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December 04, 2022 7 min read

Plyometric exercises are based on quick, powerful movements. Although many people associate plyometrics training with sports-related athletic performance, nearly anyone can improve their overall power and strength by including plyometrics in their workouts.

People who train for general fitness and enjoyment and competitive athletes can benefit from plyometrics.

Many athletes also find that they can work on improving specific aspects of their functionality in their chosen sport with plyometrics training. This applies mostly to sports that require explosiveness, which is the ability to generate short bursts of power quickly.

Although there are many exercise types with plyometrics, we will focus on plyo pushups in this article.

Plyometric (plyo) pushups are advanced exercise movements that build muscles in your chest, shoulders, and also your abs, and triceps. Plyo pushups include a “jumping” element that makes them more challenging and explosive, not recommended for beginners who have not yet developed good upper-body strength.

The Benefits of Plyo Pushups

When it comes to rugby players, football players, martial artists, and other elite athletes, power and strength are crucial. Landing knockout punches and warding off defenders require quick, forceful bursts of strength and speed, which is precisely what plyo pushups provide in loads.

They help build speed, strength, and endurance in the targeted muscles.

Rugby Players - Image from Shutterstock

The quick turnaround or amortization phase between concentric and eccentric phases of the muscle action in plyometric pushups prepares an athlete to use the SSC, or stretch-shortening cycle efficiently.

Plyometric exercises can increase your heart rate quickly.

Plyo pushups strengthen the shoulders, chest, core, and triceps.

Plyometrics target the fast-twitch muscle fibers, which carries over to increased speed and strength in pressing movements

Studies show that these types of high-intensity exercises are also effective at improving cardiovascular fitness, burning calories, and reducing body fat.

Combining plyo pushups along with other high-intensity interval training (HIIT) like jump squats and burpees can boost your cardio fitness while it enhances building strength.

Muscles Worked by Plyo Pushups

Plyo pushups strengthen many upper-body muscle groups and muscle fibers, including those listed below.

Rugby players – Image from Shutterstock

  • Chest

  • Shoulders

  • Triceps

  • Abdominals

Rugby players – Image from Shutterstock

While fast-twitch muscle training can help with your strength building, strong fast-twitch muscle fibers also play a crucial role in explosive moves in sports activities.

Plyometric Phases

Each cycle of a plyometric pushup involves three phases.

Eccentric Component:

This phase of plyometrics involves the preparation phase when muscles store potential energy while getting ready to perform a pushup. People use different terms to describe this phase, including loading, cocking, yielding, absorption, and deceleration phase. An example of this phase is when a person lowers themselves into a plank position before doing a pushup.

Amortization component:

This is the phase where the muscles undergo dynamic stabilization. The muscles transition from overcoming gravity and loading the stored energy, ready to be released. During this phase, the energy that is not used immediately gets lost. Therefore, the shorter the time of amortization, the more energy there is available the more powerful the release.

Concentric component:

The concentric component is the final phase that involves the contraction of the muscles to release the stored energy. During a plyo pushup, this phase occurs when you use the various muscle groups to lift your body for the brief moment it takes to lift your hands off the ground.

How to Do a Plyo Pushup

The plyo pushup is a bodyweight exercise, and you need no equipment to perform them. You can follow these steps to do this exercise at your local gym or at your home.

Starting position:

Start in a high plank position, or at the top of a standard pushup position. Ensure your torso is in a straight line and your hands, shoulder width or slightly wider apart, are directly below your shoulders. Engage, or tighten your core, and proceed as follows.

Here’s how to do plyo pushups:

Lower your body as if you’re doing a regular pushup until your chest almost touches the floor.

When you push up, do so with enough force to lift your body enough for your hands to leave the ground.

As you drop, land lightly on the ground, immediately moving into the next rep.

Don’t be overzealous if you’re a beginner, but aim for 2 or 3 sets of 5 to 10 reps as you progress.

Proper Form for Plyo Pushups

Like any other exercise, proper form and technique when performing plyo pushups are crucial. Before exploring plyometric push-up variations, let’s deal with push-up basics to avoid injuries. These points apply to all versions of plyo pushups, whether you do them for weight loss, strength building like bench presses, powerlifting, or because you are a fitness enthusiast.

Keep a neutral back by engaging your core and tucking your rib cage.

Ensure your body forms one straight line from the back of your head to your toes.

Move your whole body as a single unit.

Your hand placement can be shoulder width or slightly more if that is more comfortable. As you progress you might find a wide grip or narrow grip can target different muscles or intensify muscle activation. Wider placement will target the chest muscles, and a narrower grip will emphasize triceps activation.

Plyometric Push-Up Variations

Once you have mastered the plyo pushup technique you might want to challenge yourself a bit more. Let’s look at the variations, some more challenging than others. However, make sure you maintain the proper form, regardless of the variety you choose to tackle.

1. Clapping Push-Up

Pushing your upper body with enough force to lift your hands off the floor can be tough, but once the basic plyo pushup becomes too easy you could attempt to clap your hands once before landing back in the starting position.

Naturally, clapping push-ups require more power and strength than regular plyo push-ups because you’ll need more explosive power to lift your upper body high enough to allow bringing your hands together. Furthermore, you’ll need speed and coordination for your reflexes to be quick enough to add a clap and still get your hands back in position to prevent falling on your face.

That kind of speed can significantly improve the reflexes of athletes like Olympic weightlifters.

2. Incline Plyometric Push-Up

Learning to do incline plyo pushups is a great way to improve your range of motion.

You’ll need a bench or another stable elevated surface where you will put your hands, while your feet must be on the floor. The power and strength benefits will be similar, but the angle of the incline version of the plyo pushup will allow you to focus more on your upper-chest muscles.

You can make this even more challenging by doing decline pushups with your feet on a step or low bench and your hands on the floor. Having enough explosive power for this version is essential to avoid injury.

3. Superman Push-Ups

You’d know that reaching superman status is not for the inexperienced when it comes to plyo pushups. The Superman push-up is an advanced plyometric push-up that requires you to have enough power to lift your whole body off the floor. That means not only your hands but also your feet must lose contact with the floor. Along with superpowers, you’ll also need shoulder and spine mobility to achieve that Superman pose at the top.

4. Diamond Plyo Push-Up

If you’re a weightlifter you’ll know that the lockout phase in overhead lifts and pressing require incredibly strong triceps. The diamond push-up is done with your hands in a narrower position. That allows you to target your triceps.

This pushup form is significantly more challenging than the basic plyo pushup because your base will be so much narrower, targeting the triceps, which is a smaller muscle group.

5. Knee Plyometric Push-Up

Start in a plank position to do the knee plyo pushup, but instead of having your legs stretched out, put your knees on the floor. Although this version is easier to master it takes exceptional strength to perform the lowering of your upper body because it must be done slowly.

Although this is the knee version, it helps to get your upper body ready as if you’re going to do the full version. For gaining maximum strength, do the eccentric phase (lowering) of the movement very slowly before you explode upward to lift your hands off the floor.

6. Band-Assisted Plyometric Push-Up Variations

You can do the resistance band plyo pushups according to your level of experience. The elevated or inclined version is easier to begin with because you place your hands on a sturdy bench. When you’re ready for the more difficult pushups you can do them without the bench but on the floor.

Quarter Extensions: Do these at a low height (Using a bench) with a resistance band around your chest. Do small plyometric hops to build and improve rhythm, most beneficial in training for repeated explosive motions. This version is even great for a pre-workout dynamic exercise to warm up and get your heart beat up.

Full Extensions: Done at a medium height, these resistance band plyo pushups can help you to improve the timing and rhythm for the landing and transition phase.

Full Extensions: The full height version is the main resistance band plyo pushup variation, specifically for power development. With an engaged core, push with full intent on each rep. You want to spend minimum time touching the floor or bench and maximize explosiveness.

You may find that you can vary the effect on the muscles and performance by changing the position of the resistance band to anywhere between your chest and your hips.

Safety Tips

  • As mentioned, plyo pushups are not recommended for beginners. High levels of upper-body and shoulder strength and core stability are necessary to reduce the risk of injury.
  • Avoid plyo pushups if during the recovery time after an injury.
  • Keep your hips at the same level throughout plyo pushups, and your upper thighs in line with your torso.
  • It is essential to keep your core engaged throughout the movement to help protect your back
  • Plyo pushups are high intensity exercises, and you should allow your upper body muscles at least 48 hours to recover before repeating a plyo pushup workout.

Conclusion

Plyo pushups are challenging plyometric exercises that can help you build upper-body strength, endurance, cardio fitness, and agility. You can benefit even more by combining the plyo pushups with other plyometric exercises, such as frog squat jumps, burpees, and jump squats.

If you’re new to plyometrics and intend to do pushups, you are advised to reach out to a certified personal trainer to demonstrate the entire range of motion, and also watch you for the first while to check your technique and form.

As with any exercise type, recovery time is crucial.

Always prepare your muscles with warm-up stretches, and do post-workout stretches to allow your muscles to recover and remain flexible. Done correctly, plyometric pushups in their various forms can significantly benefit your overall power, strength, and performance.