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How to Build A Better Push-up


Cory Cripe, DVRT Master (Creator of DVRT Dynamic Strength & Movement Encyclopedia)

I don’t know if you’re anything like me, but I have made so many mistakes that I cringe at the thought of things I used to put my clients through, all in the name of getting stronger or working on their functional fitness!

Before I became a pupil of DVRT, I struggled with coaching push-ups. Push-ups sound like a weird thing to credit DVRT with, but the principles of movement we teach can have a great impact beyond just the Ultimate Sandbag. Learning the concepts of DVRT have really helped us coach people to greater success in many aspects of their training.

I’m sure many of you can relate, I mean having someone in a group training session who is obviously doing a less than par push-up and not responding to my amazing verbal coaching cues meant it was their fault, no? Unfortunately, for the longest time I thought so; I was there telling these people to do X, Y, & Z and they still weren’t responding – I did my part!

As coaches we often don’t realize that our cues can be flawed and we get equally “stuck” in helping people understand how to use their bodies better. 

Looking back, I know they could hear me and they wanted to have their bodies respond to my immaculate coaching cues so they could do a better push-up, but it just wasn’t happening because they were unable to physically do a push-up and I wasn’t giving them any other solutions except “modifying” the exercise and having them go to their knees.

We don’t want to feel like Stanley when it comes to doing a better push-up

I say modify, but in retrospect I completely changed the exercise and its meaning. It no longer was a total body, core exercise – it was simply reduced to a chest, shoulder, and tricep bodybuilding exercise that did nothing to improve strength and core stability to build an actual push-up! So how can you be coaching a busy group training session and have a better push-up solution than those icky, modified things?

At Fitness Lying Down the solution we offer so our clients can receive the benefits of the push-up exercise while also building actual strength to eventually do a push-up … drum roll … bird dog drags.



But wait?!?!? Aren’t bird dogs that silly exercise they do and no one really knows why they do them (or some nondescript “core exercise” for most)? Without realizing it, the bird dog offers us this amazing opportunity to build a better push-up! Everyone follows the task and not the intent of what the bird dog really has to offer. It’s pretty easy to look at and see that you’re moving one arm and the opposite leg and it sometimes appears the goal is to reach the hand and foot as high to the sky as possible.

Unfortunately, just cuing people not to do these things is not as powerful as giving them feedback upon HOW not to do such things.

For so long I though this was a pretty dumb exercise by watching people do it so wrong. However, when you discover how the bird dog is about creating core stiffness so that the arm & leg can move with NO rotation through the torso then you might feel a little different about this simple, but effective exercise.

And when you can include an Ultimate Sandbag to your bird dog exercise now you have turned the heat up! Okay, but really – how does this help push-ups!

Great fitness shouldn’t be exclusive, it should be inclusive. Drills like the DVRT bird dog drag help us build to more successful push-up training. 

If someone struggles with push-ups, where is the first place we put them? On their knees, right? And what body part do we take out of the equation? FEET! But what if we could put them on their knees in a more stable position (like that of – oh let’s say – a bird dog) and keep their feet on the ground because we know in the DVRT universe how important those little tootsies are 😉

This is the number one reason using the USB in your bird dog will give you a stronger push-up because it teaches you how to use the ground for the necessary core stability and strength and this, ladies and gentlemen, is where people miss the opportunity to learn about push-ups. It’s not an arm and shoulder exercise, but a hands and feet exercise!

When you’re watching the bird dog exercise don’t be distracted by the moving parts because it’s all about the non-moving parts. As the leg is driving back, keep the foot relatively close to the ground – watch and see what the other foot is doing. Is it digging into the floor preventing the body from rocking back? It better be! 

The ability to resist rotation and lateral movement by dragging – I said dragging, not throwing – the USB is exactly the ticket for keeping your hips quite during a push-up exercise. How many times have you experienced hips moving all over the charts while doing a push-up? That’s an energy leak and the only way to seal up that leak and ensure a solid, non-hip moving push-up is to provide your bird dog with a lateral drag using the Ultimate Sandbag!

With this intent now the bird dog has become so much more than just a silly exercise swinging your arms and legs, but an actual plank building, push-up growing, go-to movement for anyone serious about functional, strength training exercises!

Below you see that sometimes we mistaken “difficult” for effective because we don’t understand the movement. Realizing what we are REALLY trying to do in an exercise helps us discover the important difference!

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