Plyometric Push-Ups vs Regular – Which Is Best for Power, Strength, and Overall Fitness?

Plyometric and regular push-ups are very established and effective for increasing strength, power, and fitness, for nearly every athlete and fitness level. In the below sections we discuss how to perform each movement and which one ranks best for a wide array of categories. For best results, however, I personally feel that a steady fitness diet of regular push-ups and plyometric push ups can diversity your fitness portfolio ad maximize your strength, muscle development, and power. Here’s why…

The Regular Push-Up

In the below video we see how the regular push-up is set up and executed to enhance muscular hypertrophy, strength, and set the foundations for more dynamic and explosive movements.

The Plyometric Push-Up

In the below video we see how the plyometric push-up is set up and executed to enhance power and overall fitness.

Regular vs. Plyometric Push-Up

Below are five factors that can affect a coach’s/athlete’s decision process when determining whether the regular vs. plyometric push-up is the best programming option based on fitness level, goals, and risks.

Degree of Difficulty

Anything plyometric requires a great amount of muscle, strength, coordination, joint and connective tissue health, and better movement mechanics as a whole. Lack of mobility in the shoulders, thoracic spine, and/or core stability can be red flags when determining if someone is ready for plyometric push-ups. Building proper movement mechanics, mobility, stability, and strength at various speeds and angles is key before an athlete jumps it plyometric push-ups. Once they have progressed to speed push ups, dips, and deficit push ups, they can then progress to basic of plyometric push-up exercises.

Muscle Hypertrophy and Strength

Increased time under tension, loading, and metabolic fatigue are some of the key drivers for strength and hypertrophy. While plyometric movements can certainly be challenging, they do not allow for high amounts of muscular loading and/or time under tension (as plyometrics by default are a power exercise, and are often concerned with power outputs done less than 15-30 seconds at a time). Hypertrophy has been shown at longer durations of tension, upwards of 45-90 seconds, making the regular push-up a great option. The added benefits of loading the regular push-up can also increase strength and muscular development in the chest and triceps.  

Power

Increased muscle firing rates, motor patterning, and connective tissue adaptations are the key physiological and neurological adaptations that take place following plyometric training. When looking to increase power output of the chest, triceps, and upper body (pushing) the plyometric exercise is a great way to start (as it can easily be performed with bodyweight for those individuals who have properly progressed with regular push-up movements). Increasing power output and contraction speeds of the chest and triceps will also have direct carry over to slower movements as well.

Application to Gymnastics and Functional Fitness

The need for dynamic strength, movement, and well-balanced athleticism is key for sports like gymnastics and functional fitness. Regular push-ups should be done to increase all the above aspects, and to set the foundation for more explosives and dynamic plyometric push-up. Increasing one’s abilities to react to high degrees of forces (eccentric and concentric) at various angles (throughout the entire range of motion) and at ever changing velocities can help to increase stability and performance, bolster one’s injury resilience, and aid in movements like burpees, muscle ups, kipping dips, etc.

Risk of Injury

Ballistic and explosive movements do run a greater risk of injury, especially when not properly done, progressed towards, or simply overused. Increasing the loading placed upon the joints and connective tissues (often due to poor muscular development and movement patterning) in the wrist, elbows, shoulders, and spine can all lead to some issues if coaches and athletes are not smart about programming and progressing athletes. As always, take your time when developing these dynamic skill-sets, and understand that it takes time to allow the neurological system to learn better proprioception and motor control at higher velocities.

Plyometric Madness

Check out some awesome articles on how to incorporate more plyometric-based exercises into your training routine!

Featured Image: @iampablic on Instagram

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Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.