Exercises You Should Be Doing: Renegade Push-Up

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Push-ups are an underrated exercise.

Meatheads scoff at the notion of adding them to their programs. “Too easy,” most will say. “Not not going to make me pecy enough.

Athletes roll their eyes at them. “Not going to get me to the show, bro,” they’ll retort.

Au contraire I say.

Do Your Fucking Push-Ups

Yeah, that’s right.

For starters, I can tell you without hesitation that in my 15+ years working with athletes, general population, and the occasional wizard, it’s a rare find when someone shows up on Day #1 and can impress me with their push-up prowess.

Most of the time I end up watching something like this:

Which makes me do stuff like this:

SIDE NOTE: This is also how I react when my wife tells me to make the bed in the morning.

Suffice it to say, the push-up – or rather, someone’s ability to do one without making me go batshit crazy – provides me with a lot of information.

Sure, it gives insight on their upper body strength. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg and not really what I’m after. More importantly it provides valuable data with regards to someone’s lumbo-pelvic-hip control/stability and their ability to 1) maintain a good position and 2) to do so once motion comes into play and fatigue sets in.

Secondly, I’m a firm believer that push-ups are one of the keys to healthy shoulders. On one end of the spectrum it’s standard procedure to cue trainees to lock the shoulder blades in place – retract and depress – during basic strength movements like the bench press, squat, and deadlift.1

In short: In order to “protect” the shoulder and to move appreciable weight you have to be dialed in with scapulae positioning.


And on the other end of the spectrum we take everything I just said and toss it out the window.

Unlike the bench press, push-ups are a closed-chain movement (hands don’t move).

As much time as we spend cuing people to “glue” the shoulder blades in place – especially during bench pressing variations – it’s equally as vital to allow them to experience moving around the ribcage (protraction) and gaining access to their full range of motion.

That’s what the shoulder blades are designed to do….

…to move.

I have a simple approach with most of my lifters:

1. Lock those fuckers down when lifting heavy things.

2. However, do your push-ups. Those shoulder blades need to move.

To that end, one of the other advantages of push-ups is that they can be done anywhere and there’s no shortage of iterations to regress or progress them according to someone’s ability level.

Here’s a variation I think will pique some interest.

Renegade Push-Up


Who Did I Steal It From? – The one and only Jim “Smitty” Smith of Diesel Strength & Conditioning.

What Does It Do? – Here I take away a base of support (an arm) and try to hold a 3-point position without allowing my torso or hips to rotate.

This is a killer core/rotary challenge.

Key Coaching Cues – I’m gonna throw myself under the bus a little and say I should have held my elbow tap a tad longer in the video above. I rush things in an effort to get in a more stable position and not make out with the floor.

The idea here is to keep a controlled tempo.

No rushing.

Slowing things down is paramount to the effectiveness of this exercise.

Any sort of mild elevation will work here: an aerobics stepper, the bar set at the lowest position on a Smith Machine, a medicine ball (if you really want to up the ante), or anything similar.

Feel free to alternate which hand comes off the ground.

Aim for 5-8 repetitions per side.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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  1. Although, with the latter, it’s not so much about retracting the shoulder blades as it is “setting” them in place.

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