PUPP: The Most Simple (Yet Difficult) Exercise You're Not Doing

Want a surefire yet simple method of making your current workout more challenging, while simultaneously improving your core stability and shoulder endurance? Instead of walking around (or checking your cell phone) during your rest period, get into the top of a pushup position, and hold it right there while keeping your body stiff as a board. Do this for 30 seconds, and then return to your next exercise. Dan John calls this a “PUPP” (Push-Up Position Plank).

Give it a shot for a few rounds. You'll quickly begin to feel your abdominals, chest, and shoulders burning like crazy.

A few months ago I put together a video of enough anti-extension core exercises to last you a lifetime:

However, most people (and I'm no exception), could really just use PUPP for a loooongg time and continue to garner the benefits from it. After a while, you can elevate the feet, place your feet in suspension straps, or place a weight on your back. The progressions are nearly endless, and believe me when I say you don't need to progress too quickly.

Above is a picture of Kelsey and Carson both performing a PUPP. Kelsey is using the method I described above, and Carson is doing it as an actual exercise in his training program, holding it for 60 seconds (when you have your feet in TRX straps, you won’t want to do it more than a few times).

Note that this exercise is only as challenging as you make it. Sure, most people can hold themselves up for a minute. But few can do it correctly, and thus reap the full benefit of it. Your glutes should be squeezed so tight that a walnut would be cracked between them. Your stomach should be maximally braced to the point that if I were to suddenly punch you in the gut, you wouldn’t feel it. No sagging of the low back, and you should be able to draw a perfectly straight line from the top of your head through your heels (no reaching forward, or looking up, with the head).

Try it. That shaking throughout your torso occurring at the halfway point is your body telling you that you’re not too advanced for planks.

Other Applications Moving along a similar thread, I’ve found that the PUPP also makes an excellent exercise for those struggling to either:

a. Do their first perfect pushup b. Improve their max number of bodyweight pushups (ex. as in a military challenge)

A lot of people go up in smoke when they attempt the pushup because their core musculature fails in its role as a stabilizer, as opposed to the primary movers (ex. chest, shoulders, and and triceps) failing. By the way, by “core” I’m referring to the 30+ muscles that attach to your pelvis, not just your abs! All of these muscles must learn to work as a unit, and the pushup position hold aids you in your quest to achieve this.

So get to work, and enjoy some newfound stability and strength-endurance in your upper body and lumbopelvic regions.