Calisthenics. Push Exercises.

Calisthenics is a smart, scientific approach to weight loss, strength gain and living a more active, fulfilling life. This is the second resource in our series on calisthenics, designed so you can workout in privacy of your home or on location when travelling and can’t attend your sessions with your Tiger Athletic personal trainer without the aid of equipment, a trainer or supplements and begin to understand that you too can get healthy using just your body, the physical environment and a little imagination.

The word calisthenics comes from the ancient Greek words kálos (κάλλος), which means “beauty”, and sthénos (σθένος), meaning “strength”. It is the art of using one’s body weight and qualities of inertia to develop one’s physique. A longstanding urban legend has claimed that the exercise was named after one of its earliest promotors, the Greek historian Callisthenes.

Push body weight exercises use a resistive or static pushing motion to work various muscle groups. Most push exercises focus on the pectoral, shoulder, and triceps muscles, but other muscle groups such as the abdominal and back muscles are leveraged to maintain good form during the push exercise.

Bridge

Begin in a sit-up position with the hands positioned by the ears, palms down, fingers facing the legs. Push up with the arms and the back muscles until the body resembles a lowercase ‘n’. The spine must be convex and the limbs straight.

Variation

  • Inverse Push Ups. Difficulty can be increased by entering the bridge from a standing position and bending backwards in a controlled manner into the bridge.

Muscle Groups

  • Triceps
  • Trapezius
  • Deltoids
  • Glutes
  • Lower back

4-Count Bodybuilder

From a standing position, drop to a squat with hands on floor (count 1), thrusts the legs back to a push up position (count 2), returns the legs to the squat position (count 3) and then returns to standing position (count 4).

Variation

  • The Burpee replaces count 4 with a plyometric squat. Jump before returning to the standing starting position.
  • The military 8-Count Bodybuilder adds a full push up after count 2 (count 3 and 4) and opens and closes the legs while in push-up position (count 5 and 6).

Muscle Groups

  • Legs
  • Abdominals
  • Shoulders

Dips

Begin with the hands placed on two solid surfaces at or around waist height. The knees are then bent to raise the feet from the ground, and the body is lowered as far as possible using the arms, then raised again.

Muscle Groups

  • Triceps
  • Pectorals

Seated Dip

Begin with their feet on the floor, legs out straight, and hands placed on a supporting level surface between knee and waist height. Start with straight arms with the shoulders above the hands, the body is lowered until the arms are bent at a 90-degree angle. The body is then raised to the starting position. Difficulty may be decreased by moving the feet closer to the body. Difficulty may be increased by raising the feet onto a stable surface.

Variation

  • The Hanging Dip or Parallel Dip requires an apparatus such as a dip bar or two parallel bars (or substitutes such as tree branches or two tables) and the legs are fully raised off the ground, with the individual’s body weight supported by the arms alone.

Muscle Groups

  • Triceps
  • Chest

L-sit

Sit with the body in an L-position, the upper body perpendicular to the ground and the legs out straight and parallel to the ground. The hands are placed beside the glutes. The hands and arms then push the entire body, including the legs, upwards off the ground with the legs remaining parallel to the ground. This exercise taxes the muscles through isometric tension.

Variation

  • The V-Sit variation increases the difficulty by holding the legs higher, angled away from the ground, so the individual’s body forms a ‘V’ shape.

Muscle Groups

  • Obliques
  • Rectus Abdominis
  • Triceps
  • Quadriceps
  • Pectorals

Lunge

Stand on flat surface, step forward with one leg and bend down until the front knee is bent at a 90-degree angle. The back-knee bends to almost touch the ground. The front knee should not extend past the front toes to maintain good form. Return to the starting position by pushing back with the front leg and stepping back so both feet are together.

Variation

  • Back Lunge is performed from the same position, however, step back with the leg until the front knee is bent at a 90-degree angle and the back knee is almost touching the ground.
  • Iron Mikes, start out in the bottom position of the lunge, perform a plyometric jump and switch leg positions so the landing position is opposite to the starting position.
  • Walking Lunges do not return the front leg to the starting position, step forward with the back leg to place the feet together.

Muscle Groups

  • Thigh
  • Buttocks
  • Hamstrings

Side Lunges

Start with the feet positioned slightly apart and take a wide step to the side with the left foot, toes pointing slightly outward. As the left foot contacts, the ground, shift your weight to the left so most of your body weight is supported by the left leg. Lower the hips and slide the hips back until the left thigh is parallel with the ground. The back and the head are kept straight throughout the movement. Hold the position for a moment, then raise the body by pushing up with the left leg and move the feet together again. The exercise is then repeated on the right side.

Variation

Difficulty may be increased by performing the Wide Side Lunge variant; start with the feet in a wide stance instead of together, keep the feet in the wide stance throughout the exercise and omit the intermediate step of moving the feet together between repetitions.

Muscle Groups

  • Quadriceps
  • Glutes
  • Hip flexors
  • Hamstrings

Bear Walk

Place the hands and the feet on the ground, with the head facing the ground, proceed to crawl around for a set distance/time by striding with the arms and legs.

Muscle Groups

  • Shoulders
  • Chest
  • Triceps
  • Trapezius
  • Core

Rocking Chairs

Begin in a fully extended plank or push-up position. The body is then pushed slowly forward about six to ten inches, while the arms are kept straight. The body is then returned to the starting position.

Variation

  • Rocking Chair Press – Increase difficulty by bending the arms and lowering the body until it is close to the floor. The body is then slowly pushed forward and returned to the starting position. The difficulty may be further increased by extending the arms between sets to perform a push-up.

Muscle Groups

  • Pectorals
  • Triceps
  • Deltoids
  • Core

Shove Offs

Begin by standing in front of an elevated surface with a ledge that will bear the weight your weight. The body is tilted forward with the hands and arms extended and the back and legs held straight. The body can continue to fall forward, and the individual catches their weight on the elevated surface with their hands in a palm-down position and arms bent. The arms are then forcefully extended to push the body back to the upright position. The waist is not bent at any time during the exercise.

Variation

Increase difficulty by selecting a lower surface which decreases the leverage of the arms and moves the centre of gravity forwards towards the hands.

Muscle Groups

  • Pectorals
  • Shoulders
  • Triceps

Mountain Climbers

Begin in a push-up position, with the body in a straight line and elbows locked. The left knee is brought to the chest and the left foot placed on the ground, with the right leg remaining outstretched. Then perform a small hop and switch the position of the feet so that the right knee is brought to the chest, the right foot placed on the ground and the left leg is extended behind the body. The exercise is then repeated, most commonly at a fast pace for a defined length of time.

Muscle Groups

  • Shoulders
  • Abdominals
  • Core

Pec Crawl

Begin in a push-up position on a smooth surface. The body is propelled forward using only the arms which are never bent beyond 90 degrees. The feet are dragged behind you, the body held in a straight line. This exercise is best performed on a smooth floor while wearing socks or with a folder towel placed under the feet.

Muscle Groups

  • Deltoids
  • Core
  • Pectorals
  • Triceps

Dive Bomber

The feet are placed on the ground just a few inches apart, with the legs held straight. Bend over at the waist and place your hands on the ground a few feet in front of the toes, forming an inverted ‘V’ with the body, the hips forming the vertex of the ‘V’. Swing your chest and shoulders down in an arc, between the hands, so the chest nearly touches the ground. The head and shoulders are curved up in an arc as high as possible, until the back is fully arched, the head is facing forward, and the pelvis is only a few inches off the ground. The motion is then reversed, the chest and shoulders moving through the hands, close to the ground, with the arms pushing the body back to the starting point. The arms should end up straight and in line with the back.

Variation

  • The Half Dive Bomber stops the movement at the point the chest is between the hands and then reverses the movement to return to the starting position.
  • The Hindu Dand returns directly to the starting position without bending the arms or arcing the chest and shoulders back through the hands.
  • Decrease difficulty by moving the feet further apart, or by elevating the hands on a stable surface. The difficulty can be increased by placing only a single leg on the ground at a time.

Muscle Groups

  • Pectorals
  • Triceps
  • Deltoids
  • Core

Pec Flies

Starts by lying face down on a smooth, hard floor. The legs are placed out straight with the toes on the floor, and the arms out to the sides. Two small towels are placed under the palms. With the arms and body kept straight, the palms are slid together in a controlled manner until the hands are under the shoulders. The hands are then slowly slid apart until the chest is barely touching the floor.

Muscle Groups

  • Pectorals
  • Core
  • Shoulders

Side Triceps Extension

Start by lying down on your right side, body in a straight line. The right hand is placed on the left shoulder, and the left hand is placed palm down on the ground, under the right shoulder, fingers pointing towards the head. The left arm pushes the upper body off the ground until the arm is straight, bending at the waist to keep the lower body on the ground. The body is then lowered to the starting position. The exercise is repeated on the left side to work the right triceps.

Muscle Groups

  • Triceps
  • Obliques

Crab Walk

Start by sitting on the ground with the knees bent. Both feet and both palms are placed on the floor. The body is lifted off the floor and you walk like a crab, both forward and backward.

Muscle Groups

  • Triceps
  • Core

Hip Raiser

Sit on the ground in an L-position with the back perpendicular to the ground and legs out straight. The palms are placed on the ground beside the hips. The soles of the feet are placed on the ground and the pelvis is lifted off the floor until the knees are bent at a 90-degree angle and the body is straight from the head to the knees, with the face pointed straight up. The position is held for a moment and then the body is returned to the starting position.

Muscle Groups

  • Triceps
  • Shoulders
  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings

Air Plunges

Begin by lying down on the ground flat on the back, with the arms placed palm-down on the ground. The legs are lifted until they are straight in the air, perpendicular to the ground. The arms are used to push the hips off the ground as high as possible, keeping the legs perpendicular to the ground. The hips are then lowered slowly to the starting position. Lie flat on the back, arms to the side, palms on the ground.

Variation

Increase difficulty by holding the hips in the top position for a few seconds before they are lowered to the ground.

Muscle Groups

  • Triceps
  • Lower abdominals

Surface Triceps Extensions

Begin by grasping a stable, waist-level surface such as a couch, railing, table or a horizontal bar. The surface is grasped with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart. The feet are placed back slightly further than a standard push up position. The body is kept straight, while the arms are bent, and the body lowered until the head is below the hands. The body is then raised by pushing up with the arms until the arms are locked out straight. The elbows should be kept pointed straight down throughout the movement.

Variation

Decrease difficulty by grasping a higher surface to move the centre of gravity closer to the body.

Muscle Groups

  • Triceps
  • Core

Arm Rotations

Begin by standing and placing the arms straight out and perpendicular with the body. The hands and arms are moved in circles, first forward, then backward, for a selected number of rotations.

Variation

The targeted muscle groups of this exercise can be modified by repositioning the arm and body: making circles with the arms pointed out straight in front of the individual moves the focus to the front deltoids, while bending over and moving the arms up and down instead of in circles emphasizes the rear deltoids.

Muscle Groups

  • Shoulders

The Roof Is on Fire

Begin in a push up position and performs a single push up. Then the individual will kneel and raise their hands in the air four times as if they are performing an unweighted overhead press. The individual then performs two push ups, then kneels and performs eight unweighted overhead presses. The individual will continue to ladder up in this manner, with the count of unweighted overhead presses equalling four times the number of pushups. When muscle failure is reached, the individual then ladders down with a decreasing number of push ups and a corresponding number of unweighted overhead presses.

Muscle Groups

  • Shoulders
  • Triceps
  • Pectorals

Tiger Athletic Fitness & Conditioning uses personal training to assess, motivate, educate and train you in a private, modern appointment only strength and conditioning in the heart of Sandton. Our rigorous pre-participation health appraisal screening process ensures that we design and deliver comprehensive exercise programs that safely and effectively meet your goals. Start your own Tiger Athletic fitness program by booking your initial interview.

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