Just because not everyone can perform a body-weight pull-up or dip does not mean that everyone should miss out on the benefits from doing them. By utilizing modifications, beginners can also perform these highly beneficial exercises.
If you have been exercising in a recreational gym, you may find yourself having the opportunity to use the weight-assisted pull-up/dip machine. If so, taking advantage of this machine can help you reach your goal of achieving your first pull-up or dip. Although this machine does provide the full range of motion, it should not be used alone in your work out routine. Exercises such as pull-up negatives should be used alongside weight-assisted pull-ups in order to master "full body control" through full body muscle engagement.
Even if you don't work out at a recreational gym (or your gym does not own the weight-assistance machine), you can still perform a band-assisted pull-up or dip in order to get the stimulus and practice you need for working towards using your full body-weight. Another benefit to band assistance is the ability to work the top-end of a movement more. By working the top-end of a dip more, you give yourself the ability to push your triceps more without putting too much stress on your shoulders (by aiding at the bottom/where the shoulders are most vulnerable).
By combining both types of assistance, you give yourself the ability to perform the full range of motion with the same load (weight) and also perform an exercise that pushes the top-end of each exercise (which most people tend to neglect).
Weight and band assistance can both be helpful in one's pursuit to accomplishing a pull-up. These variations also allow someone to reap many of the benefits you get from pull-ups and dips. Just because you are a beginner, does not mean you cannot reap the same benefits.
Share Your Input
Feel free to share your experience with pull-up and dip variations below.
A lower back injury is probably one of the worst injuries you can get in or out of the gym. With a lower back injury it hurts to lift weights, to run, to walk, and even to lay down. A lower back injury can cause immense pain regardless if you are moving or not. In my experience, going from a spinal fracture to working out with 400+ pounds again was A LOT of rehabilitation focused work outs. Even with just one month of physical therapy, there was over two years of my own rehabilitation focused work outs that targeted muscles needed to improve my lower back health. In this article I reveal the exercises that were a staple in my rehabilitation plan (and continue to use today).
1) Bird Dog: The bird dog should be the first exercise that you implement into your routine. They teach core tension/stability, while also strengthening your gluteal muscles.
2) Hip Thrust: The hip thrust is an exercise that emphasizes your gluteal muscles, while also placing a minute amount of tension on your lower-back as well. This allows you to engage your lower back without an immense amount of tension (which would result in more pain).
(Note: Do not perform excess movement of the spine during the extension/thrust portion of the movement.)
3) Single Leg Hip Thrust: An advanced version of the hip thrust is the single-leg hip thrust. By also incorporating a knee raise on the leg not being worked, you allow yourself to fully extend your hips and engage your core more.
4) Hamstring Curls (with sliders): After mastering the single-leg hip thrust, it is time to incorporate more of the posterior chain. By performing hamstring curls with sliders, you learn to engage your gluteals during other movements (even push-ups, pull-ups, and standing presses should have your gluteals engaged). By keeping your gluteals in an isometric hold, you stimulate them throughout the entire set (while also working your hamstrings).
(Note: Do not let your hips sag during the movement. Your hips should be fully extended the entire movement.)
5) Cable Pull-Throughs: Finally, an actual standing variation (the cable pull-through) for your gluteals allows you to engage more of your lower-back as well as the gluteals. This begins to target your entire posterior chain, without over taxing the lower back.
(Note: Your spine should be in a neutral position. Do not let your back round at the bottom of the movement.)
By starting from exercises that allows you to learn core tension and glute activation, you can progress towards exercises that strengthen your gluteals and eventually get you into performing exercises that help strengthen the entire posterior chain.
Disclaimer: I am by no means a physical therapist. However, I have suffered a spinal fracture and have gone from immense pain (even when lying down)....to performing squats and dead-lifts with 400+ pounds again (see video below).
Nothing is worse than trying to exercise and target specific muscles just to have the equipment you want taken by someone else. At the gym, the bench for bench-pressing is by far the most popular piece of equipment for working the pushing muscles of your body (and for a good reason). The bench-press has one of the highest (debatable) potential for progressive overload, targets the pushing muscles, and is easy to execute (don't need to be in great shape to perform). Unfortunately, with the bench-press being taken by fellow gymgoers frequently, you can find yourself waiting for the bench-press longer than intended (sometimes 30+ minutes at a time). Luckily, you don't have to wait on the bench-press or even travel to the gym to achieve the chest mass you want!
With push-ups being taken to the intensity of the bench-press, you can elicit the same results. According to the research, push-ups (when utilized at the same intensity as the bench-press) can provide the same stimulus and adaptations. This leaves you with an opportunity to save time by not waiting on the bench-press, save time by not traveling to a gym, and save money by not even having a gym membership. By using exercise progressions, you give yourself that opportunity. Below are listed push-up variations that you can use in order to build chest mass.
1) Regular Push-Ups
Much like anything (and calisthenics is no exception), mastering the basics is KEY to developing the strength and skill for later progressions. Regular push-ups are amazing for developing muscle mass and should be performed with correct form in order to get the most out of the exercise. With your spine in a neutral position (don't let your hips sag or have your butt in the air) you are able to stimulate and develop not only your pushing muscles (chest, shoulders, and triceps), but also your abdominals.
2) Side-To-Side Push-Ups
Before attempting unilateral exercises, we must first get a "feel" for shifting our body to one side. A common complaint to body-weight unilateral exercises is the feeling of not being balanced (not feeling stable). By practicing shifting your body from side to side and increasing the difficult of single repetitions, you give yourself the opportunity to improve your stability and provide a greater stimulus for muscle growth.
3) Archer Push-Ups
Archer push-ups are the next level push-ups you have not tried yet! Archer push-ups are great for building unilateral strength for those who are not able to perform one-arm push-ups. By having balance support from the supporting limb, archer push-ups provide a greater stimulus for your chest without the balance issues of unilateral exercises (example: one-arm push-ups).
4) Rusian Push-Ups
The Russian push-up adds an extra stretch to the arms and is a great variation for those wanting to increase the difficulty of their push-ups. Russian push-ups also add more of a core stability component to the exercise due to transitioning your body from a push-up position to more of a standard plank position.
5) Elevated Pike Push-Ups
A list of chest exercises is not complete without an exercise for targeting the pectoralis minor (upper-chest). Elevated pike push-ups allow you to get a greater stretch (longer range of motion) and provides an angle that is better for targeting the pectoralis minor and the anterior deltoids (upper-chest and front of the shoulder). It is recommended to perform the divebomber push-up and pike push-up before attempting elevated pike push-ups.
With just 5 quick variation examples, you can easily build chest mass without exercise equipment or even a gym. Of course, there are more than just 5 variations you can use...but by keeping it "stupid simple" you give yourself the ability to progress further with simple skills. This progression gives you the increased stimulus for greater muscle growth.
Have any other push-up variations you enjoy that give you results? Feel free to comment your favorite variations!
Whether you're sitting at home surfing the web for a weight loss miracle, attending fitness expos, or just chatting with fitness enthusiasts, you have found (or will find) yourself running into the "keto diet". Ketogenic diets (also called keto diets) routinely become popular just like ANYTHING fat loss consistently becomes popular every summer. With the rise of popular trends follows the rise of marketers trying to capitalize on them. With more people skewing the effects and role of keto diets in an attempt to market their product or service, the keto fat loss phenomenon has left millions of people confused. This confusion leads countless individuals willing to spend their time and money on the body they desire, without REALLY knowing what the keto diet does and what it is for. In this article we will be covering the purpose of keto diets, if the keto diet has a role in the pursuit of fat loss, and who should be using the keto diet.
Medical Uses For Ketogenic Diets
For something seen so promising as a fat loss miracle, we tend to ignore the fact that ketogenic diets have been used and were intended for medical use. Ketogenic diets are shown to be effective in significantly reducing seizures for those with epilepsy and are shown to have the potential to help with other medical conditions such as cancer (although more research is needed). This is not to say that ketogenic diets, even for medical purposes, do not have their drawbacks. Prescribed ketogenic diets in studies frequently reported side-effects such as fatigue, constipation, vomiting, and hunger. Ketogenic diets have their place in the medical field, but just like medication...everything has it's positives and negatives.
Ketogenic Diets And Fat Loss
Ketogenic diets have been shown to reduce seizures and been concluded to potentially help with cancer patients, but what about ketogenic diets for fat loss? Ketogenic diets have been marketed as a "fat loss secret" or "fat loss hack", but what does the literature actually say about low-carbohydrate diets versus low-fat diets? An analysis over low-carbohydrate diets has actually shown that in the long-term (passed the water loss stage of ketogenic diets) both low-carbohydrate diets and low-fat diets provide similar results in regards to amount of weight reduction elicited (maximum 1-2 pound difference between the two after 12 months).
Have you ever scrolled through social media or talked with your friends about dieting, just to realize someone claimed they lost an incredible amount of weight in a short amount of time? It is far from rare for someone utilizing the ketogenic diet to lose excessive "weight" (not fat) the first month into the diet. This is due to water loss. Findings in literature has shown us that water and electrolyte loss is SIGNIFICANTLY GREATER in low-carbohydrate diets SHORT-TERM, but evens out weeks later. This can help people understand why they are losing excessive weight in the beginning of their "keto journey" and then reaching the "hitting the wall" stage that is always posted merely 2-4 weeks after their journey starts.
The ketogenic diet was intended for medical purposes and has became routinely used as a marketing tool to sell people products and services. Ketogenic diets have their place in the reduction of seizure and maybe even the aid in fighting cancer. On the contrary, ketogenic diets (for the long-term) have not been shown to aid in FAT LOSS. Before making major shifts in your diet (such as going from the average American diet to a ketogenic diet), I heavily recommend you consult with a physician/credited nutritionist for actual GUIDANCE and less sales GIMMICKS.
With all your chest and back exercises you perform you have it all! You have a mass arsenal of exercises for your back, chest, and arms.... but what about the shoulders? In order to keep your shoulders healthy and proportional to the rest of your upper-body, it is important to perform exercises that strengthen the shoulders directly. An exercise that comes to mind when wanting to strengthen and build massive shoulders from home is the handstand push-up. Much like our How To Accomplish Your First Pull-Up article. this article will be outlining the steps you can take in order to accomplish your first handstand push-up.
1. Basic Pressing
When you think of handstand push-ups what do you first think of? Push-ups! Regular push-ups are the foundation for all your advanced pressing movements. Push-ups allow you to strengthen your pressing muscles (shoulders, arm, and chest muscles) and improve your core stability. If you are currently performing weight training, you should still perform this first step when striving for your first handstand push-up. By improving your push-ups (even achieving your first push-up) you bring yourself one step closer to accomplishing a handstand push-up.
2. Shoulder Strength
After developing the most basic form of pressing, it is time to emphasize your shoulder strength in order to improve the strength in your shoulders further. By performing pike push-ups you put yourself in a pressing angle which emphasizes the shoulders more and the pectorals (chest) less. By emphasizing your shoulders and a more upright position, you press more of your body-weight (increases difficulty/resistance) and develops your ability to press in a more upright position (in which the handstand is fully upright).
3. Shoulder Range Of Motion
In order to keep your shoulders healthy during the process of progressing from exercise to exercise you should incorporate exercises that take the shoulders through a longer range of motion. By performing dive-bomber push-ups, you take your shoulders through a longer range of motion without adding excessive difficulty (can perform multiple repetitions). Jumping straight from a short range of motion exercise with less resistance to an exercise with a longer range of motion and more resistance is never ideal. Performing a range of motion focused exercised before advancing to more difficult exercises aids in your strength through a longer range of motion needed for later exercises.
4. Progressing Strength
After progressing your strength in a longer range of motion, it is time for a harder variation of the pike push-up. By performing elevated pike push-ups, you add more resistance to your shoulder muscles (higher percentage of body-weight is pressed) and progresses you even further towards a more upright position.
5. Handstand Work
Without a doubt, handstand practice is vital before performing any sort of handstand push-up. How would you learn how to swim without ever being in water? Not only should you practice handstands alone, but practice handstands with scapula work in order to learn how to engage your entire group of shoulder muscles (for stability and strength). By performing handstand shrugs you get to kill two birds with one stone (handstand stability work and muscular development work).
6. The Handstand Push-Up
After getting through all steps listed above, it is time to try the handstand push-up. Although seemingly impossible, it is possible to just perform the steps listed above and accomplish a handstand push-up. There are no secret techniques, equipment/supplement scams, or magic shortcuts that are required in order to accomplish this feat of strength. By performing the exercises listed above and 6 months of ZERO handstand work, I was able to again perform a handstand push-up after an entire upper-body workout. Even before taking handstand push-ups out of my routine for a period of time, all the exercises listed above were staples in my weekly work out routine. Whether it be to impress your friends, build massive shoulders, or give yourself a challenge, pursuing and accomplishing your first handstand push-up can take your shoulder training to the NEXT LEVEL.
Putting It All Together
How To Progress