Explosive Pushups to Increase Your Bench Pressing Power and Pectoral Definition

February 22, 2008

I am a big fan of including ballistic movements to break through strength training plateaus.

For the most part I like the slow and steady approach with heavy weights, but including explosive movements is a way to shock your nervous system into delivering more voltage to your muscles. If you are at a sticking point with any of your pressing type movements, you are going to love this technique!

explosive pushups to develop pressing power
[True strength training is “nervous system” training. An efficient nervous system will send stronger electric signals to your muscles, generate stronger contractions, allowing you to lift heavier weights. This is how someone can get stronger without getting bigger.]

Your Body is Capable of Lifting Really Heavy Weights

Your muscles and skeletal structure have the ability to lift a serious amount of weight. You have a lot of strength that you have yet to “access”. Know what a “speed limiter” chip is? High powered sports cars sold in the US have microchips that make sure the cars only reach a certain speed.

The car may have the horsepower to reach 200MPH, but the “electronic chip” insures that the car only reaches 128MPH. Your body is just like this. Your nervous system is like a “speed limiter” to your muscles.

Why Does Our Body Limit The Power Our Muscles Generate?

If our muscles flexed 100% they would rip off the bone!

The body limits our ability to contract the muscles 100% as a protective mechanism. The problem is that this protective mechanism is way too conservative. Most of us aren’t lifting anywhere close to a level that is dangerous.

What we need to do is let our body know that it is “okay” for a muscles to contract hard. How do we do this?

Avoid “Training to Failure” is a Key to Gaining Strength

Training to failure is a great bodybuilding technique, but a poor strength training technique. The problem with training to failure is that it reinforces your “speed limiter”.

I know this sounds “spacey” and a bit out there, but hitting failure will teach your nervous system to send “weaker” signals to your muscles. Forced reps are just as bad, if not worse. What you want to do is create a serious “surge” to your muscles, without hitting failure.

How to Send Increasing “Voltage” to Your Muscles

If you stop short of failure, you are telling your nervous system that what just happened was “okay and normal”. Whatever action you took was well within the abilities of your muscles.

If hitting failure sends negative feedback, stopping short of failure give your body positive feedback. A great example of this is the squats vs bench pressing…I’m not a big fan of squats, but people typically gain strength for years when squatting. The same people hit sticking points all the time when bench pressing.

One of the big differences is that most lifters stop short of failure on squats but go to failure all the time while pressing. Something to think about.

Literally Shock Your Muscles With Explosive Movements

An explosive movement is created by a jolt of electricity to the muscles. The nervous system tells your muscles to contract hard at a quick rate.

The more efficient your nervous system becomes, the quicker the muscle contracts and the more explosive the movement becomes. The key is to perform explosive movements stopping well short of failure, if you want to get better at hard and quick contractions.

You want to avoid muscle fatigue, because that will limit your ability to perform your best at an explosive movement. Think of a boxer. His punches are the most explosive at the beginning of a boxing match.

So Lets Talk About Why Pushups Will Help Your Bench

The best weight to create a good explosive movement is about 50-60% of the weight you would use for a heavy set. If you go too heavy it won’t have the desired effect on your nervous system, plus I’m against going heavy on ballistic movements for safety reasons.

When you are lifting heavy, go slow and steady. If you go too light, your muscles won’t have to contract hard to lift the weight. The problem with benching a weight in an explosive manner is that you have to “hold back” a bit.

At the midway point of the lift you can’t continue to explode, otherwise your elbows will lock-out really hard. With pushups you don’t have this problem. You can explode as hard as possible throughout the entire movement.

Once you reach the end of the movement your hands jump off the floor a few inches. When you do pushups, you are typically only lifting 60% of your body weight. Pushups are the perfect ballistic exercise for your upper body.

How to Do Explosive Pushups for Maximum Power

Keep your hands shoulder width apart, drop down to the floor, once you reach the bottom push as hard as possible. You want to explode off the ground. I like to think of this as a vertical leap with my arms, shoulders, and chest.

Once your hands make contact with the floor, drop down in a quick manner and explode off the floor again. Do this for 3-5 reps. Instead of doing just a couple of sets with 20-50 reps like normal pushup routines, you are going to want to do many sets of low reps.

Remember…higher reps are going to cause muscle fatigue, which will limit the amount of voltage you can deliver to your muscles. I like to do 6-8 sets of 3 reps and focus on how far I can make my upper body jump off the floor on each set.

Do This After Your Strength Training Routine

I work chest and back on the same day. I like to do chest first, then back. I have been finishing off with this explosive pushup routine after I work my back. You can certainly experiment with doing these before or after lifting.

I like to do it at the end of my workout, because I feel like my muscles and joints are warmed up and ready to do this without pulling anything.

You Will Notice an Immediate Increase in Muscle Definition

I have been doing this for the past two weeks and I have already noticed a dramatic increase in upper body muscle definition. My triceps are looking better than ever and the line down the middle of my chest is much more pronounced.

To be honest, my abs and shoulders look sharper than normal as well. To get a maximum explosion of the floor, you need to make your body stiff as a board. Without even trying you will tense up your entire mid section to make this happen. I did this exercise a few years ago, but completely forgot about how effective this is.

Pretty amazing at how something so basic, is so effective.

Note: You still want to lift slow and steady when you do your pressing movements. What you will find is that these weights will feel lighter in your hands after doing this pushup routine a few times.

Did incline dumbbell presses today and my normal weight felt way lighter in my hands. It was a crazy feeling!

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{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

Christian February 22, 2008 at 5:24 am

Great article! I’ve been performing explosive bodyweight exercises for some time and have it had a significant impact on my strength and definition. Explosive pull ups work in a very similar way and they can help you gain the power needed to perform muscle ups too.

shane marbry February 22, 2008 at 8:15 am

cool man, i tried this and it really goes well with the planks for you abbs.while im resting i do my planks:)i still feels weird doing such low reps tho.when you do dumbell curls what weight do you use?just so ill know.

Raven February 22, 2008 at 9:18 am

Awesome tip Rusty! Your site is really inspiring and full of great info!

Helder February 22, 2008 at 10:41 am

My favourite way of training, fast, the big problem about telling someone to lift fast is that many people will think that lifting fast is cheating, bouncing or whatever, and most of them get hurt, but if a person keeps in mind that fast lifting has to be done correctly then there will be no problem. I use to train slow and i still believe that like in everything else about training and nutrition, variety is the key, so we should use different training tempos, but the one i use more is the 101, that means fast lifting and fast controled lowering too, i usually use this in 3×3, the best method i ever used, that´s 3 sets of 3 reps, done fast and never to failure. I’ve never been so defined like when i did 3×3 fast, it’s the method i use the most, for those who never tried give it a shot. Just remember when lifting fast you still have to control the weights and use proper form. About the pushups you’re very right Rusty, they can really help you getting stronger on the bench, another good example would be the jumping squats, just with your bodyweight. Very good post Rusty.

jake February 22, 2008 at 11:42 am

awesome article! i want to ask an off topic question your 21 day beach body cardio(60 min program). how many pounds can you lose I am 177 and was wondering if its possible to lose 7 lbs. I wanted to get under 170.I took a month break because I hit a plateau and I remained the same weight which is good 3 weeks at same weight during my maitenence. So I figured that once i start this cardio I will shed even more. I was just wondering how much you have lost in the past on this

Mark McCullagh February 22, 2008 at 1:27 pm


The funny thing is that I have been doing pushups lately and some of the guys I work with were talking up how they like using those swivelling push up handles so I bought some this AM and I can’t wait to try them out.

I am training right now in the exercise room in my condo and the equipment is limited but I find that pushups are great, especially when you superset them with dumbell incline press.

It always amazes me when, for example, I was thinking about pushups and excited to try these pushup handles and I open my email to find that you have written an article about ….pushups.

Ryan February 22, 2008 at 3:52 pm

Rusty, i like how you recommend doing low reps, but many sets. I think people tend to minimize their number of sets too much when they’re trying to build muscle because they go overboard with the ‘less is better’ principle. Definitely agree with the idea of many low rep sets.

Lauren February 22, 2008 at 5:48 pm

Just stumbled upon your site. Very glad I did. This is a very refreshing post about a topic not many trainers are knowledgeable on. I personally do a lot of rebound explosive work after heavy lifting. Contrast training does wonders to the workout and to increase strength and power. For example, when I’m squatting at the end I’ll often do a set rebound vertical jumps. i.e. hit the floor, jump again. very simple but I find it does wonders for my squat, and most importantly vertical jump. The one thing is though with explosive training, it is a little more work through your joint. In my case (professional volleyballer) doing too much of that mixed with court trainings, does get me pretty sore through my joints. Get the loads right and some explosive rebound work can be a real gem to break through to the next level. Nice post.

Ron February 22, 2008 at 11:35 pm

Is this the same as the push-ups where you clap in between each one?

admin February 23, 2008 at 1:52 am


I love your blog. I’ll give you a plug, because I think you have extremely well put together articles with UNIQUE content. Plus you have sent a lot of traffic my way. Christian’s Blog: http://justaguything.com


I haven’t done explosive curls. I use 50-55 pound dumbbells for my work sets when doing dumbbell curls, but I haven’t tried explosive curls. I will probably give explosive chinups a try, since I could use a kick in the butt to get stronger at chinups…this will add to bicep and forearm definition.


Thanks a bunch. I think I did too many diet articles in a row, so I’m going to focus a bit on lifting and scientific studies for the next few posts.


I like explosive movements for legs for sure. In fact, I’m not a huge fan of slow lifts at all for legs, but I’m easing up a bit on my opinion that people should avoid squats and deadlifts. I know that some people need to do them for a short period of time to build a nice foundation in their legs. I think the best looking legs are created by explosive body weight exercises…sprinting, running hills, running stairs, jumping, jumping rope, etc. Great comment as always!


If you can focus for 21 days like never before, you could easily burn 7-10 pounds of body fat in 3 weeks. Just like you said, your metabolism is jacked up a bit since you haven’t dieted hard in a few weeks. All conditions are perfect for a huge body composition change. It is okay to be “obsessed” for short periods of time. Make it happen!


I guess I’m psychic. To be honest one of the regular readers “called me out” and said I was doing too many dieting posts. I guess I was focusing on diet because I know that is such a big key on getting lean. He is right, so I’m going to mix it up a bit more.


I love how your Fitconnect is coming together. Your site is growing at a steady pace and you guys have everything in place to go huge.

Note: If you guys haven’t joined Fitconnect yet, take the time to join. It is a great bunch of positive people who discuss fitness strategies. I haven’t made any enemies yet, since I’ve been on my best behavior πŸ™‚ (believe me there are a few guys that deserve a serious roasting, but 99% of the people have a great attitude). Ryan is the co-founder. It is basically like a more interactive version of Myspace, but focused on Fitness. One last comment…Ryan and Troy obviously have the skill to attract great people. They are doing a wonderful job.

(add me to your “fitster” list…basically a “friend” in Fitconnect)


You have a great site as well. I just read your article, Dieting, Why is it So Hard? Brilliant article. Really nice site, by the way…I know the time commitment involved in maintaining such a solid site with great content. Keep it up! Great stuff.


I don’t like to clap between reps because in order to do so, you back off a tiny bit on the explosive movement towards the top in order to get your hands in clapping position. I feel a harder contraction if I just keep my arms at shoulder width the entire time. It doesn’t look as fancy, but it is more effective in my opinion.

Nice comments people!


Peter February 23, 2008 at 2:35 am

Hey Rusty great article yet again bro I gotta try this, for some some reason whenever I do these types of calisthenics movements at the gym thesearnold wannabe type dudes look at me funny like I am a girly man lol. A couple of questions for you, one is for chest what is the right balance in your opinion in terms of incline/flat, do you do ALL incline presses and flies or maybe throw in one flat press/fly moment each workout? Also if you could share you workout schedule that’d be cool like how many days a week you workout and what u do each day. I do 4 days a week only focusing on one group each day Chest, back, shoulders, and then arms with WED off in between. I also do 20 min or 25 min of cardio depending on if I work abs that day too. This leads me to my last Q , when you do arms what do you feel is the right amount of tricep work? Currently I’m considering doing what Pitt did in fight club 3×3 for biceps and only 1 exercise of 3 sets for tris. Should I maybe make it 2×3 for tris. I don’t want to overdevelop them because I realize they get hit on both chest and shoulder day. I also feel that large, meaty triceps hanging off the back of your arm are un sleek and kind of meathead looking moreso than large biceps IMO. However I don’t want to do too little; would you go with 1×3 or 2×3?

Hassan February 23, 2008 at 2:04 pm

was just reading, can i have a link to the 21 day workout if its on here, i want to give that a shot.

Ron February 23, 2008 at 3:13 pm

If you’re able to find one, I’d love to see a good video example of these pushups.

Brad February 23, 2008 at 11:00 pm

Hey Rusty, good article. I’m definitely going to incorporate explosive pushups into my routine now! How much do you rest between you’re sets of explosive pushups though?
Also, for about 4-6 weeks I was losing bodyfat and I went from 203 to 191. I’ve been trying to maintain that for the last 3-4 weeks as I am now 192.
Now, starting Monday, I’m going to go on a 6 week fat loss phase. I know I could drop weight really quick but I’m going to try and take it slow so I can keep building strength and not lose muscle mass. My goal is to lose 8-10 pounds in these next 6 weeks. I’ve been reading a lot about Jason Stathum’s routine in which he lost 17 pounds in 6 weeks working out doing high intensity circuits with weights and body weight as well as some interval training. He also eats 2000 calories a day which I’m sure in the end is the biggest key to his success. I noticed he doesn’t do a whole lot of direct cardio training. But his workouts are done in a HIIT kind of fashion. What do you think of his training style and do you think I could be successful doing these kind of workouts? I still plan on doing HIIT at least 2-3 times per week but I’m not sure if I should do as much steady state cardio at the same time I’m doing these extremely intense workouts.
Sorry for rambling on there, I would really like to know what you think though as I truly respect you’re opinion.
Thanks again for the article, I can’t wait to incorporate these kind of explosive pushups into my routine. Take care!

admin February 24, 2008 at 4:50 am


What is funny is that lifting weights is a lot easier than many of the bodyweight exercises. The reason you don’t see a lot of these guys doing dips, pullups, pushups, running stairs, etc…is that many of these guys have a terrible strength to weight ratio. I remember reading how a high level bodybuilder competing in the Mr. Olympia contest couldn’t do 3 chinups! Sorry, but that is pathetic. The same guy could bench 500+, but the point is that benching strength doesn’t really mean too much as far as “real world” function goes. Pulling or pushing around your own weight is functional strength that applies to all types of athletic endeavors.

My current workout (it changes a bit depending upon how busy I am):

Chest (2-3 exercises 10-12 sets total of 3-5 reps)
Back (2-3 exercises 10-12 sets total of 3-5 reps)
Planks (2-3 sets for as long as I can hold position)
HIIT 10-15 minutes
Steady State Cardio 20 Minutes
Explosive Pushups 6-8 sets of 3-5 reps

Shoulders (2 exercises 10 sets total of 3-5 reps)
Biceps (2 exercises 10 sets total of 3-5 reps)
Triceps (2 exercises 10 sets total of 3-5 reps)
HIIT 10-15 minutes
Steady State Cardio 20 Minutes

My “Experimental” Day of fat burning. I may go to a track and try to run 3 one mile sprints with two minutes of rest in between. I may do that barbell circuit training routine. I may run some “Real Stairs” outside. This is really a “learning day” for me…to see what type of training really creates a nice fat burning effect. There are so many crazy ways to burn body fat…this one keeps my body guessing. This would be a day where I would possibly jump rope as well.

Wednesday: Chest and Back…the same as Sunday

Thursday: Shoulders, Biceps, Triceps…Same as Monday

Fri and Sat off completely.

Note: If I miss Tuesday, I’ll do a quick cardio workout on Friday or Saturday. My workouts generally take about an hour and 15 minutes. Out of the 10-12 total sets per body part only 4-5 are sets that “feel” heavy. You don’t need that much rest in between sets when you are only doing 3-5 reps. The lifting part of the workout goes by quickly. My workouts have been a little longer just because I want to be a tiny bit sharper for summer.

Your question about incline vs flat bench. I do inclines for about 2/3 of my chest lifts and do them when I’m fresh at the beginning of the workout. Every once in a while I will skip flat bench presses all together for a short period of time. I think 2/3 of your lifts being incline is a good rule of thumb.

Triceps…Your right about not needing that much work. I’m a big fan of the Hammer Strength dip machine. Doing those along with some explosive pushups will do wonders. I really don’t do many tricep isolation moves. I like dip and close grip bench press variations. The strange thing is that I love isolation moves for biceps…go figure.

Hope that helps!


My first “Free e-book” is going to outline this workout. It will be as good as many paid e-books, but giving away massive value for free is a way to reach a large number of people. This is the workout I did to get in shape for a trip to Mexico. That “James Bond Swimsuit” picture is about 1/2 of a week into the trip. I looked quite a bit better on day one of the trip, but still had decent definition after a few days into a wild vacation. For some reason I can’t find the section where I did a quick outline of it. It isn’t in a post…it in response to someone’s comment. I’ll try to find it, but to be honest…my e-book will be 10 times more detailed.


I’ll look, but nothing like I described exactly so far. I’ll make video’s some day. It may not be for another year or so.


I view Steady State Cardio as bonus calories burned. Your body and heart rate is so jacked up after a strong bout of HIIT or circuit training, that with very little effort you can burn quite a few more calories jumping on an exercise bike or jogging on a treadmill. For less effort than normal, you can really keep that heart rate up there. It is taking advantage of a small “window of opportunity” in a sense.

Jason Statham has incredible muscle density.
Jason Statham
He would be slightly sharper if he added a bit of cardio in there. He is built like a true fighter which makes his character believable, but if I was in a movie I would want to get to Brad Pitt and Ryan Reynolds level of sharpness. With a bit of cardio, I know he be able to shed that last 3-5 pounds of fat which would make him look even more bad-ass. His face would look a bit more GQ as well. Note…he does look a bit more ripped when he is in motion. Pictures probably don’t do him as much justice as compared to when you see him in movies. Bruce Lee was like this as well.

Have a great one!


Peter February 24, 2008 at 12:53 pm

Rusty, wow thanks man! What a detailed answer, that is why I dig this site so much, on another fitness site the guy woulda answered with 2 sentences. You are also right about some of the big guys not being able to do bodyweight exercises. I once saw a 250 pound guy who was pretty muscular but not defined at all struggling to do dips. That is even more pathetic than not being able to do chinups IMO lol. I’m going this weekend to do rock climbing with my buddy, am I right in thinking it could be a good new form of cardio?

Brad February 24, 2008 at 3:58 pm

Rusty, I agree. Jason would look better if he did some more cardio to get rid of the last few pounds. Don’t get me wrong, he is in great shape and has great muscle density, but he doesn’t look as sharp as Brad Pitt or Ryan Reynolds.
I do plan to do plenty of cardio, but do you think his weight barring exercises would be a good approach as far as my weight lifting goes? Thanks!

Brad February 24, 2008 at 4:50 pm

Hey Rusty, one more question. In Jason Stathams workout, it seems like he is working certain muscle groups everyday. For example, he does some kind of chest work 2 days in a row and 4 days a week. A lot of that work is coming from pushups though. Are bodyweight exercises such as pushups, chinups, pullups, dips etc… are those exercises you can do on back to back days or should I ideally wait a couple days before I did trained those muscles again? Obviously I wouldn’t ever do incline bench presses two days in a row, do those rules not apply when it comes to pushups?

admin February 25, 2008 at 1:30 am


I take the replies back to you guys as important as the posts. The internet is a “permanent record”. I can answer your question and help you…and I love doing that…but at some point someone with the same question will read this comment section and get their question answered. I love that! What I like just as much is when you guys add your experiences as well. This is becoming a really good resource for people…you guys are playing a major role in this. I enjoy interacting with so many great people.


You can work muscle groups often if you don’t “break the muscle down”. Olympic lifters do low reps and work the same muscle groups 5-6 times per week. They don’t train to failure or do forced reps. High level bodybuilders on the other hand blitz a muscle group to death and sometimes don’t work that same muscle group again for up to 6-7 days.

So my indirect answer is this…if you keep the volume and reps low like an Olympic lifter and don’t reach failure, you can work the same lifts or exercises more often.

One exception to this…if you chose just one muscle group like chest for instance and cut the volume in half for other muscle groups…you can specialize. You could do push ups almost everyday for a month to really get your chest density and tone increase.

Sorry for such an open-ended answer, but there are a lot of variables here.


Brad February 25, 2008 at 5:09 pm

Hey Rusty, no need to appologize for the open ended answer, I appreciate the response! I would absolutely like to increase the muscle density all over my upper body, not just my chest. I need to increase density and tone in my arms, back and shoulders as well.
That said, I think I’m going to include pushups with every weight workout I do, not just upper body. So that means I will be doing pushup variations 4 days a week. For my back and arms could I do pullups, chinups and dips 4 days a week as well, at least for a month to increase density and tone?
I really enjoy these bodyweight exercises and I definitely wouldn’t mind doing them 4 days a week with each weight lifting workout.
Also, you mentioned olympic weight lifting which I’ve spent time with before. I’ve read that most pro athletes use these lifts to put on mass. Eventually after I maintain a low bodyfat for a long period of time, I might want to try and add 10 pounds of functional lean mass while getting stronger and more athletic. Do you think olympic lifting is a good approach if adding lean mass is my goal?
Thanks for you’re time, this site is a big help for me. I started using explosive pushups today for the first time and did 8 sets of 5 reps with 15 seconds rest in between sets. Great way to finish a workout!

Brad February 25, 2008 at 5:50 pm

One more question if you would. I know you’ve been done the 3 meals per day dies and the warrior diet. What does you’re diet look like right now and would you mind giving me an example of what a typical eating day would look like on you’re current schedule. And if you can remember that far back, what was a typical eating day like for you when you originally decided you wanted to lose a lot of weight and get real lean.
Thanks Rusty, I enjoyed seeing what your workout routine looked like above, thats why I thought I’d try and see what your nutrition schedule looked like.

admin February 25, 2008 at 11:42 pm


I don’t think Olympic lifting is the quickest route to lean mass. Olympic lifting is amazing for muscle density and performance. Lean mass is easy to gain…Just increase the volume of lifts, the reps, decrease the rest in between sets, increase the calories a bit, back off of cardio a bit. Aim to get progressively stronger in the 6-12 rep range.

Once you get to a size you like, you will spend the rest of your life just increasing the density of those muscles without adding mass. You are also going to try and maintain a reasonable body fat percentage year round. Believe it or not, you can look better year after year. You don’t have to look worse as you age.

My diet to slim down was really simple.

Here is what I ate Sun-Thursday

6AM Myoplex Shake
1PM Myoplex Shake
Workout at 5:30
Sensible meal at 7:30 PM
A Glass of water and an apple if I got hungry later in the evening.

Friday and Saturdays

8AM Myoplex Shake
Occasional “Bar food” and beer, etc.

Note: If I knew I was going to eat at a bar on Friday or Saturday…I ate very low carb on Wed and Thursday.

I wish it was more complicated, but I kept it simple.


Hulbs February 26, 2008 at 6:28 am

Great Post rusty,

Seeing as I am doing chest and back tomorrow i’m going to finish off my workout with some of these explosive push ups.

I think it is just what i need as i notice i have plateued a bit in strength particularily my chest (my worst muscle group unfortunately!)


Hassan February 27, 2008 at 12:56 pm

i know what you mean it would be more detailed, i just want a qucik routine to get me in shape, before i end up slacking off like usual, i think i have around 10 pounds of fat to lose, and just want an effective routine to get that burned off really, can you help me with a routine to do this if its not a big ask.

admin February 29, 2008 at 12:12 am


You are built a lot like me. Tall guy with long arms and long legs. Let me guess…you are probably strong as hell with curls and “rowing motions”. Doing presses with long arms is a lot of work. Just keep hitting it.


You may have mentioned this already, but do you belong to a gym. I’ll give you a good workout, if I know what you have access to. Losing 10 pounds is a breeze, if you approach it right.


Hulbs February 29, 2008 at 8:27 am

Will do Rusty,

You guessed right it re. curls as they seem so natural for me and i’m pretty strong at them at least for my size. i do them as my first bicep exercise and then i do shoulder width pull ups (hands towards). the pull ups replaced the seated preacher curls i used to do and i think i’m getting better results this way. i like to incorporate as many body weight exercises as possible in my weight routine.



Hassan February 29, 2008 at 8:36 pm

i have access to a gym at home, i haveall the free weights needed, including dumbell and barbell with weights upto 100kg, i have access to an exercise bike as well. is that enough? i am also doing the warrior diet atm, as i want to drop weight quickly.

Hassan February 29, 2008 at 8:37 pm

oh yeah im also 5’4 tall and about 11 stones whatever weight range that is, i have a natural muscular lukin build, so im big boned as everyone tells me, and most of my weight comes from my legs, as they have been over developed. my fat level isnt too mch, because i think i am around 15% bf.

Mongo March 2, 2008 at 4:47 am


Got an alternatlive workout question for ya. I was doing great on the HIIT coupled with Warrior Diet, but about a month ago I was rundown on a go-kart track (stop laughing) and really hyper extended my knee. Doc said about 6 – 12 weeks of no real running or biking , just give it time to heal. But now I am struggling to lose weight again. I don’t want to up the weight training cause my body type gains mass easily. I really just want to keep moving forward to my goal weight of 165, right now I’m 208. Any suggestions for a injury friendly cardio plan? Thanks.


admin March 2, 2008 at 4:31 pm


You would do well with a circuit training routine, followed by 20-30 minutes on your exercise bike. Seriously, right now I would focus on slimming down. It seems that are a naturally muscular guy. I had a training partner that fit your exact description. He looks way better now that he focuses on cardio.

Circuit Training Routine

Do this 3 times per week followed by the exercise bike. Add two other days of just cardio.


Haven’t you ever played “Frogger”? You are suppose to jump out of the way! If you have a knee injury it is best to probably avoid cardio for now. Make sure you start dieting strictly to create a calorie deficit. You can actually make decent fat loss progress from diet alone. I would do that and continue to lift for your upper body. Get better!


Hassan March 2, 2008 at 4:59 pm

when you say 20-30 minutes, is that HIIT or normal cardio?…how much do you reckon is a good amount to lose, currently what im doing is the warrior diet like i mentioned, and doing a split of strength training, such as 3 reps for lyk 4 sets on each exercise, iv been doing some of these pushups and they feel great.

admin March 3, 2008 at 12:47 pm


Do 20-30 minutes of HIIT most of the time, but throw in normal cardio about once per week. It is hard for me to guess how much you need to lose exactly without seeing you. What I would recommend is to just workout hard and get to the point where your abs are sharp. As long as you keep the volume low, you should wind up with the ideal amount of mass. These pushups do work very well.

Have a great one!


Hassan March 3, 2008 at 4:18 pm

what about strength training?

Rich March 3, 2008 at 10:38 pm

Thank You for the awesome info. I was wondering if you ever thought about posting a specific workout plan with this. One last question, do you always use 50-60% of the weight you would normally use if you were lifting heavy for 8-10 reps?

Thanks again,


admin March 4, 2008 at 2:42 pm


Strength training is a great way to build muscle tone and if you do a high amount of volume, even add a bit of size.


I will expand upon this routine in a future post for sure. The 50-60% rule works well for ballistic training. I would stick around this percentage.


Hassan March 5, 2008 at 2:13 pm

i meant do you think i should do some strength training and which one lol

Mina April 1, 2008 at 12:20 am

Hey Rusty,

Been spending a lot of time on your site lately because I found that it matches most of my beliefs and philosophies, however I have one question about this article.

I am more interested in power and strength gains then muscle-mass, therefore I work in the 5 sets of 5 reps you mentioned. In this article, you state not to work out till failure. Therefore that means I shouldn’t lift my 5-rep max on my sets? as they are extremely heavy and I am toasted by the last rep, which would then not be counterproductive for strength-gains? I would just like to ask approximately how much % should I use of my one-rep max for my sets in order to continuously increase strength, and recommendations on increasing.

Thanks alot for all the great information and will be waiting for your response.

admin April 1, 2008 at 3:35 am


You can lift with heavier weights from time to time. Ed Coan, one of the strongest lifters of all time never trained to failure. What you want to do is leave that last rep “in the chamber”. I like to stop one rep short of that super long struggling rep…you know the one where you are shaking and it takes 3 seconds longer.

The percentage of your one rep max varies from person to person. When I’m doing a 5 x 5 set, I pick a weight that I know I can do 3 sets of 5 with no problem. The 4th set will be tough…and the 5th set is possibly really tough (if that is the case I will stop at 3-4 reps). Once I can do that 5th set of 5 reps without too much difficulty, I have “mastered that weight” and I use a slightly heavier weight next workout. I don’t rush things, because if I go up in weight too quickly then my strength gains stall. Don’t be afraid to stick with the same weight for a while (even once you can do 5 reps in that 5th set)…or even backing down for one workout to give your joints a rest. Over the long term you will become incredibly strong.

I have spent two years on slow dumbbell curls doing 5 x 5 and now I’m just about ready for 60 pound dumbbells. This doesn’t sound like a ton, but if you saw what a long arm freak that I am you would see that this is a bit. I stuck with 50 pounders for around 3-4 months…I would back down to 40 pounders…back to 50, etc. Then I did 55 pounders for around 6 months. At this point I would probably never really need to lift heavier, but I though it would be fun to use 60 pound dumbbells, since I couldn’t even do this when I had 35-40 pounds more muscle.

Hope that helps,


Note: I also took 2-3 week periods where I did lower reps just to mix things up, before continuing on my journey to master a certain weight…I have to do a full post on this topic!

Baz April 8, 2008 at 7:18 am

Rusty quick question how long should i be doing this for in terms of weeks and also should i continue to do normal bench presses as well. At the moment i am doing 5-6 reps of about 5 sets for my bench press o i wont increase the size of my chest my increase density and strength like you recommended. I also have trouble with my upper chest, any help?

Thanks heaps bud

admin April 9, 2008 at 12:25 am


Just do these explosive pushups for about 4-6 weeks. You should continue to do normal benches as well. As far as your upper chest goes. Increase the volume on incline movements for a while. In fact, you may want to drop flat bench presses for 3 months and specialize on your upper chest. I did this for 6 months and eventually it enabled me to have a line down the middle of my chest all the way up to my collar bone. Before that I only had mass on the low to mid part of my chest.

Give it a shot!


Baz April 9, 2008 at 10:10 am

Yeah that sounds good but i wanted to continue with my normal bench presses only becasue i want to increase my strength a lot. Which is why im afraid to drop flat bench presses completely. So i do low reps but with my inclines i perform higher reps.

Sai April 21, 2008 at 7:45 pm

Great site. Just stumbled across it a few days ago.This site delivers the RIGHT info on fitness.Everything you say is totally different but amazingly makes perfect sense.
Anyway I was just reading the article about explosive push ups. If pushups work for the chest what kind of explosive exercise would you recommend for shoulders, legs,etc

admin April 23, 2008 at 12:25 pm


You can do the “Push Press”. Take a barbell clean it up to your shoulder level and then use your entire body to push it up overhead.

[This guy is going pretty heavy. I like to pick a weight that I can explode up quickly for 5 reps.]

This will allow you to eventually use much heavier weights in normal shoulder pressing lifts, like seated dumbell presses.

I like to practice Olympic style lifts from tim to time to push my strength to new levels in other lifts. Youtube has some great tutorials.


iain April 28, 2008 at 11:33 am

Hey rusty πŸ˜‰

Great article i have been trying both explosive push ups and explosive pull ups for about a week now and they seem real good.

One question i have for you though, how do i lose the fat in my pecs ? I am naturally slim and stand at 6ft 2. Im not fat at all and have an ok figure. I would love to have a toned chest but the one thing that ruins my look is my pecs. There flabby compared to the rest of my body. Its like loose fat. At first i thought it was gynamestopcia(if thats how its spelt ??) but now i think its just excess fat. So any tips how to tone them up ? not really build mass but just get them well toned ?

I have free weights up to 12kg, pull up bar and a sit up bench in my home. I do go to the gym at least once a week so i have access to machines if needed.

Any help will be very greatly appreciated πŸ™‚ !!
Cheers Rusty πŸ˜‰

admin April 29, 2008 at 12:47 pm


You know I’m going to tell you to run. Seriously, running in particular will get rid of any excess flab. Get on that treadmill an go as hard as possible for 10-15 minutes, then hop on an exercise bike or elliptical for another 20-30 minutes at a moderate pace (just to keep the heart pumping without having to push as hard).

Do this without consuming any calories 4 hours before hand. This works very well!


iain April 29, 2008 at 4:44 pm

ok well i will make sure to do this next time i am at gym
and i wont consume anything 4 hours before as you have said
do you think its just that the excess fat is stored in my pecs or could it be gynamostepcia and require surgery ?

admin May 1, 2008 at 3:19 pm


Get to low body fat and hold it there for 6+ months…I’m thinking it is just body fat.


Sai May 24, 2008 at 3:46 pm

Hey Rusty

I know this is a delayed response (duh!) but thanks for the feedback for my question. I forgot to bookmark this page and again forgot to go back to this article.

anyway I’ll try this out

Thanks Again,

Rob January 11, 2009 at 8:16 pm

I’ve studied, practiced and researched bodybuilding and strength training for the last 39 years. I’ve used all manner of training methods and, throughout it all, the most effective methods are fatigue specific continuous tension and the explosive method that involved the principles you expressed.

However, I respond to sets of 20 reps the best for the explosive work. 6 sets of 20 using 40-60% of my 1 rep max with 45 seconds rest between sets using explosive contractions and moderate velocity controlled retractions. I developed my neuro-muscular system from 16 years competitive moderate distance swimming…1/8-1 mile distances, so low reps have minimal training effect on my body.

Matt June 13, 2009 at 8:59 am

Rusty, I saw this on youtube and wouldn’t it have the same sort of effect?


tarun May 4, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Hey rusty aren’t explosive push ups such as clap push-ups really harmful, as well as guaranteed to cause elbow and/or nerve damage. I’ve read that

” it is extremely high-impact in nature and if done consistently over a long period of time it may lead to elbow and nerve problems – such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Nerve Compressions, Ulnar Nerve Damage or Tennis Elbow – among others. Take my word on this, if you regularly do explosive press-ups, with hand claps in the middle, you will get wrist, nerve or elbow injuries – eventually.”

So are jump push-ups safer explosive push-ups or do they fit into the same category as explosive clap push-ups.

tarun May 4, 2012 at 7:44 pm

hey rusty apart from doing lower sets and reps for strength training, can you please explain to me how exactly you stop your-self from getting bigger in size. Do i just have to eat the same amount of food i eat normally or what? Because i really want to get super strong and speedy like Bruce lee and i can’t sacrifice speed for size. Also i heard that to get stronger you should do the heaviest weight you can lift with small sets and doing only 1 set to failure (research proven) or none at all.

Secondly i am also looking at having a greatly toned and tightly packed muscular body (Strong tissues and fiber). How will i have a good hard toned body and will i need to put on a bit of muscle mass first, because i am fairly skinny.

tarun May 4, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Hey Rob what exactly do you mean by i rep max, in that context.

conor October 3, 2012 at 11:20 am

I was wondering how long should I rest between each set.

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