The Academy's Unique "Graduation" System for Horizontal Push/Pull Movements

Last week, we discussed and gave an oversight into our Horizontal Push/Pull Cues & Technique for how we teach the hip-hinge movement pattern here at The Academy to all of our young athletes & adolescents - you can find it HERE. In this article, we're going to take you over the progressions we utilise as part of our "Graduation System" for teaching & progression the horizontal push/pull movement patterns

Renegade Row - The Youth Academy

"we are what we repeatedly do, and excellence therefore is not a skill, but a habit"

And this is our viewpoint when it comes to ingraining movement patterns into our young athletes & adolescents - repetition, repetition, repetition with nothing but the best of technique at heart

Why? Because the movement pattern never changes, only the implement we use does... This is a vital key to comprehend

Horizontal Push Progressions

  • Wall Pushup
  • Incline Pushup
  • Eccentric Pushup
  • Weighted Eccentric Pushup
  • Pushup (knees)
  • Pushup (feet)
  • Weighted Pushup
  • Floor Press w/ dumbbells
  • Floor Press w/ swiss bar
  • DB Benchin (all variations)
Pushup - The Youth Academy

We begin here at an angle where gravity is at its "least" amount and provides a safe space for us to teach the proper cues & activation of the correct muscles to do the work. And the first few movements all begin with the simple use of bodyweight, as when learning these exercises there is no need for a load. The most important thing we're trying to teach is the proper positioning of the shoulders & elbows so that when we execute the lift, the majority of the stress is placed on the chest & NOT the shoulders. This is done via the use of the cues "shoulders back & down/scaps in your back pockets" and "elbows"

Once the wall push-up KPI's have been met, we move a little more horizontal to an incline push-up, where there's a little more intensity added as we're moving more of our own body weight throughout the lift. Once this has been met we move to the floor with a "normal" push-up setup. The difference is, we don't immediately move onto a normal pushup, we instead focus on strengthening the eccentric portion of the movement as we find some young athletes don't have the strength to perform a full range-of-motion push-up even from the knees. This focus on eccentric strength helps us find the correct positions, strengthen the correct muscles, and prime the body for the movement (much like you'll see in our pull-up progressions in the future)

Floor Press - The Youth Academy

The next progression is to simply add weight to the eccentric movement and aim for a strong, controlled, 10-second count on the way down. Once this has been achieved, we find that young athletes can perform numerous repetitions of knee push-ups and even progress faster to the feet than if we were to accelerate them to these movements and have them do "half-reps"

A key cue & thought pattern with pushups is "push the floor away from you" by driving your hands powerfully & forcefully into the ground

Next we add weight to the pushup, or we roll over to perform dumbbell floor presses and swiss bar floor presses.

Why the floor press? It's a smaller range of motion compared to a bench press, and we find this helps save young athletes shoulders. Also, we're not training to get better at the floor press - our intention is to promote strength & power through horizontal planes whilst keeping injury risks minimised - and the floor press is phenomenal at doing so. It is, in essence, a pushup on our backs. The setup is the same, the cues are the same, we're just pressing the DB's or swiss bar away from us & we can add much more load here than a traditional pushup. 

The key cue/thought pattern to remember here is "push yourself into the floor", don't try and "push the weights away from you"... as this helps to keep the back tight and really apply force to the movement

Ring Row - The Youth Academy

Horizontal Row Progressions:

  • Kneeling Single Arm Band Row
  • Seated Band Row
  • Ring Row
  • Single Legged Ring Row
  • DB Row
  • Single Arm DB Row
  • Renegade Row
  • Barbell Row
  • Pendlay Row

We love to row. No, that's an understatement... the bulk of our training programs with young athletes is rowing and pulling to help improve posture and strengthen these often-neglected muscle groups. We love to abide by at least a 2 to 1 ratio for pulling to pressing movements. Plus, there's an old saying... "the bigger the back and booty, the stronger & more powerful the athlete" - and if you look at those professional athletes who fit this bill, you'll find ultimate truth within it

Again, the progressions here are mainly brought about by the addition of a weight/load once the proper form can be shown at simpler variations using bands and bodyweight. Like all movement patterns, the key is that the movement patterns never change, only the implement/variation we perform does

So with the rows, our keys are "shoulders back and down/scaps in back pockets" and "elbows to ribs" - remembering to picture the string attaching our elbow to our ribs

That's All Folks...

It doesn't need to be complex, although this may seem so to you - to us, it's simple and incredibly easy to follow - plus, we find we get phenomenal results utilising this unique system we've developed

If you're looking to improve your upper body strength or size, look not further than these foundational movements. And remember to leave your ego at the door and build perfect technique at the beginning as this will help us to create a phenomenal base to build upon

"the wider the base of the pyramid, the higher it can go"

Nick Maier