Upper Body Blowout: Push-up Negatives

Finishers are a great way to complete your training on any given day. Depending on what you select, you can bring up weak points by improving work capacity.

One of the keys about conditioning is that we are generally pushing the body pretty hard. So, you expect to see some break in form, but you need to know what is acceptable failure in form and what isn’t.

For example, if I were having an athlete perform a shuttle run, unacceptable failure would be when we reach ANY biomechanical failure - we can only condition as long as we’re being safe - acceptable failure would be from the standpoint of the aerobic system (times get a bit slower) or because the muscles start “burning” and times slow.

Once failure of form is reached - and this applies to conditioning scenarios as much as lifting - the set must stop immediately.

The other rule is that we don’t want to burn in movement patterns that - while they may be highly unlikely to cause injury - are an incorrect pattern we are working on correcting through other parts of our training. A great example is the push-up. Push-ups are often butchered resulting in way too much strain on the lower back and shoulder than they should when done with “perfect” form.

If your push-ups don’t look like the ones in the video, then you are probably not ready for Depletion Push-ups. To get some tips on how to troubleshoot your push-up, check out SAPT’s guide to Diagnosing the Push-up.

Depletion Push-ups + 90-Second Negatives

This sweet little combo of Depletion Push-ups + 90-Second Negatives are best used for areas of the body that are already fairly strong. If you’re just learning to keep your hips elevated and hold a brace, this would not be a recommended finisher.

Negative only push-ups are a great way to develop upper body and core bracing strength.

I think this is a perfect variation for athletes who may lack work capacity in the upper body, but can solidly hold a brace for… well, close to forever. Since it’s easier to control the body as it’s lowered to the ground, we can still accumulate a ton of volume to improve work capacity if the upper body.


  • Add more sets: starting with one set of :90 is often plenty, but you can add another 1-2 sets to get even more volume. Keep rest times minimal.

  • Add weight to the back to increase difficulty: using a plate, chains, weight vest, or even making these band resisted will ramp up the challenge.

  • Full Depletion Push-ups: once you’ve maxed out progress on the negatives and are certain your form is excellent, go ahead and remove the emphasis on the slow negative to knock out as many push-ups as possible with PERFECT form for 1-3 sets of 90-seconds.

Give these a shot if you feel like you’re ready! I bet you will be surprised with all the muscles that get involved and get sore the next day.