I’ve tried doing plyo push-ups to gain more upper-body power, but I can barely get my hands to leave the floor. Is there a better exercise for me that will have the same effect? —Joe S., Stamford, CT


Plyo push-ups—where you push yourself up so explosively that you “get air”—are widely used by athletes interested in gaining ballistic strength. But, as you point out, some people can’t do them effectively because they can’t move fast enough to leave the floor. The solution is to reduce the resistance, which you can do by placing your hands on a bench, thereby lightening your load to less than 40% of your body weight.

To do it, place your hands on a secure bench with your arms shoulder-width apart and your feet behind you on the floor. Bend your arms to lower your body. As soon as your chest touches the bench press up explosively to catapult your body as high as possible. Catch the bench as you come down, letting the momentum bring your chest to the bench again, at which point you’ll feel the stretch reflex kick in. Take advantage of it by immediately hitting the next rep.

Power Pump Pec Training

To improve upper-body power, strength, and size.

Sets: 3   Reps: 6–8    Rest: 2–3 min.

Sets: 3  Reps: 6–8    Rest: 2–3 min.

Sets: 3  Reps: 8–10  Rest 1–2 min.

Quick Tip: Always do plyo push-ups as the first exercise in a chest workout, when fast twitch muscle fibers are fresh and can generate the most power. 

See how to do the power push-up here, at Jim Stoppani’s video training series, M&F RAW!