Archer Push Ups – Build Muscle While Perfecting Your One Arm Push Up From!
Archer push ups are an incredible upper body movement, which can build:
- Massive Chest
- Boulder Shoulders
- Horseshoe Triceps
- Rock Hard Abs and a
- Shredded Serratus Anterior
The serratus anterior is a muscle that completes the shredded look and is often neglected for those who do the majority of their pressing on a bench.
What’s more is the archer push up is THE stepping stone to one arm push up mastery.
But many don’t perform this incredible exercise the right way.
In this article I’m going to show you:
- The benefits of archer push ups
- How to do your first archer push up
- How to do archer push ups with perfect form
- The biggest mistake you’re making with archer push ups
- Archer push up variations
- Disadvantages Of archer Push Ups
- Exercises that compliment the archer push up
Benefits Of Archer Push Ups
The Archer push up is a unilateral movement that uses one hand to perform the push up, while the other hand is used for support.
This means that only one side of the chest, shoulders and triceps is worked, while the other side stabilizes the body as it moves through space.
Here are the benefits of the Archer Push Up:
- Stepping Stone To One Arm Push Ups:
If you want to learn the one arm push up then the archer push up will help you get there.
The archer push up replicates one arm push up mechanics, while allowing the preservation of good form with the supporting arm.
Performing the one arm push up with good form is extremely difficult.
This is because there can be a tendency for the body to twist at the hips during the movement. This is the body’s natural tendency to counteract the imbalance created by using just one hand.
The archer push up mitigates this awkward bending and twisting at the shoulders and hips by allowing the supporting hand to stabilize the body throughout the movement. Although, maintaining a straight bodyline is no easy task in the archer push up either.
The stabilizing arm in the archer push up helps ingrain strict form and technique before transitioning to the one arm push up.
- Builds Incredible Core Strength Through “Anti-Rotation”
The ability to place both arms on the floor during regular push ups removes the need for the body to fight any twisting forces (aka “anti-rotation”).
Regular push ups build core strength via “anti-extension” (holding the plank position).
Taking one hand away from the equation introduces unbalanced forces that require additional stabilization from the trunk muscles.
The archer push up builds core strength via “anti-rotation” and “anti-extension” as well. This is what makes it an incredible abdominal workout.
This same phenomenon happens in the one arm push up, albeit to a greater extent.
This is why the archer push up is an excellent stepping stone to the one arm push up. It allows you to build incredible core strength that transfers directly to the one arm push up, while allowing you to maintain proper form.
- Places Significant Stress The Working Muscles:
In order to build muscle, you must increase the stress on it (thereby making it stronger).
One of the many ways bodyweight training enthusiasts increase the amount of stress on their muscles (progressive overload) via unilateral training.
Of course, there are a several different ways calisthenics athletes can induce more stress on the muscles.
Read More: High Volume Calisthenics – Does It SUCK?
Unilateral movements remove utilise only one limb, thereby demanding more from it in order to complete the exercise.
This added load on the muscles enables the trainee to get stronger and build more muscle over time.
- Can Be Made Harder By Performing Different Variations:
One of the main problems with bodyweight only calisthenics exercises is that in order to make them harder, you have to change the mechanics of the exercise.
Changing the mechanics of an exercise is literally like changing the exercise itself.
For instance, the regular push up is usually made harder by performing decline push ups (feet elevated).
But, elevating the feet makes the push up more upper chest and shoulder dominant. So instead of making the original exercise harder, the targeted muscles are now mostly changed.
Archer push ups can be made harder without the need to drastically change the exercise or the muscles worked.
This means that you can progressively overload the movement, without changing emphasis on the muscles being worked.
This makes the exercise more versatile, allowing you to make gains longer (which is always a good thing).
Archer Push Up Progression – How To get your First Archer Push Up
Before you attempt your fist archer push up, make sure you can perform at least 20 close grip push ups.
This is because you will get more out of achieving the strength to perform 20 straight close grip push ups than you will performing archer push ups with terrible form.
Close grip push ups have massive benefits that carryover to several different pushing exercises, and are more effective than regular push ups when building size and strength.
The close grip push up also carries over well to arm placement in the one arm push up and the archer push up as well.
In both the one arm as well as the archer push up, your main hand will be placed closer to the body, just like in the close grip push up.
If you can’t perform close grip push ups, then check out my push up progression guide on what you need to do to take your push up game to the next level.
Read More: Push Up Progression Guide
Note: I am not talking about performing diamond push ups when I say you need to work on your close grip push ups.
This is because I think that diamond push ups suck.
Okay, assuming you can do 20 close grip push ups: this simple archer push up progression system will get you to your first archer push up:
Achieving the archer push up is as simple as staggering your hand placement.
To start, get into your close grip push up position and simply move one hand out to the side, further away from the body. This is the supporting hand.
The stronger you get, the farther you can move the supporting hand away from the body; finally ending up in the strict archer push up position mentioned below.
This places more pressure on the working arm, and you’re already on your way to unilateral training.
How To Perform Archer Push Ups With Perfect Form
The perfect archer push up involves:
- A straight body line – This means that your head, shoulders, hips and feet are in one straight line throughout the movement. Not just at the bottom or at the top. There should be no dipping, hinging or side-to-side movement at the hips.
- Feet together– Foot position matters in the archer push up; because keeping the feet apart creates a wider base which makes the push up easier to perform. The closer the feet are in the archer push up, the harder the exercise becomes. Keeping the feet together is part of ideal form in the archer push up and this is something you should aim to achieve as you build up your strength.
- Straight supporting arm – When learning the archer push up, you want to keep your supporting arm bent and as close to the body line as possible. This is because the muscles of the chest, shoulders, triceps and can provide more stability to the body, the closer the arm is to the body. Eventually you want to move your arm further away from the body till the supporting arm is absolutely straight. This reduces the amount of support the muscles can provide to the movement, thus increasing the load on the working arm. For perfect form, keep your supporting arm absolutely straight.
Here are some finer points on the perfect archer push ups from:
- The Start Position:
Setting yourself up in the archer push up depends on your level of advancement.
If you are just beginning, placing the supporting arm closer to the body will make the movement easier.
The start position of the archer push up is unlike any other push up. It is a mix of a close grip and wide grip push up.
To start, get into a high plank position, with one hand (the working hand) close to the chest, while the other hand (the supporting hand) is stretched out by your side, in line with your shoulder.
The placement of your feet matter a lot too, with a wider foot placement making the exercise easier to perform (if you’re new to this movement, start with a wider base).
A narrower foot placement makes the exercise a lot harder to perform due to the smaller base of support provided by the narrower foot position.
Once you’ve set your foot position, you then want to brace the muscles of the trunk by squeezing the glutes and the abs. This will keep your body rigid and will resist the natural tendency to rotate from this position.
You’re now ready for the lowering phase of the movement.
- The Lowering Phase
During the lowering phase of the archer push up, the following steps need to be kept in mind:
Shoulder position – The scapula must be protracted at the start position of the movement and move to fully retracted and depressed position at the end of the lowering phase. This can cause injury. The first signs of from breakdown occur at the shoulder. Make sure you shoulders are not shrugging up (or elevating) during this or any other phase of the push up.
Elbow position – Elbow position of the working hand in the archer push up is important. Make sure not to flare the elbow out too much as this can cause injury to the shoulder joint as well. I like to keep my elbow tucked to my side when performing any form of push up, but you don’t have to do the same. Just make sure to keep your elbows in a position that doesn’t cause shoulder pain.
Hip Position – Keeping a fixed position at the hips during the archer push up can be extremely challenging because of rotational forces acting on the body. To counteract these forces you must engage the muscles of the trunk (abs, spinal erectors) and the glutes as well. Dropping the hips will lead to back pain, while twisting at the hips will mess up your shoulder positioning. Keep your hips in line with the rest of the body throughout the movement.
- Pushing Back Up
This phase is crucial and is the toughest phase of the archer push up.
The idea is to use as little support form the supporting hand as possible.
At the bottom the same problems with the shoulders hips and elbows become amplified.
First the shoulder starts to shrug, then the elbow flares out and the hips follow the shoulders and elbow by jutting out to the side.
To avoid such a high degree of form breakdown – make sure that you are:
- Squeezing the glutes and trunk muscles
- Keeping the working elbow tucked in to your side
- Not shrugging at the shoulders
Following these form tips to the T will have tou performing the one handed push up with good form in no time.
The BIGGEST Mistake You’re Making When Performing Archer Push Ups
Archer push ups are usually done by alternating from one hand to the next. This looks cool but isn’t effective at all when trying to build maximum muscle and strength.
Alternating hands between sets is an inefficient way to perform archer push ups. This is because:
Excessive fatigue buildup in one hand and a failing cardio-respiratory system can lead to termination of the set before even reps are achieved with both hands.
Therefore, it is far better to perform archer push ups by dedicating a complete set to each side, always starting with your weak side first.
This way, you can achieve even reps on both sides of the body, thereby mitigating any muscular imbalances.
Archer Push Up Variations (Make It Harder)
Once you’ve mastered the archer push up, you can make the movement harder to perform in order to get stronger and build more muscle.
The following are the different variations of the archer push up that you can use to get stronger and build more muscle:
Hand Elevated Archer Push Ups:
Slightly elevating the supporting hand makes the archer push up a lot harder.
This is because the supporting hand cannot provide a high level of support when it is in an elevated position.
The higher you place the supporting hand, the harder the exercise becomes.
This is the first variation of the archer push up you can incorporate in your workout routine.
Use this variation after you have exhausted your gains with regular archer push ups.
Superman Archer Push Ups:
Superman archer push ups involve placing the supporting hand in front of the body when performing the movement.
This makes the archer push up significantly harder by reducing the base of support.
This version is harder on the “core” as the rotational forces on the body are much more.
Use this version of the archer push up after exhausting gains from the hand elevated archer push up.
In fact, you can also elevate the supporting hand in the Superman archer push up, thereby making it a lot harder.
Archer Push Ups On Gymnastics Rings:
If I was going to perform archer push ups, they would be on gymnastics rings.
Gymnastics rings bring so many different challenges to the movement.
The first element of difficulty is the stability aspect of gymnastics rings that we’ve all come to love (and hate).
Doing any movement on gymnastics rings involves high levels of trunk activation and stabilization.
Doing your archer push ups on rings means you not only have to overcome the rotational force created by your body, but also the instability the rings provide as a platform.
Another major advantage of performing archer push ups on rings is the ability to increase range of motion.
This helps build more muscle and strength by recruiting muscle fibers in the newly acquired range.
Decline Archer Push Ups
Now we’re starting to change the muscles being emphasized in movement.
The decline archer push up allows you to place more stress on the chest, shoulders and triceps by placing more of your bodyweight on the working hand.
But it also forces smaller muscles like the upper chest and the anterior deltoid to do most of the work, thereby making the movement slightly different from the regular archer push up, but also harder to perform.
Add a pair of gymnastics rings to this movement and you’re going to build incredible upper body aesthetics and strength for a long time.
Handstand Archer Push Ups
The handstand archer push up is a completely different movement.
This is because the handstand push up is more of a vertical pressing movement, while the regular push up is more of a horizontal pressing movement.
The muscles emphasized in both these movements are slightly different. The handstand archer push up is more like the decline archer push up in that it targets more of the anterior deltoid and triceps, while also recruiting fibers of the upper chest.
Regardless, performing handstand archer pushups is an excellent feat of upper body strength.
I wouldn’t try to perform this exercise without wall support. Instead it is better to take balance out of the equation by placing your feet against a wall.
Doing your handstand archer push ups this way will allow you to concentrate on keeping proper form and technique and will reduce the risk of injury.
It will also allow you to focus on building more muscle and strength by getting stronger in the exercise.
Disadvantages Of The Archer Push Up
The biggest con of the archer push up comes from the fact that it is a unilateral movement.
Unilateral movements are subpar when it comes to building strength because using one limb at a time:
- Makes the exercise a balancing act – When balance becomes the main component of an exercise building muscle and strength take a backseat. You will become far bigger and stronger with movements that don’t require unnecessary stabilization.
- Single arm movements take longer to train – Unilateral movements take longer to train because you need to perform more sets to achieve the same number of reps that you would in bilateral movements. This also makes your workouts time consuming.
- Not possible to achieve identical form with both sides (imbalances) – The biggest problem with unilateral training is that it impossible to achieve similar from with both limbs. This means that muscle imbalances will only widen with time, which will lead to injury.
That being said, unilateral training is the only way to go for bodyweight only practitioners to achieve maximum strength and size.
And the archer push up is an excellent staple in the toolbox of the bodyweight calisthenics athlete.
Movements That Compliment The Archer Push Up
If you want to get better at any pushing movement, you must concentrate on building bigger and stronger triceps.
Small triceps can be a weak link when it comes to your pushing movements.
The best calisthenics exercise to build both the heads of your triceps (long and short heads) is the bodyweight skull crusher.
The bodyweight skull crusher is how I was able to build my triceps to the level of development they are at today.
Bodyweight skull crushers not only work the short head of the triceps, but the long head of the triceps as well.
Working both heads of the triceps contribute to better overall development of pushing strength.
Weighted exercises like the weighted push up and the weighted dip can also help improve your overall pushing strength and therefore improve your archer push up as well.
But other bodyweight movements like bodyweight dips, archer dips and handstand push ups can all contribute to incredible upper body pushing strength.
Archer push ups are the perfect stepping stone to the one arm push up. They allow you to build incredible single arm pushing strength along with tremendous “core” stability.
They can also be used to build substantial amounts of muscle and strength, if done the right way, even with the disadvantages of unilateral training.