Archer Push Ups: The Complete Guide

By | 2018-01-28T01:49:04+00:00 January 28th, 2018|Push Ups, Tutorials|

If you’ve ever wondered how effective archer push ups are, let me tell you…

Archer push ups are one of the most effective push up variations and if you aren’t using them in your training, you’re missing out.

After reading this post, you’ll have a completely new understanding of archer push ups and know how to use them effectively in your calisthenics strength training.

With that said, let’s find out what makes archer push ups so great.

The Benefits of Archer Push Ups

1. Use Them According To Your Goals

Just by changing your arms position you can decrease or increase the leverage of the movement.

This allows you to easily target the qualities you want.

You can use archer push ups as an endurance exercise, for muscle building or as a progression towards advanced calisthenics skills.

2. Achieve  And  Master Any One Arm Pushing Variation

Would you like to achieve the one arm push up?

What about the one arm one leg push up?

Well…

Archer push ups got you covered!

No matter which skill you’re trying to learn, an archer push up variation will be there to help you progress.

Furthermore, if you’re stuck in an advanced exercise, archer push upscan help you break through your plateau.

For example, if you can’t increase your reps beyond the 2-5 rep range in one arm push ups, you can train with archer push ups instead.

Later on this post, you’ll find out how to use archer push ups to achieve advanced skills and how to use them to break through your strength plateaus.

3. Learn How To Control Your Body

While you’re performing archer push ups, you have to manage a lot of different forces that come into play, such as trunk rotation, weight management, etc.

Other than getting stronger, managing these forces effectively is going to help you develop a lot of body control.

4. Overcome Boredom

As I said in the first benefit, you can easily modify archer push ups.

This means that you can come up with new variations to train with.

As such, you’ll be able to spice up your training whenever you feel like it.

Later in this post, I cover more than 10 archer push up variations but you can easily come up with your own as well.

archer push up

1) Straight body 2) Straight arm 3) Legs together

Like in any other exercise, if you wanna get the full benefits, you’ll have to train correctly.

So…

How do you perform a “perfect” archer push up?

Well…

There are 3 key points that you have to be aware of while you are training with them.

First, you have to make sure that your body remains completely straight while you are performing the movement.

Usually, you’ll feel inclined to twist your body.

Don’t do it.

Stay as straight as you can with your torso and pelvis facing straight to the ground.

You have to always be aware of your body’s position during the movement, otherwise, you’ll probably twist without noticing.

Second, your assisting arm should remain completely straight during the whole movement.

That’s right.

Don’t bend that arm of yours.

Keep it straight.

This will allow you to put more emphasis on the main arm and reduce the assistance you are using.

In addition, this way you are going to progress much faster towards the one arm push up (or any other movement you’re aiming for).

Third, your legs must be close together – Preferably touching.

Based on what I’ve seen, very few people keep their legs completely together when performing archer push ups.

When your legs are spread the exercise become easier.

When you have your legs close together there is an extra element of twisting that you have to resist.

This way you’ll have to use your core and obliques a lot more, making the exercise a great core builder.

Also, if you perform archer push ups like this, you’ll be able to achieve the one arm push up (convict style) much easier.

If for any reason, you can’t meet these 3 criteria, you can train with the easier progressions described in the next section.

How to Achieve The Archer Push Up

If you can already perform a “perfect” archer push up, you can skip this section.

Progression 1: Diamond push ups or close push ups

As Matt explains in his archer push up tutorial, during the archer push up, your main arm is going to be close to your body.

To get stronger in that position, you have to train with close grip or diamond push ups.

Keep in mind that you will have to be able to do at least 30 push ups before starting to train with more advanced variations.

Progression 2: Side to side push ups

Once you are able to do 15-20 diamond push up, you’re ready to train with side to side push ups.

These are like archer push ups but with a bent assisting arm.

This modification allows you to control more easily how much assistance you’re using.

As I describe in my OAPU tutorial, a good way to progress with this exercise is by gradually increasing the width of your arms.

Eventually, you’ll reach a point where you can do archer push ups having the assisting arm completely straight.

Other exercises

Other than the main progressions, there are some more exercises that can help you achieve the archer push up.

Some of them are:

A. Archer push up negatives

In this variation, you’re just going to lower down to the bottom of the archer push up position, pause for a second or two, touch the ground briefly, and come back up with a regular push up.

B. Archer push up bottom holds

Similarly to the previous one, you’re gonna lower to the bottom position of the archer push up.

Stay in this position for 10-20 seconds.

Try to stay as rigid as possible during the hold.

And remember to breathe.

C. Incline Archer Push Ups

incline archer push up

Here, instead of performing archer push ups on the ground, you’re going to perform them on an elevated surface.

Gradually, as you get stronger, you can decrease the height of the surface you’re training on until you can do archer push ups on the ground.

10 Archer Push Up Variations

In this section, you are going to find a complete list of all the archer push up variations I could think of.

Of course, you can come up with your own variations by combining some of the ones I share with you in this list.

These variations can help you add variety and spice up your training.

Furthermore, some of them can help you progress towards advanced variations of one arm push ups.

Make sure you can perform at least 10 perfect archer push ups (5 per side) before training with these variations.

1. The Superman-Archer Push Up & Variations

superman/archer push up

This is a combination of the archer and superman push ups.

This variation is a little harder on your core than the regular one.

If you can’t perform superman push ups, this variation could be used as a progression.

Some more variations

As you can imagine, you can easily modify this variation by changing the position of your assisting arm.

You can, for example, have your assisting arm pointing towards your feet.

2. Hindu & Dive-bomber Archer Push Up

Hindu archer push up

The Hindu archer push up is one of the hardest variations.

As you can imagine, this harder variation of the Hindu push ups can help you achieve the one arm Hindu push up.

Notice in the middle picture that my assisting arm is bent.

During the Hindu archer push up, you’ll find it hard to maintain a straight arm because of the different positions you’re moving through.

The Divebomber Archer push up

The dive-bomber push up is the same as the Hindu variation with the difference being that you push in both directions of the movement.

This variation can help you achieve both the one arm dive-bomber and one arm Hindu push ups.

Form wise, you can keep your legs close together (which is the regular form) or spread them (like I  do in the picture).

A big straddle can allow you to move your legs closer to your hands and make the exercise harder.

It can also help you get into the starting position even if you lack the necessary flexibility to do so.

3. The Pike Archer Push Up

In this variation, you are going to do archer push up from the pike push up position.

This is a great exercise for your triceps and shoulders.

4 Archer Triceps Extensions

Bodyweight triceps extensions are one of the best bodyweight exercises for your triceps.

However, after a certain point, they turn into an endurance exercise.

What can you do?

You have two options:

  • add a weighted vest
  • progress towards a harder variation.

With the archer triceps extensions, you’ll be able to train for the one arm triceps extension.

5. Decline Archer Push Up

decline archer push up

In the decline version of archer push ups, you are going to place your legs on an elevated surface so that you increase the amount of weight in your hands.

6. Arm Elevated

If you increase the height of the surface for your assisting arm, you’ll make the exercise more difficult, since it will be harder to apply force with that arm.

As Mike says in his archer push up tutorial, you shouldn’t increase the height more than 12 inches as it will mess up with your form.

To elevate your hand you can use something simple, like a basketball.

7. Fingertip Archer Push Up

Here, instead of having your working hand’s palm on the ground, you’re gonna use your fingertips.

This is a great variation to move on once regular fingertip push ups have become easy.

Instead of training with less and less fingers, you can increase the difficulty of the exercise.

This can help you progress towards the one arm fingertips push up.

Similarly, you can use archer push ups to train your knuckles and wrists.

8. Single Leg Archer Push Upone leg archer push up

With this variation, you are going to have one leg suspended in the air.

You can elevate whichever leg you want.

But always remember do train equally both sides.

This exercise is going to help you strengthen your hip flexors and progress towards the one arm one leg push up.

9. Spiderman-Archer Push Upspiderman/archer push up

This is a combination of archer and spiderman push up.

To perform the movement, all you have to do is your move knee towards your assisting arm as you are lowering to the bottom position.

As your pushing back up, return the leg to the starting position.

For an extra challenge, you can pause at the bottom position.

10. Typewriter Push Ups

In this version of the archer push up, instead of going down and up, you’re going to move from one arm to the other while you are still in the bottom position.

This is a great exercise to practice your overall control.

Most importantly, you can combine the typewriter push up with most of the above archer push up variations!

For example, you can do single leg typewriters.

How To Achieve Advanced Skills With Archer Push Ups

As you can already see, archer push ups can be used as an intermediate step towards harder skills.

But how can you use them effectively?

In this section, I’ll show you how.

Step 1: Choose Your Goal

Before starting out, you should know what skill you’d like to achieve.

The skill you choose can be any one arm push up variation.

I’d suggest you achieve the regular one arm push up prior to trying learning more advanced moves.

Step 2: Choose The Right Variation

Now that you know what you’re aiming for, you have to find out which variation is more related to your goal.

If for example, you want to achieve the one arm Hindu push ups, you’ll train with the Hindu or dive-bomber archer push ups.

Step 3: Train With It

Once you find the appropriate archer push up variation, you have to make sure you can perform it with perfect form.

All the variations share similar characteristics, meaning that your body shouldn’t twist and that your assisting arm should remain straight.

If you can’t do them perfectly, you can try to progress towards them like you’d progress towards the regular archer push up.

Keep in mind that in some variations you might not be able to straighten your assisting arm completely.

So don’t worry if you can’t.

Your goal is to be able to do at least 5 perfect reps on each side with the exercise of your choice.

Step 4: Make It Harder

one finger archer push up

To increase the difficulty all you have to do is reduce the assistance coming from the straight arm.

The easiest way I’ve found is to use your fingertips.

Let me explain.

Once you’re able to do 5 reps, instead of having your assisting arm with the palm down, you’re gonna have it on your fingertips.

Now, you won’t be able to apply as much pressure.

Gradually, you are going to decrease how much fingers you are using.

Try to reach at least 3 sets of 5 reps in each progression prior to removing fingers from the assisting arm.

Most of the times, you’ll be able to achieve the move you’re aiming for before having to use only one finger.

Other Progressions

Other than using your fingers, you can make archer push ups harder by:

  • Using an elevated surface for your assisting arm (eg. a ball)
  • Training on gymnastics rings
  • Using floor sliders

How To Break Through Your Plateaus Using Archer Push Ups

If you’re stuck in the 2-5 rep range in an advanced move (like OAPU),  then archer push ups can help you break through.

For example…

Let’s say that you’re training with one arm push ups 3 times per week with a workout that looks like this (simplified):

  • 4x(sub-max) OAPU

If you can do 2-4 reps per set, your total workload would be 8-16 reps per workout and 24-48 reps per week.

Since you’re already training 3 times per week, it would be hard to add another strength training workout to increase the total workload.

However, you can easily add an easier workout of archer push ups that will allow you to increase the total volume you’re training with.

For example, if your current training week looks like this (simplified):

MondayWednesdayFriday
OAPU TrainingOAPU TrainingOAPU Training

You could add an extra training day on Saturday and it would look like this:

MondayWednesdayFridaySaturday
OAPU TrainingOAPU TrainingOAPU TrainingOAPU Training

If your archer push up workout was this:

  • 3x(10-12) archer push ups

Then you’d be adding an extra 30-36 pushing volume to your weekly workload.

This will increase your workout capacity, endurance, and strength and you’ll be able to break through your plateau and progress faster.

If adding an extra day is hard for you, you can replace one OAPU training day with archer push ups.

So, you’ll have a weekly plan that looks like this:

MondayWednesdayFriday
OAPU TrainingArcher Pu WorkoutOAPU Training

How To Build A Muscular Chest With Archer Push Ups

Credit: The following section is based on Elton Toledo’s comment.

The obvious way to build muscle with archer push ups would be to practice withing the 8-12 rep range.

And this, of course, works pretty well.

But, after a while, archer push ups will become easy for you and they won’t be as effective.

So, what should you do?

Well…

There are many things you can do – once archer push ups are easy…

Like:

  • Train with more sets/reps
  • Increase the difficulty of the exercise – so you still train within the 8-12 rep range
  • Decrease the rest intervals between sets

Or…

Do drop sets:

“Drop sets is a technique for continuing an exercise with a lower weight once muscle failure has been achieved at a higher weight.” ~ Wikipedia

Or, to put it in layman’s terms:

Once you reach failure with an exercise, you switch to an easier one.

For example:

1st set: Regular push ups to failure
2nd set: Knee push ups to failure

By doing this you’ll be able to recruit more muscle fibers that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.

But…

How Do You Perform A Drop Set Workout?

This depends on how many drops you’re going to perform. Usually 1-4 drops.

If you’re doing only 1 drop, then that’s 2 sets only, and it’s not enough.

As such, you’ll have to do some regular sets and perform the drop at the last set.

For example:

Sample Drop Set Workout 1

 Sets/ RepsExercise
Regular Set(s)3x(8-12) RepsArcher Push Ups
Drop Set1x20 RepsRegular Push Ups

If you’re going to perform more drop sets, then you don’t have to include regular sets.

For example:

Sample Drop Set Workout 2

 Sets/ RepsExercise
Regular Set1x Sub-maxDecline Archer Push Ups
1st Drop Set1x Sub-maxIncline Archer Push Ups
2nd Drop Set1x Sub-maxRegular Push Ups
3rd Drop Set1x Sub-maxKnee Push Ups

Or

Sample Drop Set Workout 3

 Sets/ RepsExercise
Regular Set1x Sub-maxOne Arm Push Ups
1st Drop Set1x Sub-maxArcher Push Ups
2nd Drop Set1x Sub-maxRegular Push Ups

Workout Notes

  • Always start with your weak arm and try to work both sides evenly.
  • Sub-max means that you stop 1-2 reps before failure.
  • Rest as little as possible between sets. Preferably with no rest in between.
  • Train with good from at all times.
  • These are not complete workouts. You still need to include leg, back, and core exercises.

How Often Should You Do Drop Sets?

Even though drop sets are very effective, I don’t think it’s a good idea to train with them in every workout.

If building muscle is your main goal, you should combine drop sets with other techniques as well.

Like, for example, omni sets.

Lastly, if you’re interested in learning more about drop sets, check out the following articles:

Which Variations Will You Try Next?

Just reading this post won’t help you grow stronger.

Taking action will!

So, choose the variation that seems the most exciting and beneficial for you and test it as soon as possible.

Preferably, right now!

Then, let me know what you think in the comment section below.

~Nick

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Photo Courtesy of George “Swofford71″ Nikolaidis