For access to all of our training, gear, and race coverage, plus exclusive training plans, FinisherPix photos, event discounts, and GPS apps, sign up for Outside+.
Pushups are a classic strength training movement, and for that very reason many athletes approach the exercise with non-optimal movement patterns for their sport. There are so many different variations on a pushup, and I’m not going to tell you any of them are “wrong,” however, some variations will serve your strength needs for triathlon better than others. Triathletes are a busy bunch, and we don’t have time to waste on unproductive training! My favorite variation for runners and triathletes who are starting to incorporate strength training is the hand-release pushup.
Hand-release pushups will allow you to get full range of motion through your shoulders, which is important for the swim and the run. You’ve likely seen people in the gym doing high reps of shallow pushups, where their elbows hardly reach a right angle. Well, think about the strength and range of motion you need in swimming and running. Shallow pushups likely aren’t serving you at all.
How to: Hand-Release Pushups
Step One: Hand Release
You’ll start laying on the floor, face down, with your hands planted right by your ribs. Throughout the whole movement, you want to keep your chin and chest in line, so that you are strong head to heel. To initiate the movement, breathe in through your nose as you lift your hands off the floor in this position, squeezing between your shoulder blades to get full range of motion. Think about the back side motion of your running arm swing or swimming stroke as you do this part of the movement.
Step Two: Push Up
To start the pushup movement, plant your hands firmly on the ground right next to your ribs. Your elbows should be at a 45-degree angle. Think about screwing your hands outward into the ground and breathe out strong as you push the ground away while maintaining good bracing throughout your core. With good bracing, your hips should rise with your shoulders, instead of your shoulders rising first. When you get to the top of the movement, lock out your arms, and press through your shoulders to get full range of motion. As you lower yourself down, stay in control, bending with your arms and nothing else.
RELATED: Check out more tests here to find out your “gym age.”
As a former hotshot firefighter who found himself injured, Matt Pendola relied on strength and mobility training to rehab his own injuries and get back to running pain free. Inspired by the huge impact that strength and mobility had, he has gone on to become an EXOS Performance Specialist and Licensed Massage Therapist with a focus in manual sports massage therapy. As a strength coach, he’s worked with the likes of Gwen Jorgensen and Ben Kanute, who this year, under his guidance, placed 2nd at the 70.3 World Championships. Despite his success with high-performance pros, Matt’s greatest thrill is getting to teach athletes of all levels how to perform with more confidence and control.