The push-up is one of those exercises that looks so simple, but even one rep can be difficult to perform properly. It’s a popular bodyweight exercise that recruits your chest, triceps, shoulders, and back. As an overall upper body-builder, it translates into stronger presses and overhead lifts. You can use it as an accessory for strength training or for challenges between you and your gym buddy.
Mastering the push-up is one thing, but mastering the plyometric push-up is a whole other test of physical fitness. Explosive plyometric movements can help you become a more powerful athlete. They’ll also work wonders for your strength levels and overall performance — not to mention showing off rights at the gym.
Benefits of Plyometric Push-Ups
- Better Pressing Power
- Train Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibers
- Joint Health
- Reduced Risk of Injury
- Improved Physical Performance
- Muscle Hypertrophy
- Greater Muscle Recruitment
Better Pressing Power
Rapid and forceful muscle contractions is a powerful combination in the gym, on the field, or in life. The more force you generate at a given instant, the more you’ll be able to improve barbell speed and sports performance. Plyometric training boosts your raw strength and power in the gym or a competition.
Athletes like powerlifters, Olympic weightlifters, MMA fighters, and boxers all benefit from better pressing power. Plyo push-ups can help you to bench press a heavier weight or throw a harder punch — which is a hefty combination.
Train Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibers
Fast-twitch muscle fibers, also known as type-II muscle fibers, are used in fast, explosive movements like sprinting, jumping, and clean & jerks. They’re built for short, powerful movements, in contrast to type-I or slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are built for endurance activities.
Studies suggest that speed and power athletes have a greater quality of type-II muscle fibers. (1) Plyometric training targets these fast-twitch muscle fibers, ultimately upping your ability to handle fast and heavy loads.
Life is full of dynamic movements that create stresses on your body at a wide array of angles and velocities. Training yourself to absorb force from impact can help protect yourself from joint-loading injuries.
Plyometric push-ups do just that, since you’ll learn how to (and practice) safely absorb heavy impact. Studies suggest that plyometric training is an effective way to increase bone mass, which helps keep the joints healthy to prevent injury and improve your quality of life. (2)
Reduced Risk of Injury
You subject your body to potential overuse injuries during ballistic movements, such as in kipping and contact sports. There’s also the risk of strains when your muscle fibers are being stressed at the highest of levels, like during a one-rep max attempt.
Studies suggest that incorporating plyometric exercises into an athlete’s training regimen may help reduce the risk of an injury. (3) By subjecting you to controlled doses of intense forces and impact, plyometric moves like the plyo push-up help your body build up a tolerance to intense stress. Plyo movements help increase your strength and mobility, as well as teach you how to absorb force safely.
Improved Physical Performance
Plyometric push-ups primarily train your strength and explosiveness, which carries over into other sporting activities. Research suggests that plyometrics help improve strength and power performance. When combined with traditional strength training, studies show you can enhance your overall physical performance. (4)
Athletes such as football or softball players can benefit from training explosiveness to practice swinging a bat or throwing a ball. And in the weight room, Olympic weightlifters need more power for snatches and cleans.
You probably don’t immediately turn to bodyweight movements for hypertrophy — but plyo push-ups might help you change your mind. Plyometric push-ups recruit the chest, triceps, shoulders, and core for strength, power, and a controlled landing.
Building these muscles can help bulge out of your T-shirt. Plus, they also assist in other pressing moves and overhead lifts. Studies suggest that plyometrics can produce similar muscle hypertrophy to that of resistance training. (5)
Greater Muscle Recruitment
To perform plyometric push-ups properly, you need speed and power. Research shows that slow-twitch muscle fibers are recruited when a muscle first contracts. But when the intensity hits about 70 to 80 percent, fast-twitch muscle fibers kick in for power and power development. (6) That means exercises like the plyometric push-up can help recruit more muscle fibers, which is beneficial when training to build strength and hypertrophy.
How to Do the Plyometric Push-Up
If you know how to do a proper push-up, the plyometric push-up can be a smooth transition. However, it’s important that you master the conventional push-up before adding power. You should also make sure to warm up your wrists first.
- Set yourself in a plank position. Your hands should be under your shoulders, your back should be flat, and your core tight.
- Keeping your body in a straight line, slowly start to lower your body to the ground. Be sure not to flare your elbows greater than 45 degrees.
- Once your chest reaches the ground, powerfully push through the floor. Use enough force to fully extend your arms. Let your hands leave the ground.
- Land softly with a slight bend in your elbows and ready to move right into the next rep.
Plyometric Push-Up Variations
Adding power into your push-up may be the only challenge you need. But if you’re looking to impress everyone in the gym, you could try some even more challenging variations. If you’re not quite there yet, you can taper back to a modification.
Pushing your upper body off the floor can be difficult enough. But if you’re ready to up the ante, adding a clap in between could be the challenge you need.
Clapping push-ups require more strength and power than regular plyo push-ups. You’ll have to get yourself a bit higher to complete the clap. Plus, you’ll need more coordination and speed. You’ll hone faster reflexes by adding a clap. That speed can carry over into a faster, more efficient catch with Olympic weightlifting moves. A quick note: Be careful when performing clapping push-ups. A missed rep can result in a face plant.
Incline Plyometric Push-Up
Full range of motion is essential for getting the most out of push-ups. But if you need to work your way up to that full range, incline plyo push-ups are a great stepping stone.
Grab a stable bench or other elevated surface to perform the incline plyometric push-up. This variation helps you practice with a smaller range of motion. But you’ll still get similar strength and power benefits. Because of the angle of the press, this variation will focus a bit more on your upper chest.
Flying like a superhero isn’t for just anyone. The Superman push-up is an advanced plyometric push-up where you power your whole body off the ground.
This move requires core and hip strength to help push high enough off the ground. You’ll also need spine and shoulder mobility to achieve the Superman pose at the top.
Diamond Plyo Push-Up
Triceps strength is tremendously important for the lockout phase in pressing and overhead lifts. The diamond plyo push-up helps recruit the triceps more because of the narrower position of your hands.
Because your base isn’t as wide — and you’re targeting a smaller muscle group — these are typically more difficult than a conventional plyo push-up. Try these on an incline if you need to build up to the full grounded version.
Knee Plyometric Push-Up
Performing plyometric push-ups from your knees is an amazing strength and power-building option. Whether you want to take it a little easier today, are trying to perfect your form, or can’t complete a full plyo push-up, this plyo push-up modification will still help you get stronger and more powerful.
Start in a plank position, but put your knees on the ground. This move helps get your upper body ready to take on the full version. For extra strength, take the eccentric (lowering) portion of the move very slowly before you explode up.
Plyometric exercises are a popular form of training used by competitive athletes and regular gymgoers alike. Plyo push-ups help you build muscle, train for strength and power, and help improve your joint health.
As with any type of exercise, it’s important to understand how important recovery is. Make sure you’re always warming up properly and recovering from your plyometric sessions. When you do it the right way, this type of training can work wonders for your overall performance, strength, and power.
- Hernelahti, Miika, Tikkanen, Heikki O, & Karjalainen, Jouko. Muscle Fiber-Type Distribution as a Predictor of Blood Pressure. Hypertension. 2005; 45.
- Markovic, Goran, Mikulic, Pavle. Neuro-Musculoskeletal and Performance Adaptations to Lower-Extremity Plyometric Training. Sports Medicine. 2010; 40.
- Enginsu, Mujdat, Lokmaoglu, Recep, & Korkmaz, Erol. Effect of Plyometric Training on Prevention of ACL Injuries in Females Volleyball Players. Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine. 2014; 2(3).
- Peitz, Matti, Behringer, Michael, Granacher, Urs. A systematic review on the effects of resistance and plyometric training on physical fitness in youth- What do comparative studies tell us? Plos One. 2018.
- Grgic, Jozo, Schoenfeld, Brad J., Mikulic, Pavle. Effects of plyometric vs. resistance training on skeletal muscle hypertrophy: A review. Journal of Sport and Health Science. 2021; 10(5).
- Davies, George, Riemann, Bryan L., Manske, Robert. Current Concepts of Plyometric Exercise. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. 2015; 10(6).
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