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Pushup Variations: Is there really that big of a difference?

October 7, 2020
Home scale and piece of wood
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Like many of you, Michael is doing virtual training right now, so he's has limited equipment. As such, he's done a whole of push variations over the past 7 months!
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His scientific mind wanted to quantify the differences between the variations - so he turned his training space into a lab and went to work! He measured the top position (so arms completely extended) and the bottom position (arms bent/end range of motion).
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He shared his results with me, and I was completely fascinated by what he'd discovered. And, of course, I wanted to share the results with you.
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HERE'S A COPY OF HIS EMAIL:
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As promised I measured the weight at the top and bottom position of different push ups and took the average of 3-5 attempts for each. I set up a digital scale under one hand, and a board under the other, so the hands were even height. Here's what I found:
Excel spreadsheet with results of test
  • My normal push up varies from 66%-80% of body weight (top-bottom).
  • It's obvious now that I think about it, but the hip tap loads the hand more straight arm, and the spiderman loads more bent arm. Duh.
  • The hip tap is the highest weight in one hand / arm.
  • Feet on a 15" bench is surprisingly minimal change. It loads the top slightly more but the push from the bottom is basically identical. It just stays the same as you push whereas a normal push up gets slightly lighter as you push.
  • I don't really have passable form in a typewriter push up but if I load the bottom position, it's for sure the heaviest variation at the bottom. These are way harder than I thought!
  • I tried the push up to side plank drill we've done for conditioning, it was identical to the hip tap (about 120lbs / 61%) in that arm at the top, but it feels like much less stabilization is occurring since everything is stacked.

Most surprising? Feet elevated made only a modest difference. Least surprising? Typewriter pushups are really hard! =)

Thanks for doing this, Michael! I love learning new things!

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