A pushup works your chest, triceps, and shoulders primarily, with some core involvement too. And a basic bodyweight squat hammers every muscle in your legs, focusing mainly on your hamstrings, quads, and glutes.
But what if those exercises could work even more? That’s the idea behind something called “tension technique,” something frequently used by superhero trainer Don Saladino. Saladino, who trained the likes of Ryan Reynolds, Sebastian Stan, and Zachary Levy into shape for some of the best superhero films, loves supercharging bodyweight exercises so you get the most out of them. He frequently implements tension techniques in his new Men’s Health workout video program, Superhero Shred, which is available on the All Out Studio app and on DVD.
He has a simple drill that you can do with a partner, anytime, anywhere, on both bodyweight motions. It’ll expose any and all flaws you have in both your squats and pushups, and drive you to get more out of both motions.
What do you do? Simply get in position for a pushup. Then start doing reps. As you do this, have a friend tap and push you lightly in different directions, essentially trying to shift you out of proper pushup form. You’ll have to battle to stay steady, creating more rigidity throughout your body. And that’s the idea, says Saladino. “A pushup is a plank,” he says. “You should be working hard to be stiff as a board, creating tension throughout the motion.”
That takes more energy, but forces you to focus on the exercise that much more. Even if you do fewer reps of pushups and squats this way, you’ll get more from the motions. So get a partner and try Saladino’s approach, and keep these cues in mind when you start to feel yourself twisting about.
Do A Better Pushup
Think about corkscrewing your hands into the ground as you do a pushup. This will create tension in your lats, involving your back muscles more and protecting your shoulders, says Saladino. The other key (and an oft-underestimated one): Squeeze your glutes. That’ll allow you to raise and lower your entire body to the ground as a single piece, instead of bending at the waist or hiking your butt up too high, a common pushup flaw.
Own Your Squat More
Drive your heels into the ground and squeeze your glutes throughout your squat, says Saladino. This will help you open your knees into a nice safe position, and prevent somebody from pushing you over. Keep your upper body as tense as possible, too. Tighten your abs, and squeeze your shoulder blades. Squeeze your hands together or make fists with your hands as well, irradiating energy through your shoulders to steady your arms that much more.
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