Back to the Basics

In Best Posts, Swimming by Chris Ritter0 Comments

Last week I explained how Expanding your Capacity will Increase your Speed. If you’re buying into this idea of becoming a better athlete to be a better swimmer that’s great.

Unfortunately most coaches and swimmers don’t understand how to practically perform one of the most fundamental aspects of becoming a better athlete. It’s the same question that’s asked over and over.

How do you get stronger?

Since I’ve already covered how you can get Your Next 10 Pull-ups I’m going to practically walk you through how to get stronger for another basic bodyweight movement: push-ups.

There probably isn’t a better movement for assessing total body strength and athleticism that pretty much anyone can do. So let’s dive into how exactly you can get stronger and specifically stronger in your push-ups.

This is a great exercise to teach young athletes how to engage their whole body during a movement. When you’re weak you need learn how to engage your legs, hips, core and upper body at the same time. It’s a skill you need on land and in the water. And push-ups are a great teaching tool for learning muscle engagement.

Once you start working on your strength in push-ups you need to know how to measure your improvement. Most of you already knew that. But what you may not understand is that there are a lot of different ways you can measure your strength improvements. I’ve come up with 5 different ways to measure your progress.

Most of you would probably think of this one first but there are different ways you can achieve more when it comes to strength. What you may think of first is just increasing volume. Do more push-ups.

What you may not realize is that you can also increase the load for the more effect. For push-ups this could range from doing them with your feet elevated or having 1 leg off the ground as you performing them.

When it comes to improving strength you’ll correspondingly want to improve how long you can stay strong. This is when doing push-ups longer in either one set or multiple sets is what you focus on. You can even add a time component to help you measure, such as how many push-ups can you do in a 24-hour period. Or it can be as simple as how many you can do in a single set without stopping.

One more twist to longer for push-ups would be how long you can make a single rep last. Just time yourself for how many seconds you can last on the downward phase as well as the upward phase. You’ll be surprised at how difficult it can become when you simply try to make each rep last a little longer. A great goal would be to do 10, 20-second push-ups (10-seconds down and 10-seconds up each rep).

Strength is part of the equation for power. This is where the variable of time comes into play, which is what power essentially is. So try doing a set number of push-ups as fast as you can. Keep track of your time and watch it improve.

This is at the opposite end of the spectrum from what you may be trying to accomplish by trying to make a rep last longer. When you’re working on speed it’s emphasizing getting faster to get stronger.

One factor that many fail to realize is that as you get stronger it should get easier. If you start out doing push-ups and your max is at 10 in a row then as you progress it should feel easier and easier to get to 10. Besides knowing mentally that it’s easier you can also see how your heart rate responds over time. It should be less over time for the same number.

Lastly one of the most overlooked aspects of getting stronger is that you should actually look better performing an exercise or movement like a push-up. You need to remember that strength is improved both structurally and neurologically. Because part of it is neurological your coordination should improve, as you get stronger.

So as you try to increase strength view your improvements through these parameters. Make sure you’re progressing in one of them. If you’re not, then change up your training so that these variables improve for you.

Here’s a great quote that you can ponder while you’re getting stronger this week.

“Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general.” – Mark Rippetoe