One Handed Pushups and HIIT – A faster and more effective workout

Some time ago, I combined the pull up challenge and the push up challenge to create an exhausting full body workout. I got some great results, and was happy to be able to do 22 continuous good form pull ups. The only problem was that after three months, my body had adapted to the exercises and I was no longer seeing progress. Also, the idea of making tennis part of my “work out” meant it became more of a chore than something I enjoyed. I started dragging my feet getting to the gym because I had hit a plateau and the workout had got boring.

Naked WarriorA few days ago I read a book called the The Naked Warrior by Pavel Tsatsouline. The book has the tag line – “Master the Secrets of The Super-Strong Using Body weight Exercises Only”. Pavel has a few ideas in his book that I found extremely interesting.

The first idea was that it is better to do a couple of reps short of failure and just train the body to get used to the new movement. Once the body gets used to the new motion, the ability to do reps increase without needing to reach muscle failure. The reason I agree with this principle is because this was how I learned to do my first pull up, and of course how the push up and pull up challenges work.

The other idea I found interesting was that we only need two body weight exercises to get a complete full body workout – the one-arm push up and the one-leg squat.

I decided that the one-arm push ups sounded like fun and re-started the hundred push up challenge using one handed push ups. The first day I completed the exercise I realized something important. The one arm push up is not just an arm exercise. It tightens every muscle from the arm and shoulder, going diagonally across the back to the opposite leg. It will also engage your core to maintain balance and keep straight.

I discovered how much it engaged my back muscles when I was bed-ridden the next two days. Word of advice – If you plan to do regular push ups, pull ups and then one armed push ups in the same day, it might be a good idea to have a quick back stretch routine between each set of exercises (at least until you get used to it). I learned the hard way that I had been neglecting my lower back in my previous workout. However my back is a lot stronger now.

Apart from one armed push ups, I also restarted both push up and pull up challenges. This time, the push ups are much slower, 4 second, perfect form push ups. The pull ups are also slow, with my arms as far apart as possible. Both are significantly harder, which is why I had to start both of them from week one.

The last modification was to change the cardio segment of the workout to HIIT running. The treadmill at our gym has a setting for interval training, and you can select both the time and the maximum speed. I was amazed at how exhausting a 20 minute run with a high upper interval can be. The first day was brutal. After one week, I was able to do it easily, at which point I increased the max speed by one and it became exhausting all over again.

So this is my new modified workout for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

1. 100 Push-up challenge: Slow, perfect form, 4 second push ups
2. 20 Pull-up challenge: Slow, perfect form pull-ups with arms as wide apart as possible
3. 100 Push-up challenge with one armed push-ups: Currently on an inclined bar. Will change to doing it on the ground once I complete the challenge on an incline
4. 20 Minute HIIT running: Am pushing the upper limit up by 1 every week which makes it very difficult for my body to adapt.

Now that the tennis is out of my workout routine, I only play tennis when I feel like playing so I can enjoy it. And since the workout is stretching my limits again, it has become fun too.