The Best Push Up Exercise (You Aren’t Doing)

The Best Push Up Exercise (You Aren’t Doing)

No matter how much equipment I have available, I still love including a push up variation in my upper body workouts.

They are an amazing move to target your chest, shoulders, triceps and core.

And not only are they an amazing way to build strength and muscle, but there are so many push up variations you can include to target different muscles more or less based on your needs and goals.

Want to work on shoulder stability or anti-rotational core strength?

Try the push up with shoulder tap.

Want to target your triceps more?

Include a close grip variation.

Want to work your upper pecs extra?

Try a decline variation.

But in thinking through all the different options out there, there was one variation that came to mind as often being underutilized…

The push up plus!

In this video, I want to go over how to do this essential push up variation and ways to modify the move if you can’t do a push up from your toes on the ground. 

But first I want to explain why I think this variation is so important to include….

This push up isn’t the fanciest variation out there, but it is one of the most essential to include if you want to be a push up rockstar, improve your overhead press or bench press weights or even avoid neck, shoulder or upper back aches and pains.

It is so important to include because of that simple rounding and scapular protraction at the top of the push up.

This seemingly simple extra movement added on to the basic push up works an often overlooked muscle – the serratus anterior.

The serratus anterior is an essential muscle when it comes to keeping your shoulder blades, shoulders, neck and upper back healthy and happy and functioning correctly! 

And the push up plus is an amazing move to work this muscle as it is easier often to target this muscle without letting your upper traps compensate.

Too often our upper traps take over in movements meant to work our serratus anterior, which only perpetuates the aches and pains we have.

This scapular control, and serratus anterior strength, will also translate to better movement of your shoulder blades during overhead pressing and even a better ability to support your shoulders during bench press. 

This push up variation is a great way to keep everything healthy and strong as you include more pressing!

So how do you do the push up plus? 

While you will be performing almost just a basic push up, you want to give extra attention to the movement of your shoulder blades and even your hands pressure down into the ground.

Our hands are our foundation and better tension through them into the ground can increase muscle activation of our upper body. And by also being conscious of fully gripping the ground with our entire hand we can help avoid wrist, elbow and even shoulder aches and pains.

To do this push up, set up with your feet together and hands just outside your chest. Spread your fingers and flex your quads as you drive back through your heels.

You may even find it helpful to ever so slightly turn your hands out. This can even further help you engage your serratus anterior.

Then pull your shoulders down feeling them unshrug as you engage your back.

With your body in a nice straight line, lower down keeping tension.

Feel your shoulder blades draw toward your spine.

Then at the bottom, push the ground away and feel your shoulder blades move away from your spine.

As you reach the top of the push up, push the ground away a bit extra as if pulling your shoulders forward.

Feel your thoracic spine round up as you try to pull your shoulder blades around your ribs.

You may tuck your chin as you round up to go with the natural spinal flexion.

But do not let your butt go up in the air. You may slightly tilt your pelvis under instead to engage your abs more with the posterior pelvic tilt.

But you really want to focus on pulling your shoulder blades around your rib cage as you push that ground away.

This action really works that serratus anterior.

You’ll then move back into that full plank position and perform the push up again.

Working your press with the freedom to move your shoulder blades and be able to control that full range of motion is what makes this move so amazing for your upper body.

Not to mention you get that little extra core work with the pelvic tilt on top of the fact that the push up is a moving plank!

Now what if you can’t do a full push up from your toes? How can you modify this move?

An incline variation is always a great way to modify while allowing you to train that full push up plank position. 

Too often we do turn to knee push ups but this doesn’t teach us to properly engage our legs and drive back through our heels. It can keep us stuck getting stronger at only a modified variation.

It’s why that incline and working down in reps as you lower the incline is so key. 

You can use a rack, adjusting the barbell height or even boxes, lowering them down as you progress. 

If you are limited on incline options, you can select one that is a bit too high and slow down the tempo.

If you only have one that is too low, consider just the eccentric portion of the movement and start with the “plus” BEFORE you lower down for the rep. 

A final tip to modify if you need to work around wrist pain, is to put a mat folded up under the heel of your palm. This reduces the wrist extension demands to make it easier on your wrist. 

Bonus Tip:

And one bonus tip if you’re ready for a bit more of a challenge with this move and to test your core strength and stability, try including a dead stop or even hand release at the bottom.

This forces you to really engage prior to pressing back up and even makes sure you work through the fullest range of motion possible without using any momentum! 

That press back up from a dead stop is harder than we give it credit for, especially if we are super conscious that everything moves together as if our body were a solid board.

But even as you add in this dead stop or hand lift, don’t rush through the protraction at the top of the push up. Really focus on feeling around your rib cage even working!

So whether you’re looking to mix up your push up work, improve your upper body strength and stability to lift more while avoiding injury or just want to build up to that first full push up from your toes, this is an amazing push up variation to include in your workout routine!

And for more tips to improve your push ups, here are two videos to help!

10 Tips to Increase Your Push Ups (in 7 Minutes) 

Things No One Tells You About Push Ups 

Can’t Do Push Ups? Try These 5 Tips

Can’t Do Push Ups? Try These 5 Tips

You’ve been working at them and working at them…

But you just don’t feel like your push ups are progressing no matter how hard you try.

Yet you feel like you’re soooo close!

That’s why I wanted to share these 5 tips to help you adjust your workouts and push up work to finally get over that hurdle and bust out picture perfect push ups from your toes.

Because we don’t just want to do one beautiful push up…we want to look like a push up rockstar!

First, don’t just include push ups for only reps and sets – use intervals instead to work on your push ups! 

A big part of improving our push ups is our mind-body connection, not just our overall muscular strength.

Often we are strong enough already, we just aren’t able to fully recruit the correct muscles in the correct order to work together as efficiently as we need.

It’s why our hips sag as we focus on pushing back up or our elbows flare or we can’t engage our back to support our shoulders.

That’s why interval work over counting reps can help.

Intervals allow us to focus on what we feel working during each and every rep. 

Because we don’t have to care how many we do.

We are just working for that set amount of time. We also don’t get to be “done” any faster by rushing through the reps.

So having that set time frame to work allows us to focus on each rep.

AND it allows us often to do a higher volume of work with a harder variation over getting focused on doing more reps while using a more modified variation.

Often when we see 3 rounds of 8-12 reps listed, we modify the push up to do more reps each round.

But this often only helps us improve our strength endurance to do more reps of that modified variation.

Using intervals, if you know you have 1 minute to work, you can do a rep of the hardest variation, pause. Reset and do another rep of that same challenging variation. Pause again and repeat. You can then modify if you can’t keep the rest about 10-15 seconds between reps.

This allows you to create a great training volume while using that harder variation to build up!

And you can stay focused on what you feel working over just trying to get a certain amount of reps done!

Next, don’t be afraid to mix up the push up variations you use! Push ups can be their own best accessory exercise! 

Often if we can’t yet do a full push up, we don’t consider mixing things up.

But different grips and push up variations can help us target our weak links and strengthen them while also allowing us to get in more push up work.

So instead of just using the standard push up multiple times over the course of the week, vary up the types of push ups you include.

Try close grip to work those triceps more while requiring less scapular control.

Try shoulder tap push ups to work on that anti-rotational core strength and shoulder stability.

Mix up the variations you use, modifying them even to target those weak links while still working on your mind-body connection overall for push ups.

And don’t be afraid to also change up tempos and ways of modifying. If you always use an incline, try a band assisted push up instead!

Which brings me to tip #3….Try doing push ups but ONLY the lower down. 

Often using even just one single aspect of a movement can help us strengthen it.

And when it comes to our push ups, we can see great gains by just focusing on the eccentric portion of the movement, or the lower down, because we are actually stronger during that part.

This means we may be able to slow down the tempo and spend more time under tension while doing a more advanced push up variation than we would be able to if we had to press back up.

So if you’re feeling stuck on an incline or modified variation, try going to that next advanced step up and do only the lower down, focusing on a slow 5-6 count.

Once you lower all the way down, simply reset at the top, don’t try to push back up.

Complete even just 3-5 reps this way or even an interval of work.

But focus on what you feel working and everything engaging correctly as you just control the lower down of the most advanced version you can!

And then even include PAUSES in your push ups, especially in this variation. 

While you can pause at points in any push up variation you include to work on those points you tend to get stuck, it can be extra beneficial to include pauses during the eccentric only push ups at the very bottom.

Hold in that perfect plank an inch or so off the ground. Focus on engaging everything as hard as possible and even run through a checklist of what you feel working in your head.

Hold here for a 3-5 count then relax down and reset.

This ability to hold tension at the bottom of your push up will ultimately help you maintain tension to do the full press back up.

Often when we hit the bottom of the movement, we struggle to shift from lowering down to pushing the ground away to press back up.

This ability to maintain that plank position at the bottom is key.

It’s honestly often the missing component in our mind-body connection and where we lose tension, holding us back from full range of motion perfect push ups!

So try using that pause at the bottom. Although you can also implement pauses throughout the movement if you find there are other points you tend to fail.

Like if you get stuck when your elbows are bent to 90 degrees, try holding there too!

But don’t be afraid to included these pauses to create more time under tension and even give yourself the mental ability to focus on what you feel working without having the movement factor in!

Then stop just trying to do more reps in a row. 

Often to build strength, we do want to do one more rep with a weight.

One more rep of that challenging movement to create progression and build strength and muscle.

But when working to progress a SKILL, simply doing more volume of a more modified variation can keep us stuck.

Instead we want to focus on fewer reps in a row of a harder variation.

We can build up volume by resting even 15-20 seconds between 1-3 reps to get the 8-12 reps we want to complete.

But we can’t just shoot to keep trying to do 10 reps in a row.

Or we will end up continuing to need to use the modified variation and only continue to get stronger with the modification.

Often when we get focused on hitting a higher rep range for a move too, we rush through the rest. This doesn’t allow us to fully recovery and requires us often to modify even more over the rounds.

Instead, rest more and do fewer reps in a row!

Seek to use a variation you can only do a single rep of. If you can even do 2-3 reps, try something harder!

If you’ve been stuck, feeling like you’re just at that tipping point to be able to do a full push up, try implementing these 5 tips in your workout progression.

Use intervals over counting reps.

Use different push up variations.

Focus only on the lower down and even include pauses.

And then don’t be afraid to do single reps in a row, building up that volume over the interval of work!

Want amazing workouts to build full-body strength?

Join my Dynamic Strength Program!


10 Tips To Increase Your Push Ups (In 7 MINUTES)

10 Tips To Increase Your Push Ups (In 7 MINUTES)

Are push ups your arch nemesis? 

Do you struggle to do even one?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

In this video I’ll share 10 tips to help you improve your push ups fast and be able to perform them flawlessly by addressing the common form issues and weak links we all tend to have!

Tip #1 is Regress to progress.

Sometimes you have to take that step back to truly improve. 

Often we just keep trying a variation we haven’t earned yet and wonder why things aren’t progressing.

And it’s because we keep cheating or compensating to do a harder variation than we can control. 

This can not only lead to injury but often keep us stuck.

Proper form, using the correct muscles to power the movement, is what makes us efficient with an exercise. And this efficiency is what strength truly is. 

You can’t be efficient with a move you aren’t doing properly!

So if you’ve stalled, try modifying the move even just one step backward, off an incline instead of the ground, to refocus on what you feel working and make sure everything is engaging correctly in the correct order. 

Get the correct muscles working. While it stinks to step back, this can help propel you forward!

Tip #2: Run through a set up checklist.

How often do you do a move and simply…well…do it?!

We don’t consider how we are positioning each part of our body or run through what we need to engage and how it needs to be engaged to do the move. 

While we want this process of engagement to become natural, when first starting out is key we run through a checklist to make sure we have everything ready to work as it should!

So as you set up for the push up, run through a checklist of what you often struggle to engage to make sure you’ve set yourself up to move well from the start. Don’t just rush through hoping to mimic the movement. 

A great set up checklist for overall form may be…

#1: Set your hands outside your chest and spread your fingers to drive down hard into the ground. 

#2: Engage your back to unshrug your shoulders. 

#3: Brace your abs, even squeezing your glutes to do a slight posterior pelvic tilt.

#4: Drive back through your heels as you flex your quads. 

This sequence helps you make sure you’ve put yourself in a position to have the correct muscles engaged from the start of the movement.

Tip #3 is Drive back through your heels.

Often we think about the push up as an upper body or even a core move. But our lower body needs to be engaged correctly if we want to be efficient with the movement. 

If we push ourselves forward over driving back, we can actually overload our upper body more. 

And we can make it harder on ourselves for our body to move as one unit.

Instead, as you set up for the push up, drive back through your heels and feel your quads flex. 

This will help you maintain proper plank alignment as you lower down. 

It can help you avoid your butt going up in the air or shifting backward or forward. 

It can even help you avoid those hips sagging because of the tension you’ve already set up through your legs! 

Tip #4 is Set up at the bottom.

If you struggle with that press back up in a push up, it’s key you target that engagement from a dead stop. 

A great way to do this is to actually set up at the bottom of your push up, whether you’re using an incline or doing these off the ground. 

Just realize this is HARDER than lowering down because everything has to be fully engaged to press correctly BEFORE you even move. So don’t hesitate to modify starting out with this. 

But set up at the bottom of the push up, run through your checklist to make sure everything is engaged, take a big breath in and then focus on that solid push up to the top as you exhale. 

Too often we just work on moves top down, but that bottom up work can be so key especially if we do struggle with that transition from lowering down to pressing back up in a push up.

Tip #5 is Practice stick point holds.

Often there is a part of the push up we struggle with the most. 

It could be maintaining a straight plank position at the bottom or in that push about half way up… 

By using some push up holds in even our warm up activation work or as a burner to end our workout, we can build our strength endurance by HOLDING in these positions we struggle with. 

You can not only cycle through these positions in a single interval, pausing in a spot for 5-10 seconds, but you can also do single longer holds just setting up directly at your stick point! 

As you hold, run through how you feel everything working and your set up to really ingrain that positioning and recruit those muscles efficiently!

Tip #6 is Use a band.

While I love incline push ups to help build up, the more variations of a move we can include, the more we can help ourselves really learn to engage everything correctly. 

Sometimes with incline or knee push ups, we can feel like we are getting stronger, yet still be slightly stuck.

The band is a great way to reduce tension on your upper body but work through that full range of motion off the ground. 

It can also be a great way to increase your strength endurance if you’re stuck only able to do a few reps off the ground currently.

To do this, set up a band at about elbow height in a rig and position yourself in the push up with the band under your chest. 

You can set the band up higher if you do need more assistance or have a higher stick point. 

Then lower down performing the push up. As you get deeper in the lower down, the band will take away some of the load on your upper body and even add assistance as you push back up! 

Tip #7 is Focus on pushing the ground away.

If you think about just lifting your body up, this often leads to our butt going up or some other version of the worm happening.

We lose tension on our foundation and a focus on the true movement pattern we are performing.

If you think about a bench press, your focus is on pressing the weights up. 

You want that same focus in a push up to best activate your chest, shoulders and triceps.

With the push up, focus on pushing the ground away with your hands.

This can help you avoid your elbows flaring way up into a T shape with your body. 

And it can help you remember to focus on powering that press with your upper body!

That tension down into the ground will truly better activate your pecs, shoulders and triceps!

Tip #8 is Include activation work in your warm up for your BACK.

Proper scapular control makes for a more powerful press. 

If you want to protect your shoulders, neck and elbows as you work to improve your push ups, you want to make sure you include scapular mobility and activation work in your warm up routine. 

If we are able to properly move our shoulder blades, we are better able to use our chest effectively in the push up as well.

In your warm up consider even a scapular wall hold as part of your activation series. This will open up your chest and engage your back, pulling your shoulder blades toward your spine. 

It is a great way to make sure your back is ready to work and support those shoulders throughout the push up movement! 

(It’s also a great move to improve your posture if you’re doing extra pressing).

Tip #9 is Use cluster sets.

If you want to be able to do more push ups in a row, you have to do more push ups in a row to build up that strength endurance. 

Instead of modifying over rounds, consider designing your push up work as cluster sets.

Set a total number of reps for the round, say even the goal is 6. 

And break it down into sets of what you can do well, even if that is just 2. Do 2 reps and rest 15-30 seconds then do 2 more. Do this pattern, even performing singles if needed to hit 6 then rest for longer between rounds. 

This way you are still hitting your desired number of reps BUT in a way you can do each rep with the most challenging variation and proper form.

By resting for so short, you don’t let your body fully recover which can so to speak trick it into believing you’re able to do 6 in a row. You will see your strength endurance and push up reps increase quickly implementing this technique! 

Tip #10 is Include anti-extension core work.

The push up is basically a moving plank. 

And while planks are a great move to include, they can also get a bit boring, especially if you’re just doing the basic front plank. 

So if you want to mix up your core work in a way that will really help your push ups, consider other anti-extension core exercises as part of a finisher to your workout.

It may be simply including a bird dog version of that front plank or even a dead bug variation that helps. 

Anti-extension exercises are ones that make your abs work to avoid arching of your lower back, which will help you avoid your hips sagging in push ups!

You may even include an anti-extension move in your warm up to get your core ready to work and establish that mind-body connection prior to your push ups. 

Just make sure you’re not doing too much to fatigue it prior.

Remember, the key to success is consistency and practice. So, make sure to incorporate these tips into your workout routine and track your progress over time. 

–> More Push Up Tips – Use Your Back

5 Things Nobody Tells You About Push Ups

5 Things Nobody Tells You About Push Ups

Want to improve your push ups, but feeling like all of the push up training you’re doing isn’t adding up?

Do you feel like no matter what you try your push ups end up looking like you’re doing the worm? 

Or like you’re just getting better at modified push ups? 

If you’re struggling to achieve that first full push up and then build up to double digit reps, this video is for you!

In this video, I’ll go over 5 things no one tells you about improving your push ups so you can start busting out those picture perfect reps from your toes! 

Hey guys it’s Cori from Redefining Strength where we help you build functional strength at any and every age!

Push ups are an amazing bodyweight exercise, but one that often doesn’t get the credit for being the challenging move that it truly is. 

Just because you can “do” a push up, doesn’t mean you’re using the correct muscles or actually replicating the move with picture perfect form.

Sometimes you have to regress to progress.

And that’s why in this video I want to go over 5 things no one tells you about improving your push ups so you can adjust your training routines to help you actually move forward.

And in the final tip, I’m going to go over why you may find all of your modified push up work feels like it is NEVER actually helping you progress but just only helping you get stronger at doing more modified push ups! 

#1: It all starts with your hands.

Do you have annoying wrist pain or elbow pain during push ups? 

Feel like you’re ok on the lower down but for the life of you just can’t seem to maintain proper form during the press back up? 

Focus more on your hands and then tension into the ground!

Creating tension from the ground up in your push ups will lead to better muscle activation and engagement, creating a stronger press. 

When you set up for a push up, don’t just put your hands outside your chest. 

Think about spreading your fingers and pushing your hands down into the ground. 

Create that pressure and tension through ALL of your fingers. You may notice when you do this, you even want to rock out on your hands.

This rock out could be leading to the overload that causes wrist and elbow issues.

So focus even on pressing that thumb down into the ground.

Then as you press down, pretend to pull the ground apart slightly like you’re ripping a piece of paper. 

This pull apart will help you even feel your chest muscles engage.

Then keep this tension through the entire push up, even focusing most on pushing the ground away as you transition from the bottom of the push up to pushing back up!

#2: Stick with incline push ups. 

The next tip is to stick with incline push ups

There will definitely be times we simply don’t have an appropriate incline to use so turn to knee push ups; however, the more we can use the incline, the better. 

The incline is so key because it allows us to learn to engage everything in the exact way we will need to as we move to that full push up off the ground.

It allows us to train creating tension through our lower leg and quads by driving back through our heels. 

Because the push up is basically a moving plank.

If you only ever train that knee push up position, you never learn this full engagement which could be holding you back.

It is part of why you can feel like you’re getting stronger, BUT you’re never actually able to achieve that full push up from your toes.

Simply put – that knee push up may be holding you back!

And using an incline allows you to create a clear progression you can track. Over time you can slowly lower the incline you use inch by inch. 

A smith machine or rack is a great way to create an incline you can incrementally lower.

And if the incline is too low, you can even start with just slowing down the eccentric only to reset at the top.

#3: You’re stronger in the eccentric phase of the push up.

To learn to do a more challenging variation of a move, we need to actually DO the harder movement. 

The question is – how can you do the more advanced movement pattern though if you haven’t yet earned it?

Using an incline is one answer. 

But so is focusing on the eccentric portion of the push up.

We are stronger in the eccentric phase of the push up or the lowering down portion. 

By slowing down the eccentric, we can help ourselves build strength and muscle, spending more time under tension.

And by even doing an eccentric ONLY movement, we can help ourselves start to train a more challenging variation than we are fully yet able to do. 

So if you’re feeling stuck at the incline you’re at currently, try a lower incline, performing only the eccentric or lowering down portion of the push up. 

Really slow down and control that full lower down.

When your chest touches the incline, you can drop to your knees and push back up or even simply step a foot up and reset at the top. 

But that time under tension just lowering down in the push up, using a harder version of the movement, can help you break through that stick point and advance to the next level!

#4: Strengthening your back is key.

Another often neglected area when we’re trying to improve our push ups is our back.

Yes, the push up is a press and targets our chest, shoulders and triceps while working our entire core. 

But for a more powerful press, whether it is a push up or bench press, we need to have proper scapular control and be able to effectively engage our backs to support our shoulders. 

A lack of scapular mobility and stability and back strength can lead to neck, shoulder and even elbow aches and pains as we compensate during the movement.

The more pressing you include in your routine, the more you will want to balance out your workouts with pulling exercises to also increase your back strength. 

And not only that, you’ll also want to make sure that your warm up routine on days you do work on push ups includes scapular mobility and back activation work as well.

This helps you make sure you’re able to properly retract your shoulder blades (draw them together toward your spine) as you lower down in the push up and then protract them (pull them apart away from your spine) as you press back up. 

It’s key we establish that mind-body connection to prep muscles to work correctly as we go into challenging compound movements.

For two amazing moves to help you strengthen your back and improve your scapular control, check out the link at the bottom of this post.

#5: Stop doing more reps of a modified variation. 

Last but not least stop doing more reps of a modified variation.

Adding reps shows we’re progressing and building strength. 

However, adding reps to each round of a more modified variation of the push up may be holding you back from progressing. 

It may only be making you stronger at that more modified variation.

Instead of adding another rep or trying to do more reps each set, consider designing your push up work to have even 1-2 reps per round while creating volume through performing more rounds. 

So if you want to do 10 reps of push ups and have been doing 2 rounds of 5 reps off a higher incline, instead do 10 rounds of even a single push up off a far lower incline, even using the eccentric only variation if needed.

We need to push the progression of the movement if we want to advance. We can’t just do more reps of the easier variation. 

So think fewer reps of a hader movement, even if you have to modify over the rounds over doing an easier variation you can do more reps of!

Bonus Tip: Include your focused push up work first

One bonus tip is to include your focused push up work at the start of your workout.

When focusing on improving any lift or movement you want to improve, it is always best to include targeted work for it when you’re FRESHEST. 

This makes it easier to focus on what you feel working and on maintaining proper form.

You can include the push up work at the start of your workout on more than one day. Push ups

Include more rounds of lower rep push up work, testing out the most advanced variation you can do.

You can even mix in slow eccentric push ups to help you advance.

And for some amazing accessory moves to improve your push ups and specifically work on your scapular control, check out my Can’t Do Push ups? Try These 2 Tips video next!

Can’t Do Push ups? Try These 2 Tips: 

Other push up resources:

FIX Wrist Pain During PUSH UPS | 4 Easy Ways To Increase Your Wrist Strength & Flexibility:

Push-Ups For Beginners – 5 Simple Tips To Perfect Your Push Up: 

8 Glute Activation Exercises (Improve Hip Stability)

8 Glute Activation Exercises (Improve Hip Stability)

If you want to help prevent lower back, hip or knee pain and improve your lifting, running and riding, you need to include glute activation in your workout routine.

Glute activation exercises are movement generally done with little to no weight and for higher reps (15-25). They are isolation exercises meant to really target the glutes so you can feel them working before you even go into your compound exercises.

And you want to use these moves to strengthen all of actions the glute muscles perform – from abduction to extension to external rotation and even hip hyperextension.

That’s why I wanted to share 8 glute activation moves you can do with minimal equipment in a wide range of postures and positions. These moves will help you truly build functional strong glutes to improve your hip stability!

(Video demoing all moves below this 👇)

1: 3-Way Standing Hip Circles

Everything is connected. If you want better glute engagement, you can’t ignore your feet and ankles. And if you want better balance and foot and ankle stability, you can’t ignore your glutes!

That’s why standing moves like the 3-Way Standing Hip Circles are so key to include. They work on improving your balance while activating your glutes.

And with this move, you’ll activate your glute max with the hip extension kicking back, your glute medius with the abduction or knee raised out to the side and even your abs with the knee tuck in and forward.

Make sure to move slowly as you cycle through those moves while focusing on your other foot’s connection to the ground.

And do not lean or rock away to increase the range of motion. Focus on those glutes really working to lift the leg and your abs working to pull the knee in!

2: Hip Airplanes

When working on glute activation, we want to address all joint actions this muscle group contributes to, which is why I love to use Hip Airplanes.

This standing glute move will improve that balance and hip stability while helping you learn to engage the glutes to stabilize as you work through internal and external rotation – targeting all three gluteal muscles (the maximus, medius and minimus)

While you can do this move without your hands on a chair or box, I like to add in that little stabilizing element to start so you can work through a full range of motion.

Really focus on rotating from the hip, feeling your glute work over just allowing your spine to twist. You will not get the full benefit if you don’t focus on that rotation going from your head to your raise foot.

You want to rotate open from your standing leg fully, then rotate back closed toward that standing leg, even dropping the hip of the raised leg toward the ground.

Make sure as you do rotate, your standing foot is firmly pressed fully into the ground and you do not rock out on your foot.

If you have Piriformis issues, be careful with this movement, especially the external rotation.

3: Mini Band Pulse Squats

Many of us have heard the phrase “Squat for a better butt.”

But squats, especially weighted squats, partly because they are a compound movement, really aren’t that great for glute activation. You’re definitely going to feel those quads and adductors even as well.

However, how much we target and activate a muscle is also based on the range of motion and equipment we use with that movement.

By changing the full squat to a pulse squat while adding a band, we can make the squat an amazing glute focused movement that creates metabolic stress so you really feel that pump in those glutes to establish that mind-body connection.

When you do this move, you can add loads, but start with the mini band right below or above your knees. You want the band just above or below your knees to use it to help you really focus on pressing out to activate your glute medius. This will improve your hip stability and actually better activate your glute max as well.

You then want to make sure you’re sitting back as you pulse right around parallel while sitting in that squat. Stay controlled and make sure you’re heels are firmly pressed down into the ground without rocking back.

To modify you can do this move holding on to a suspension trainer or even hovering over a bench!

4: Bench 2-Way Leg Raises

Often with glute activation, we think we have to get down on the ground to do it. And while quadruped moves are an amazing way to target and activate those glutes, you can easily modify all of those movements off a bench if you need extra padding on your knees or simple don’t want to get down on the ground.

And the added bonus of using a bench is that you can even increase the range of motion you work through on many moves because your knee is raised off the ground.

That’s why I love Bench 2-Way Leg Raises. You can work your glutes through both hip extension and abduction and a larger range of motion.

When you do this move, make sure not to bend your arms or lean away. You want to even feel the glute medius or side butt on that leg that is down stabilizing your body as you lift the other leg to work.

Focus on even almost trying to stop the movement with your glute instead of just swinging the leg up higher. Focus on feeling that glute on that kickback stop the leg at about parallel to the ground. Do not arch your lower back to kick up higher. And really feel the side of your butt on that lateral raise. Do not rotate your toe open toward the ceiling as you raise.

To add a bit of progression to this movement, you can even wear ankle weights. But focus more on that mind-body connection over adding loads!

5: Lying Jacks

Often when we include abduction movements or lateral raise movements to work our glute medius, we are standing or seated. But by doing this abduction movement lying down, we can work our glutes while in hip hyperextension even.

We have to remember that by changing the degree of hip flexion involved in the abduction movement we can target different portions of the glute medius, addressing more anterior or posterior fibers!

We will also work our glute max to maintain the reverse hyper position.

When you do this move, you want to focus on pressing out against the band while not just rotating your toes out and open.

You also want to think about your glutes holding your legs up as you press your hips down. Be very conscious you aren’t feeling your lower back compensate to raise your legs up higher!

If you feel your lower back taking over, try a Y Reverse Hyper instead of holding the position as you perform the abduction.

6: Side Plank Clams

Planks are a great core move that you can use to also target your glutes, side planks especially. And often the side plank with leg raise is the one you see being used.

But that move is not only far more advanced than we give it credit for, it also often will lead to fatigue of the muscle over simply helping us prep the muscle for more work.

That’s why I like the side plank clam variation. It can also include more external rotation or be a straight abduction move based on your foot positioning.

However, like the basic clam it is also often misused. Make sure you don’t let your TFL compensate by turning your top toe down toward the ground. And make sure as you lift you drive your hips forward.

If you did want to remove the external rotation, say if you have Piriformis issues, you could actually lift the top leg straight up during the movement, keeping the knee bent, over keeping the foot down which will force external rotation.

Both can be great variations to include and you may alternate which you used based on what you’re trying to target!

Just make sure that, while you’re focusing on the side of your butt, you keep your elbow stacked under your shoulder and your back engaged to support it. You want this move to benefit your entire core, including those obliques as well!

7: Figure 4 Glides

It can be easy to cheat with moves when we struggle to activate a muscle correctly. We call on other muscles to not only assist but we will seek out mobility from other joints. Often with lateral raise movements we will even try to swing the leg up higher as we lean away.

That’s why I love the Figure 4 move, especially with these glides.

This is a very small movement and can allow you to easily focus on that glute working. It can be easy also to feel yourself trying to cheat because you are holding in this raised position as you allow that leg to glide forward and backward.

It also engages the glute medius through hip flexion and extension.

Focus on sitting up nice and tall as you raise that leg on the side up. Think about keeping it level as you allow it to glide forward and backward slowly. You can even watch it to stay conscious of what is working.

And if you really struggle with wanting to lean away, you can put your shoulder against a wall as you set up.

But because you’re holding this position, do that easy assessment every once in awhile to make sure you aren’t leaning away!

8: 80/20 Glute Bridges

Often injuries and aches and pains aren’t just due to weakness but also an imbalance between sides and muscles. That means that often we need to do imbalance prehab, working only one side and even doing more reps on that side.

That’s why unilateral or single sided movements are key.

It’s why most of the moves included here are unilateral. However, unilateral moves can also be super challenging and serve as advancements for bilateral exercises as they add more instability and require to move the load or your own bodyweight with only one side.

That’s why I love these 80/20 Glute Bridges though. They force each side to work more but add in the assistance of your other leg to help you focus on the glutes working.

If you’ve struggled with the single leg glute bridge and feel your hamstrings compensating or lower back engaging in that movement, you can try this 80/20 variation to get that same benefit but with a move you can truly control.

Sometimes we need to regress to progress.

Make sure with this move that you stagger one foot out further so the foot that is closer in does 80% of the work. And then focus on that posterior pelvic tilt as you bridge, driving your knee toward your toe as you press up so you get your glute to power the movement over your hamstrings compensating.


Now how do you include these moves in your routine? The great part is there are a ton of different ways! But you want to probably only pick 1-3 to include as your activation in your warm ups for just 1-2 rounds. 15-25 reps or even about 30 seconds per move is often good.

The goal isn’t to fatigue your glutes but simply feel them start to work and establish that mind-body connection before your full workout.

If you are using them simply as a prehab routine, you may add another move or two on and do 3 rounds instead!

Need more glute activation series? Check out my Booty Burners…

–> The Booty Burner Challenge

10 Upper Body Bodyweight Exercises (+2 WORKOUTS!)

10 Upper Body Bodyweight Exercises (+2 WORKOUTS!)

There is always a way to keep moving forward consistently toward our goals working around the challenges life throws our way.

And while it may not be our ideal workout or schedule, doing SOMETHING is always better than nothing and can keep us moving forward toward our goals.

That’s why I wanted to share 10 upper body bodyweight moves to help you build strength even when you don’t have access to a gym or you’re short on time.

These moves will target your arms, shoulders, chest, back and core and can easily be done at home, with a few bonus moves using a towel.

I share quick tips on how to do these moves then 2 amazing workouts you can implement them in! 


10 Upper Body Bodyweight Moves:

1: Doorway Row

It can be challenging to target your back and perform pulling movements when we don’t have equipment. But by using a simple doorway or even stair banister, we can really challenge our back using our own bodyweight.

And this move is amazing because you can make it unilateral or bilateral to not only challenge one side at a time but even make it harder by using only one side to pull your weight.

Just make sure to stay in that squat and focus on your shoulder blade moving so you’re really initiating the pull with your back!

To modify, start with both hands instead of a unilateral pull.

2: Downward Dog Pike Push Ups

Push ups are not only a great chest, shoulders and tricep exercise, but also a great core move. And you can adjust how much you activate each of those muscle groups based on the exact variation you use.

If you want to get your shoulders and get in movement to mimic that vertical press or overhead press, the downward dog pike push up is the perfect move to include.

When you do this move, make sure you don’t turn it into a horizontal press but actually lower your head straight down between your hands to mimic that vertical pressing movement.

To advance this move, place your feet up on a bench or stair. The higher the platform, the harder it will be!

3: Scapular Wall Row

When we think about back exercises, we think about pulling movements. But this amazing back move is actually a press.

If you struggle with engaging your back and that scapular movement, and often feel your biceps taking over, this is a key back exercise to include. And all you need is a wall!

When you do this move, focus on driving off your elbows to push away from the wall and feel your shoulder blades move toward your spine to drive your chest out. Focus less on walking further away from the wall and more on that mind-body connection to engage your back.

To vary this move up, you can also do the press lying on the ground as well.

4: Tricep Push Ups

This amazing unilateral push up is a great way to target each arm independently to correct imbalances and really work those triceps.

It is also easier on the shoulders than the bench dip, which can make it a great option especially if you’ve had shoulder aches and pains in the past.

When you do this move, make sure to press through your entire hand. Move your hand up higher to modify or lower down your side to advance. And make sure not to let your legs flop around.

You can further modify this move to start by pressing off a bench or wall over doing the push up off the ground.

5: Lying W Pull Down

Even when we don’t have equipment, we don’t want to ignore the importance of vertical pulling exercises. Moves like the Lying W Pull Down can help us improve our back strength, working our lats while helping us improve our scapular control and stability.

Really focus on your shoulder blades drawing together and down toward your butt as you pull your arms down from extended overhead as you lie on the ground. Even slightly extend your spine to lift your chest and hold as you perform the movement.

If you do feel your neck during moves like this, rest your head on a towel or even modify this move standing.

6: Chest Fly Push Up

The chest fly is a great move to really work your pecs, which is exactly what muscle you’ll work more with the Chest Fly Push Up.

All you need are two small towels to use on a hardwood floor or even paper plates on carpet.

And bonus, you’ll also really work your core.

When you do this move, really focus on sliding out with control then your pecs working to pull your hands back in as you come up out of the push up.

To modify, try sliding one side out at a time or even move to your knees. You can also modify this move off an incline, sliding one hand out at a time while using your stairs to create that incline.

7: Plank Row

This bodyweight exercise is a great way to target your core, especially your obliques, improve your shoulder stability and even work on your scapular control and strengthen your back.

Really focus on avoiding rotation as you row your hand up toward your chest and make sure to initiate the row with your back.

This move is an anti-rotational core exercise so do not rush it but really flex even your quads and glutes to fight opening up as you lift your hand.

To modify, try the plank off an incline, placing your hands up on a bench, couch, table or stair.

8: Climber Plank

Target those arms and shoulders as you work your entire core with this plank variation.

When you do the Climber Plank, really make sure to place your hands under your shoulders over letting your hands sneak out in front of you as you climb up. And as you lower down, place your elbows under your shoulders.

This not only really makes your arms and shoulders work, but it will protect your neck and help you avoid shrugging.

To modify this move, try the plank off an incline.

9: Self Resisted Bicep Curl

You can apply your own resistance when bands or weights aren’t available. And one great way to do this and get in some bonus isolation work for those biceps is using a towel!

To do this curl, loop a towel and hold the ends in one hand to resist your other hand as you curl. You can then make it as easy, or as challenging as you want by pulling against your curl.

Focus on making yourself really fight to curl against the tension. Don’t make it too easy on yourself!

You can even include holds at different points in the move to spend more time under tension.

10: Body Saw

If you want a challenging plank variation that is going to work your triceps and lats, you’ll want to include the Body Saw.

While you can do this move by just walking your feet back, a great way to really make it challenge not only your core to protect your lower back during the extension but also your lats and arms, is to add a towel under your feet.

Instead of walking back, slide back. Do not let your hips sag but focus on lengthening through your arms and shoulders before you pull back in.

Think about pulling back into that plank by feeling the sides of your back working to bring your elbows back under your shoulders.

How Can You Use These Moves In 2 Amazing Workouts?

Workout number 1 is the 1 Minute Max Out. Set a timer for 1 minute and perform as many reps of a move as you can in that time. Move through the 5 exercises, working for 1 minute on each (30 seconds per side) before resting for a minute to repeat for 3-5 rounds through.

1 Minute Max Out

1 minute Doorway Row
1 minute Downward Dog Pike Push Up
1 minute Plank Row
1 minute Tricep Push Up
1 minute Lying W Pull Down
1 minute Rest

The second workout option is the 20-16-12-8 Ladder. You will start with 20 reps per move in the Triset (or per side) then go down to 16 reps the next round, 12 the third round and finally 8 on the last round through the moves. Once all 4 rounds are complete on a Triset, move onto the second set of exercises. Time how long it takes you to beat that time next time through!

20-16-12-8 Ladder

20-16-12-8 Doorway Row
20-16-12-8 Chest Fly Push Ups
20-16-12-8 Body Saw

20-16-12-8 Scapular Wall Row
20-16-12-8 per side Self Resisted Bicep Curls
20-16-12-8 Climber Plank (perform HALF the reps per side)

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