angle of resistance and takes away the lower body stability aspect of the movement. It’s like learning how to drive a car by buying a motorcycle. In theory it’s the same thing, a motor on wheels, but the mechanisms through which is works could not be more different.

Never do push ups from your knees.

You can achieve a lighter load by using a band to fight gravity.

Attach it to a squat rack, or something overhead. Then place the other end over your waist.

This will instantly reduce your bodyweight by 10-60% depending on the thickness of the band you choose. You can then perform a ton of perfect reps to learn the movement.

As you get stronger you can lower the band, or you can choose a lighter band.

This has the same effect as progressing from bench pressing 10 lbs to bench pressing 100 lbs. You’re allowing yourself to move from a light load to a progressively heavier load as you get stronger and more proficient.

You can train any movement if you apply intelligent principles. Follow this protocol and you’ll be on your way to perfecting the push up.


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Patrick Henigan