PUSHUPS & PULLUPS SPECIALIZATION PLAN:
Month 2 of the Q2 Pushups & Pullups Specialization plan focuses on a superset of the following 2 movements performed back-to-back:
Extended Range of Motion (ROM) Pushup
Segmented Pullup Complex
Rest 30-60 seconds between moves. Rest 3-5+ minutes between supersets. Please download the companion PDF for a customized training plan for your current fitness level, including 5 unique training schedules to choose from based on your individual goals, recovery & schedule.
The EXTENDED ROM PUSHUP involves elevating your hands at least 3-6 inches to allow you to lower your chest further than the floor alone would allow. This increases the stretch on your pecs and builds the bottom of your pushup. To accomplish this, you can choose between the following options:
A pair of low steps or blocks
A pair of weight plates
Please note that everyone has a unique amount of shoulder mobility. So don’t force the bottom position. Listen to your body and stay within a pain-free ROM.
You will use the same 3-week eccentric progression as last month for pushups:
Week 1: 3-second lowering
Week 2: 4-second lowering
Week 3: 5-second lowering
Adding a scap pushup (or pushup shrug) before each rep is highly recommended for those trainees looking to further build the serratus anterior muscles & bulletproof the shoulders. If you don’t want to add the extra scap work every rep, do it on the first and/or last rep of every set at the very least.
FIST PUSHUPS are an excellent bodyweight alternative. It’s also a punching-specific variation to strengthen the wrists for our boxing work, especially if you plan to do heavy bag work at some point. I highly recommend mixing in this equipment-free variation on a padded surface for best results.
The SEGMENTED PULLUP COMPLEX involves 1 rep at each of the following key positions for jedi-like movement mastery & body control:
Shrug + Super Shrug + ¼ Pullup + ½ Pullup + ¾ Pullup
In other words, each rep of this complex has 5 unique segments, each subsequent segment having more ROM than the previous one. The breathing is the same for every segment: inhale through the nose doing down (the eccentric phase) and exhale through the mouth going up (the concentric phase).
Please note there is no eccentric progression for this pullup complex. However, you can accentuate the eccentric phase from the ¾ pullup to the dead hang on the final rep of each complex by lowering as slowly as possible. You can even add a submaximal flexed hang at one or each segment to strengthen sticking points and/or add a submaximal dead hang (active and/or passive) to keep increasing your hang time.
If you’re using the Level 1 plan, use the self-assisted option, not the band-assisted one. Use only as much lower body assistance as needed to complete each lifting portion and try to use little to no assistance on the lowering portions. First progress from full foot contact to toes only. Progress further from 2 feet to 1 foot, in the same manner.
In conclusion, there’s great debate about what constitutes a full ROM or perfect pullup among fitness experts. Some say the only pullup that counts is chest to bar. Others say “chin above bar” or “elbows tucked to the ribs” is a more realistic goal. I’ve even seen one trainer claim that going any higher than 90-degrees of elbow flexion is disastrous for shoulder health and leads to dysfunctional movement patterns.
Here’s my 2 cents: everyone is different. Smaller individuals with shorter arms will have a much easier time getting chest to bar than taller people with longer arms. IMHO, the ¾ pullup is the ideal functional ROM goal. It maxes out lat activation and it’s in the realm of possibility for most trainees. And the amount of extra work involved in chasing that elusive top ¼ range is likely not worth it for some people, especially if you have mobility issues or a history of shoulder injuries.
For those interested in pursuing chest-to-bar pullups, I highly recommend the following entry-level isolation drills to help strengthen the upper/mid-back muscles involved in doing so.
You have to 2 options to mix between:
Top-Half Self-Assisted Pullups: 15-20 reps
Bottom-Half 1-Arm Lat Pulldowns: 10-15 rep/side
Both options provide constant tension in the weakest position of the movement. Focus first and foremost on developing a monk-like mind-muscle connection. Closing the eyes helps tremendously with this. Use these bonus drills during warmups or on off-days. If you’re highly motivated, you can even add a single drill of choice to the beginning or end of each superset (making it a tri-set).
In terms of breathing, for option 1, inhale through the nose going down and exhale through the mouth going up. For option 2, the pull-down, it’s the exact opposite: exhale through the mouth going down and inhale through the nose going up.