Month 1 (or Wave 1) of the Q3 Pushups & Pullups Specialization plan focuses on a superset of the following 2 movements performed back-to-back:
Slow Concentric Pushups
Slow Concentric 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.
The Concentric Phase of Movement occurs during the lifting phase when the muscles shorten & contract. Studies show that performing this phase as fast as possible with “explosive intent” increases both the rate of and overall force production, high-threshold motor unit recruitment and fast-twitch fiber activation. So it’s typically advised to always lift as fast as possible.
However, there are times when it makes sense to break the rules and slow down the lifting speed. A slower concentric phase may not initially activate as many motor units but it does increase force production by each fiber since fewer fibers are being used to create movement. In other words, lifting slowly requires more effort. And as time-under-tension builds and fatigue accumulates, eventually those higher-threshold fast-twitch fibers get recruited to finish off a set anyways.
In addition, slower concentric tempos increase mind-muscle connection, especially when you visualize flexing the target body zones as hard as possible every rep. When doing pushups, percolate your pecs and slowly squeeze your way to the top. When doing pullups, use your lats to lift you up an inch at a time as if floating to the heavens. Think of this as bodyweight bodybuilding. After all, your body is your barbell.
Finally, eliminating momentum means you can’t just blow past certain sticking points in the range of motion. This increases total body tensioning, improves joint positioning and fortifies the connective tissues. And when you start lifting fast again, you’re gonna feel explosive AF.
The companion PDF of the training plans outlines the prescribed reps for each drill. You’ll use the following weekly progression:
Week 1: 3 seconds concentric phase
Week 2: 4 seconds concentric phase
Week 3: 5 seconds concentric phase
Please note that the eccentric speed, or lowering/stretching phase, will be equivalent in duration to the concentric speed. For example, here’s your rep speed in Week 1: lower for 3 seconds inhaling through the nose, pause for a second, lift for 3 seconds exhaling through the mouth, and pause for a second.
You can also incorporate SINGLE-REP SETS where you lift & 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 going both up & down. 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.
SLOW CONCENTRIC 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 continue 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.
Looking to hit those chesticles from another angle? Try mixing in some DIPS performed at the same tempo. Just cut the prescribed reps each set in half since dips are at least twice as difficult as pushups. In other words, if the set calls for 10 pushups, do 5 dips.
As your strength increases, you must continue to push the envelope with your scapular mobility & stability work during warmups and recovery days so your joints can keep up with muscles. The FEET-ELEVATED SCAP PUSHUP (OR PUSHUP SHRUG) increases relative loading by shifting more of your bodyweight onto your hands. This will stimulate new muscle & strength gains in your serratus anterior muscles which protract (or push-away) the shoulder blades. Do sets of 5-10 reps.
SLOW CONCENTRIC PULLUPS
You can modify pullups by using 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 continue 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.
Looking for more variety? You can also substitute INVERTED OR BODYWEIGHT ROWS performed at the same tempo. Just double the prescribed reps each set since pullups are at least twice as difficult as the rows. In other words, if the set calls for 5 pullups, do 10 rows.
Finally, start adding WEIGHTED PULLUP SHRUGS (OR SCAP PULLUPS) to your warmup and recovery arsenal. This will further strengthen your mid and lower traps which pull the shoulder blades down and back. It will also prep your body for weighted pullups and other more advanced variations to come. Do sets of 5-10 reps. You can squeeze a med ball between your legs, wear a weight vest or hang plates from a dip belt.