Create Dynamic Strength With This 10 Minute Isometric and Explosive Push Up Routine

By on January 28, 2020

Here is quick push up routine that will increase your pushing power, body control, and general functional performance.  And it only takes ten minutes!

Push up routine

This is quite unlike most circuits or programs you’ve used before, because it consists entirely of one move: the push up. But to increase the challenge and keep things interesting, we’ll be varying the cadence, the angles, and the type of contractions used.

Most programs are entirely focussed on fast repetitions using sub-maximal weights. You pump out a few reps and sets, then head on to the next move. But what happens when you need to be stronger? What happens when you need to exert strength for an extended period?

Have you really mastered a movement if you can’t perform it slowly?

Have you really mastered a movement if you can’t perform it slowly?

That is what I mean when I say “dynamic strength” – the ability to be explosive when you need to be, but also to be slow and controlled, or to churn out lots of reps. To be able to adapt to the demands of any situation.

The aim here is therefore to master the push up, by targeting every type of muscle fiber, and every facet of strength in that range of motion.

The Push Up Routine

It goes like this:

  • Overcoming isometric push ups (“floor hugs”) 3 x 6 seconds
  • Explosive clapping push ups – to technical failure
  • One handed push ups – to failure
  • Push ups – to failure
  • Quasi isometric push up – 30 seconds

Typically, you will rest 30 seconds between each set, and repeat the circuit for a total of 3-5 rounds. The rest between rounds is also only 30 seconds. The short rest time ensures that you are going into each set already fatigued, which will force the body to switch its muscle fibre recruitment.

Try it, and suffer.

Alternatively, you can perform this push up routine as a single drop set so that you move on to the next step immediately after finishing the last one. In this case, you should stop each exercise before you reach failure, in order to ensure you are still able to perform.

This method is less effective for building complete push up strength, but will allow you to get a quick intense workout that can also be tacked onto a full body or push routine.

Breaking it Down

As mentioned, the aim of this routine is to take a single movement and tackle it in every way. This is how that works:

Overcoming Isometric

Bodyweight overcoming isometric

An overcoming isometric movement is one that involves pushing or pulling against an immovable force. This is equivalent to trying to lift a barbell that is too heavy for you, meaning you can exert maximum effort and maximum “neural drive.” In other words, the brain tries to recruit every last muscle fibre it can, which can improve muscle fibre recruitment over time, and thus increase maximum strength. This may also help you to access more explosive force in the next set, thanks to the post-activation principle.

We can do this against the floor to create a “bodyweight overcoming isometric.” To do this, you are going to widen your arms so that they are too wide to push you up. Then you’re going to try and push up nonetheless. It should look like you are trying to pec fly or hug the floor (or, as I prefer, CRUSH THE EARTH).

Hold for 6 seconds, then release and rest for 10 seconds, then repeat. We’ll be performing a total of 6 reps.

Explosive Clapping Push Ups

Explosive push up

For the next part of this push up routine, you will be performing explosive push ups, probably with a clap. This is plyometric training, which again activates as many fast twitch muscle fibres as possible for a display of starting strength. This will help you to improve your rate of force development, meaning you can access more strength more quickly.

One Handed Push Ups

One arm push ups

Next, we’re moving to one-handed push-ups. This movement is unilateral, so it isolates a single pec, tricep, and shoulder. This allows you to increase the load, such that you are now likely working with an equivalent of more weight. You’re also going to be bracing your body more with your obliques to combat the rotational force. This means you will be using a slightly different intramuscular coordination.

Following the clapping push ups and overcoming isometrics, you may already be facing some fatigue that will make this movement harder.

Push Ups

Push Ups

Next, you’re going to be doing regular push ups. For many of us, it’s relatively easy to perform huge numbers of push ups, but this should be harder following what has immediately preceded this move.

Still, this will either now count toward a higher total count, or it will allow you to rack up higher numbers. This means you’re now using more slow twitch fibre, and will help you to build work capacity. You’ll increase blood flow to the area, encouraging hypertrophy too.

Quasi Isometric Push Ups

Quasi Isometric Push Up

Finally, you will end this push up routine by performing a quasi isometric push up. This means you’ll be slowing the movement all the way down, taking around 15 seconds on the way down, and 15 seconds on the way up. If you’re confident, you can increase this to 30 seconds each way.

The quasi isometric push up, of course, requires a greater amount of slow twitch fibre, as well as a huge amount of muscle control. Because there’s no acceleration, you won’t be able to rely on momentum to jump past sticking points. What’s more, is that you’ll build greater proprioception and body awareness as you consciously move through each point. This will make the movement much more efficient in future. This is especially true if you use a passive isometric on the way down – where you only contract the muscles that you strictly need for the movement. That means no energy is wasted on contracting other parts of the body, which can add to your muscle control and efficiency in movement.

Make sure to use perfect technique during these push ups: maintain the hollow body position where possible, and bring yourself all the way down to the ground on each rep.

The best part is that when you begin round two, the fact that your slow twitch fibre has been exhausted, means that you’ll be forced to rely on a greater proportion of fast twitch fibre – emulating a heavier weight.


Many training routines focus on hitting the same muscle groups with slightly different exercises. Here, the exercise is largely the same, but what varies is the speed and intent that you train with. You’ll find that even though you’re exhausted from maxing out your regular push ups, you’re still capable of performing a slow, quasi-isometric rep. Why? Because these use the muscles and nervous system in entirely different ways.

Explosive push ups program

And when you can perform normally, explosively, unilaterally, AND with extreme control and precision – you’ll be able to say you have mastered that movement.

And this will carry over into many other areas of your performance. Enjoy!

P.S. The same approach used in this push up routine can be used with many different exercises. Right now I’m using it to “master” the pseudo planche push-up!

About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

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