Exercises You Should Be Doing: Band Assisted Push-Up

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Today’s guest post comes from former CP intern, and current Boston University assistant Strength Coach, Dave Rak.

Dave likes deadlifts, Jason Bourne, and Chipolte.  He’s also single.  Ladies?

Push-ups are a main staple in any strength and conditioning program.   They are a great body weight exercise that can get you really strong, and in case you didn’t already know…strong people are harder to kill and just flat out more useful in general. When that Zombie Apocalypse happens you can thank me.

For those of you who struggle with push-ups don’t worry Tony and I got your back!

Note from TG:  I’ve actually written on push-up progressions in the past.  THIS one was targeted towards women, but can easily be applied to men who struggle with push-ups as well.

THIS one just talks about the general badassery that is the push-up.

Okay, I’ll stop interrupting Dave.

Some people lack the core strength and upper body strength to bang out a perfect push-up.  A typical regression is to elevate the hands to make the push-up easier and then progressively lower the angle of the hands until you reach the floor.  Often times the second you go to hands elevated push-ups it’s like you hit the self-destruct button and your athlete just falls apart.  Elbows flair out, the hips drop, and your eyes start to bleed from witnessing this debauchery.   For the visual learners, just check out the picture above.

An alternative to elevating the hands (typically on aerobic steppers or the pins of a power rack) would be to use a band as assistance on the way up from your push-up.  The band takes some of the athlete’s body weight away and allows them to complete the push up in its natural position. When you elevate the hands the shoulder is in a more flexed position compared to a standard push-up, it’s not the same pattern and it changes the exercise.

Now I’m not trying to split hairs between the two, but to me the simple fact that the athlete can go through the exact motion of a push up is important.  I look at it the same way as if you were to unload a squat with a TRX, you are just grooving that pattern.

Go through the movement pattern, get comfortable, get strong, and then dominate the world!

Another benefit of using the band for assistance is it is easier for the athlete to create tension in their back and glutes compared to a hands elevated push-up on a box.  The athlete will be able to “pull the ground apart” and then if the band is placed at the hips it can even have an RNT (Reactive Neuromuscular Training) effect for the hips.  Peep the video and you’ll see what I mean.

Band Assisted Push-Up

Also, what’s one reason that people suck at push-ups?  A weak upper body (and core, yes that too).  The band will allow you to load the upper body while doing your push up without compromising form.  On the flip side, elevating the hands will take more of the load away, yes you can work on core stability but it is more difficult to load the upper body.

Who Did I Steal It From:  I saw a coach at Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning doing this with a private client waaaaayyyyy back in the day when I was an intern.  So, whoever that guy was, high five!

What Does It Do:  Allows you to the go through the correct movement pattern of a push-up and strengthen that pattern.

You can teach the push-up easier.  It reduces the “oh-shit” factor during the exercise so it shifts the focus from not falling on your face to actually engaging the proper musculature.

The band allows for a RNT effect to teach keeping the hips extended and how to engage the glutes/maintain pelvic positioning.

Progress the movement and add more resistance.

Change the location of the band to add more load to the upper body.

Give your athlete confidence because they are actually doing a push up with the rest of their team.  Having them do a hands elevated variation may make them self-conscious.  You put the 45lbs plates on the bar and not the 25 and two 10lbs plates on right? Same idea, look like everyone else and build confidence.

Coaching Ques: The thicker the band the easier the push up will be. Start in a prone position with the band in the crease of your hips. Hands under your shoulders, pull your shoulder blades into your back pocket (thanks for the cue Tony!)

Open the pickle jar with your hands (stole cue that from Jill Zeller) meaning pull the ground apart with your hands to engage your lats and create torque/tension in your back.

Squeeze your butt and don’t let the band push your hips back, body in a straight line.

Pull yourself down to the floor and drive away.

Notes– Move the band to the quads to load the upper body more, you can also play with the height of the pins/J-Hooks for more or less band tension.

Give these a try, and remember Chuck Norris does not do push-ups he pushes the Earth down.

Author Bio

David Rak is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA (CSCS).  He is currently a Graduate Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach at Boston University pursuing his Master’s Degree in Coaching.  Dave oversees Wrestling and Women’s Golf, also assists with Men’s Basketball and Men’s Soccer.  He received his Bachelor’s in Exercise Science at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and completed internships at Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning and Cressey Performance.  Upon his completion of his internship at MBSC, he continued to work part time at Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning for 2 and a half years while he finished his undergraduate degree.

Dave can be reached at davidrak25@gmail.com


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