Upper body strength is important in many different sports, from throwing a ball to throwing a punch. The following exercises will help students develop well rounded and strong upper bodies.
Pushups (and numerous variations)
If someone was stranded on a deserted island with only one exercise to do for the rest of their lives, most people would pick pushups. This is the classic training drill for many different sports. There are a ton of variations to this as well. Know any more – leave a reply in the comments.
Classic Pushups – Arms shoulder length apart and hands flat.
Super Slow Pushups – Try to go as slow as possible. Can also do this by count. Sometimes I ask the students “How many pushups do you want to do?” and then when someone says “1,” I reply “I’m really glad you said that…” and proceed to do one pushup that is agonizingly slow.
Triangle Pushups – Make a triangle with your hands and put your sternum into it.
Wide Pushups – Put the arms either one and a half shoulder widths wide or two shoulder widths wide.
Side to Side Pushups – Go down and pause, and then go side to side several times before coming up.
Knuckle Pushups – Should be done on a soft surface. These aren’t really for the knuckles, but more for strengthening the wrist.
Knee Pushups – Pushups on the knees can be appropriate for people who are just building up strength. It’s better to do more of these with good form than struggle with bad form on the toes.
Narrow Pushups – Put the hands closer together to work different muscles.
Wall Pushups – We use pushups against a wall when teaching very young children the basics of form.
Clapping Pushups – These plyometric pushups are great to build explosion. Variations include double clapping, behind the back clapping, front and back clapping, etc.
Fingertip Pushups – Be careful that the students are strong enough to avoid endangering their fingers.
One Handed Pushups – One handed pushups can be great. Rotate the body to spread out the weight. One handed clapping pushups work well also. Clap against the chest.
Hang-man Pushups – Have someone hold your feet (or put them on something) while doing pushups.
Spiderman Pushups – When you go down, bring your knee up to touch your elbow. For an extra challenge bend your leg inwards to touch the opposite elbow.
Falling Technique Pushups – A form of plyometric pushup where you push up hard and then land in a falling technique. The default is forward fall, but you can also rotate in the air and do other things.
Pushups work well with a partner because you can look into each other’s eyes and make sure each person goes down as far as possible. Finish with a high five or Paper Rock Scissors.
You can have each person put their feet on the backs of someone else, and then everyone has to go up at the same time. This works particularly well when you have a lot of people together.
Another great way to do pushups is with a pyramid. This time the people on the bottom will really have to be strong to push up dynamically.
One way to work on breaking is to have students build something and then try to destroy it. Of course, this would be more legit with real wood, but also could get expensive quickly.