PUSHUPS & PULLUPS SPECIALIZATION PLAN:
Month 3 of the Q2 Pushups & Pullups Specialization plan focuses on a superset of the following 2 movements performed back-to-back:
Super Slow Eccentric Pushups
Super Slow Eccentric Pullups
Rest 30-60 seconds between moves. Rest 3-5+ minutes between supersets. Please download the companion PDF for a customized training plan for your current fitness level, including 5 unique training schedules to choose from based on your individual goals, recovery & schedule.
Eccentric training is a research-proven & battle-tested method to increase strength & muscle size plus bulletproof the joints. The eccentric (or negative) phase of movement occurs during the stretching section where your muscles are at their strongest. In the case of a pushup or pullup, that’s during the descent.
Typical accentuated eccentric training tempos last 3-5 seconds. Super Slow Eccentrics last at least 6 seconds and up to 30 seconds or longer based on the desired training effect or prescribed set/rep parameters. And for those trainees currently unable to perform unassisted pushups & pullups, it’s the key stepping stone to doing your very first rep.
Super Slow Eccentrics can be done 2 ways this month:
Smooth means a steady & supple unbroken pace from top to bottom with a 6-10 second inhale through the nose based on the week of training. Being able to maintain a constant slow rate of speed during the stretching phase will allow you to fully tap into the stretch reflex pain-free when we move to faster reps in future phases of training.
Segmented means brief intermittent stops along the way with pulsing inhales through the nose between stops. This will boost isometric strength at key sticking points. Start with 3-5 stops in the beginning and build up to 10 stops over time for the ultimate display of movement mastery and body control.
The companion PDF of the training plans outlines the prescribed reps for each drill. But you can also incorporate SINGLE-REP SETS where you lower as slow as possible (ASAP). Please note that you will likely need to do multiple slow inhales through the nose & exhales through the mouth during a 15+ second eccentric phase. You could also try inhaling as slow as possible and then using a breath hold the rest of the way. For best results with this technique, I highly recommend closing your eyes and focusing on the primary movers to max out the mind-muscle connection.
SUPER SLOW ECCENTRIC PUSHUPS
You can modify the pushups by lowering from the toes and then cheating up from the knees. Or you can elevate your hands on a low box/step or bench to unload your bodyweight. The best option for this variation is an adjustable aerobics step with risers so you can seamlessly micro-load up or down based on your current strength level.
You can also begin to mix up your hand-placement. Closer-grips increase the range of motion (ROM) and mobility demands plus make the triceps & anterior shoulders work harder. Wider-grips decrease ROM, max out the pec contribution and require more shoulder stability. Please note that as your grip widens, your hands will gradually flare out more much like the feet do with squatting.
Another killer variation is CRUSH-GRIP using a med ball or dumbbells. The squeezing action, or adduction, increases both chest and core activation. The pump is pretty precious.
As your strength increases, you must continue to push the envelope with your mobility & stability work during warmups and recovery days so your joints can keep up with muscles. The 1-ARM DOWNWARD DOG will start prepping your body for single-arm plank and pushup work in addition to strengthening imbalances between sides. Do sets of 3-5 reps/side deeply inhaling through the nose into the belly when hinging back and fully exhaling through the mouth to return to the starting position. Add a single-arm scap pushup to start each rep for best results, inhaling through the nose going down and exhaling through the mouth going up while keeping the arm straight.
SUPER SLOW ECCENTRIC PULLUPS
You can modify the pullups by jumping up or stepping up to the top before lowering unassisted. You can also use the self-assisted option with your feet on the floor or on a low box/step or bench for higher bar setups. Use as much assistance as needed to get to the top but then strive for little to no assistance during the descent.
And feel free to start mixing up your grips. Closer-grips increase ROM and mobility demands plus boost arm activation. Wider-grips decrease ROM, make the back work harder and require more shoulder stability. Underhand tends to be the strongest grip since the biceps can maximally assist and your shoulders are most stable when externally-rotated. The palms-facing neutral or hammer-grip shifts the work from the biceps to the brachialis and is the most joint-friendly option. You can even start working in the most challenging grip, overhand, which minimizes arm assistance to max out lat, rear shoulder and upper/mid back activation.
Finally, start adding SELF-ASSISTED 1-ARM HANGS & SHRUGS to your warmup and recovery arsenal. They pair perfectly with the aforementioned 1-arm down dogs and take so much tension out of your spine & shoulders.. Do submaximal hangs/side for time or sets of 3-5 reps/side for the shrugs, inhaling through the nose going down and exhaling through the mouth going up.