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Episode 234: Brain Pushups

Video Highlights

- The Push Up Matrix pattern.
- Options for more novelty.
- How to modify for everyone.

Today we’re gonna continue on our novelty theme by making push-ups more interesting.

As we’ve already been discussing, brains crave novelty and challenge.

It’s no surprise if you watched anything, know anything about me, I’m a huge fan of body weight exercises for making people stronger, doing some conditioning for them and really learning to own your own body and be able to control your own body.

Push-ups, long time favorite of mine, pull-ups. I love all these different kind of body weight exercises.

One of the things that can happen if you do lots of push-ups, it can get kind of boring particularly if you do them the same way every single time.

One thing that we really like to encourage people to do is to play around with novelty in push-ups and other body weight exercises just to give your brain additional challenge.

What we often find is that if people can do maybe 20, 30 push-ups and then feel fatigued, if we then give them a lot of different movement exercises and different novel stimuli in the push-up process, then we actually double or triple the volume. They’ll do 40, 50, 60 different push-ups and feel less fatigued.

Number one, I love the idea of novelty because it often helps you do a little bit more work.

Number two, it can help what we call injury prevention or injury proofing just by getting you to learn how to contract your body in different positions.

Number three, different challenge to your brain, add some additional novelty.

Here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna go through a different push-up matrix.

I’ll show you a set of different things that you can try.

Please understand that you don’t have to do these on the ground. If doing push-ups on the ground is too difficult for you, you can lean against the wall, you can do it against a table. Just make sure that nothing’s gonna move away and you’re gonna fall on your face. Just be careful.

Again, the goal here is not to stress you. We’re not trying to do any kind of super intense strength training right now.

We’re saying, “Hey, if I give my brain some different challenges, does it like it?”

If you think about it this way, we can take our arms out. This would be kind of our standard push-up position.

From here, we also have this position. We have this position and we have this positions. So turned in neutral, turned out, and turned all the way back fingers facing the floor or fingers facing your feet.

What we want to do is just start off in kind of a standard push-up position and try one repetition of each one. Now, I’m gonna look at the camera as I do this. That’s not normally what I would do, but otherwise you would just see the top of my bald head.

We’re gonna start of and do one. Alright, let’s switch. We’ll turn the fingers out. We’ll repeat. Just get an idea of how that feels.

Now, we’ll turn the fingers in. What you’ll figure out as you do this is that your elbows have to go on different paths or different tracks, nothing wrong with that.

Our final one, this one tends to be quite challenging for a lot of people will be here and fingers just facing back behind us. Having done that, I can practice a few, make sure that my hands are in the same position.

Female athlete doing push ups

Then, we want to mix it up.

For instance, maybe I want to come over here, turn my right hand in, turn my left hand out. Now I’m doing this weird left facing push-up.

Then I can do a right facing push-up and I can do mixtures of all these different hand positions.

Number one in a push-up matrix, you want to decide what hand position you’re gonna use. That’ll be step one.

What you can also then being to do is just like we do with our lunges and our balance work, etc., is that you can imagine that you’re on the middle of a compass.

Now, I can say, “Alright, I’m gonna begin with my hands in my neutral fingers forward position. Instead of being here, I can now take my right hand and place it somewhere on one of those lines of the compass.

When you do that, again, the challenge is gonna go way up depending on how you set up your body weight.

When you start playing with the compass, I actually recommend that you make it easier for yourself.

I’m not a huge fan of push-ups done from the knees just because people often struggle to hold their spine correctly.

If you’re going to play with this, I would recommend maybe, again, a wall or bench or something that allows you to position yourself a little bit more carefully. A bench can be a problem just because it’s not gonna give you a lot of place for placing your hand.

In the beginning, using a wall may actually be a better solution for you.

Just for instance, I can be here. Again, standard push-up position and go out on this line. Now, I have one arm extended. I can bring it up on this 45 degree angle. I can bring it back on that 45 degree angle.

Just playing with different positions. Notice in this particular case, I’m still trying to keep my body kind of in the middle of the push-up position.

Now, I have hand positions and arm positions that I can start to play with.

Could I combine, now, a different hand position with the lines of the compass. Now, let’s say I’m gonna be reaching out here. This is gonna be hard to do just because of your wrist extensibility. Maybe I’m gonna go ahead and turn this one external, this one internal. Now, I have this very much more awkward, stressful feeling push-up, which is, again, one reason you might want to do it up against a wall in the beginning, decrease the stress of it.

Very simple ideas here. Novelty matters to the brain.

How can we make push-ups more interesting?

First, we can change our hand positions.

Then, we can change our arm positions.

Finally, the last thing that we can add into this push-up novelty sequence is the path that we follow.

An easy way to think about this is most push-ups are done in kind of a piston kind of motion, down, up, down, up.

Could I, instead, try adding some circular motions into the push-up?

Once you start to do that, things get even more interesting because basically, rather than saying, “Hey, I’m gonna use that simple path from up to down and back up,” adding in a more complicated circular path makes the brain pay a little bit more attention.

So, as an example, I can come back to my standard push-up position and say, “Now, I’m gonna make a circular push-up happen, circular push-up happen.” Maybe I want to do a half circle and a half circle.

Again, it doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t have to pull out your protractor, draw a bunch of diagrams, but you do have to think through how could I make this a little bit more challenging by changing the shape.

Again, when it comes to movement novelty for push-ups, change your hand position, change your arm position, change the movement path.

There you have it.

There’s how to make push-ups much more interesting to your brain.

Hopefully, also a little bit more useful to your body.

Give it a shot. If you have any questions, let us know.

Please be careful with these positions because they can be a little bit stressful when you’re first learning them.

Good luck.

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