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Plyometric Pushups

If you’re looking for something a bit more exciting than the basic pushups, plyometrics may be for you. If you can’t do the gymnastic pushups and are looking for something new, again, plyometrics may be for you. And if you’re trying to increase the power (the ability to produce great force in a short period of time), plyometrics are definitely for you.

The basics:

Upper body plyometrics can be done 1-2x per week, with a break of 48-72 hours according to the National Strength & Conditioning Association. A contact is defined as the number of times the hands contact the ground, so each time your hands leave the ground and return is one contact. Beginners are advised to complete 80-100 contacts, moderately experienced lifters 100-120 contacts, and experienced plyometric athletes strive for 120-140 contacts. Begin with a low to moderate volume of a low intensity, and progress to a high intensity over time.

Be sure to warm up, especially for plyometrics. Do plenty of normal pushups before hand, as well as push ups with scapular retractions (push up plus). Some stick dislocations or T/Y/I’s could also be an excellent warm up for shoulder mobility. Plyometrics have a higher incidence of injury and so the warm up should receive great attention.

Plyometrics use the Stretch Shortening Cycle, or SSC. SSC is a term for the spring-like functioning of muscles, tendons, and the stretch reflex. During the eccentric lowering phase, the muscle stores energy, much like a spring. The eccentric portion provides elastic energy in the tendon. The resulting concentric action (the lifting) triggers the release of this stored energy and produces extra force. But if you wait too long at the bottom of the movement, the energy dissipates and is lost. Key takeaway – Don’t hang out too long at the bottom of each movement.

According to the NSCA - before beginning plyometrics, you should be able to bench press your bodyweight if you weigh over 220lbs, and 1.5x your bodyweight if you weigh less. Alternatively, you should be able to complete 5 bench presses with 60% of your bodyweight in 5 seconds or less. Plyometrics should be done on a surface such as a suspended floor, rubber mats, or grass. Avoid hardwood surfaces and concrete.

Advanced athletes can combine plyometrics with heavy weight lifting in what is called “complex training”. For example, an athlete could use clapping pushups after a heavy set of bench or overhead presses. This method is not recommended for beginners.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at some examples of upper body plyometrics, focusing on the push up portions. (Video coming soon)

Clapping Pushups

Chances are that you’ve seen these. They’re a great start for most people, but even advanced lifters may find them challenging. Lower yourself into the pushup position and then forcefully explode upwards and off of the ground. Clap your hands together and return to them to the pushup position mid-air before landing. That constitutes one contact. Repeat as needed. When you can achieve two or three claps in one pushup, you’ve built up some serious speed. These can be done clapping in front of the body or behind the body, close to the hips. Each has its own advantages, experiment with them and find what works best for you.

Depth Pushups

These are a killer for your chest and shoulders. Place your hands in the pushup position upon a 5lb medicine ball. Drop off the ball, do a pushup, and then explode back onto the ball.

Alternatively, drop off the ball, land, and immediately return your hands to ball without doing a pushup. This can also be done from two medicine balls at pushup width. Drop from both balls, land, and then immediately explode back onto both balls. Do a pushup on top of the balls, drop again, repeat.

Medicine Ball Side-to-Side

Place your right hand on a medicine ball and your left on the ground. Do a pushup, explode, and switch sides so that your left hand is on the ball and your right is on the ground. Pushup and explode back to the original position. Continue witching from side to side.