A Push-up Must Be Greater Than the Sum of its Patterns

There’s a difference between working out and training to improve a specific skill. It’s defined by the purpose of the movements performed. Even with something like the push-up, your focus, cues, and patterns matter.

There are three basic components to any movement:

  • your intention,
  • your patterns, and
  • your cues

There are three skills that, when focused on, transform a movement into more than something to make you sweat:

  • strength
  • mobility
  • control

Each of these skills contributes to a specific outcome you may be attempting to achieve. When combined in a synergistic way, these skills allow any movement – even the push-up – to impact how you move and live everyday.

Most people think a push-up is a push-up, but there are many different patterns involved.  Consider just a few: the hand plank, the hollow position, the elbow bend, hip extension, and the chest press. The full push-up, when done well, is a beautiful harmony of all these patterns.

Are you trying to do your first push-up, improve your push-up form, or do more push-ups in a row? After figuring out your intention, you’ve gotta figure out what your patterns are and which to improve. With that in mind, what skill do you need to work on first?

I believe the cues – along with the effort to resist your habitual patterns – elevates the push-up to do more than simply exhaust your muscles. The push-up now challenges you to consider how you move – and decide to move better.

If you have an urge to do a push-up and test my theory, try this experiment.

  1. Go ahead and do a push-up or two.
  2. Then watch this tutorial, and do a few more push-ups, following the cues.
  3. Then watch this one, and do a few more, following the cues

Question: Which one feels easier, engages more muscles, or feels more controlled to you?

Now, if that experiment didn’t convince you of the benefits of intentional movement (or intentional push-ups at least), you can continue to do push-ups the way you’ve always done them. You’ll enjoy them, and they may continue to feel fine. But if you want to build real strength, mobility or control with your push-up, you’ll need to change how you push-up. And the best way to do that is to figure out why you do them in the first place, see if what you’re doing is working, and then adjust your cues accordingly.

If you want to get a better sense of the different ways you can test out your push-up prowess, get access to a 10-minute push-up routine by subscribing in the sidebar menu or by clicking here.

The takeaway:

Adding focus elevates the push-up into something that builds strength, control, and mobility. You have the ability to do this with every single activity you choose to do – both inside (and outside) your training time.

Published by

Chris Gaines

I help people discover the impact of athleticism in their everyday life. With that clarity, they navigate misconceptions around fitness. With that focus, they pursue movement skills with intention and a larger purpose. All so they can face life's everyday challenges and grow with confidence.

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