How To Do The Archer Push Up Properly

The archer push up, more popularly referred to as the side-to-side push up, is an advanced push up variation that involves working your upper body using one arm at a time.

It allows you to shift a huge percentage of your bodyweight to one arm while the other plays a stabilizing role.

Even though it only uses your bodyweight as the sole load, it is an incredibly challenging exercise that you should think twice about  doing if you aren’t strong enough.

Now that we’ve covered the preliminaries, let’s get right into the step-by-step guide, shall we?

  • First, get into basic push up position on the floor.
  • Grip the floor with both hands, which at this point should be directly under your shoulders.
  • Point your fingers forward and drive your palms into the ground to stabilize your shoulder joint.
  • Your entire body should be in a straight line, with your core tight and your glutes squeezed.
  • Pull your shoulders down, as far away from your ears as you can.
  • Keep your elbows tight, making sure they don’t flare to the sides.
  • Slowly, move your upper body towards the left and bend your right elbow. Let the left shoulder and hand rotate inwardly as you lower.
  • While lowering to the left side, you should also straighten and extend the right arm fully.
  • Once you get down, hold for a second and contract your chest to get you back to where you began.
  • Start with 3-5 sets of 8-10 reps, and you can gradually increase the reps or sets as you get stronger.

WHAT MUSCLES DOES THE ARCHER PUSH UP WORK?

PECTORALIS MAJOR

This is the largest chest muscle, located just below the breast tissue on your upper chest. It is the prime mover when doing the archer pull up.

It is made up of two heads – clavicular and sternocostal head- which insert into the upper arm bone.

The pectoralis major controls the descent portion of this movement and helps you get back to the starting position.

PECTORALIS MINOR

This is the smaller one of your pectorals. It originates from your ribcage to the front of your shoulder blade.

When performing this movement, it keeps your scapulae (shoulder blades) retracted to allow for proper posture of your upper back and shoulders.

TRICEPS

The triceps is a three-headed, large muscle located on the rear part of your upper arm.

All its heads -the lateral, medial and long heads- insert into the bone on the back part of your elbow joint.

When your chest is moving down towards the floor, your triceps step in to stabilize your torso.

ANTERIOR DELTOID

Located at the front of your shoulder joint, this muscle plays a stabilizing role to your shoulders during the descent.

It also adducts the shoulder joint as you push upwards.

CORE

The abdominal muscles of your core, alongside the erector spinae on the lower back, help keep the spine straight so that your body stays aligned from start to finish.

BENEFITS OF THE ARCHER PUSH UP

NO FITNESS EQUIPMENT REQUIRED

The archer push up makes for a great addition to your home workout since it requires absolutely no equipment to perform.

It could come in handy on those days you would rather not go to the gym.

EASY TO MODIFY

The archer push up is quite accommodative.

You do not need to have the strength of an Olympic weight lifter to execute it. Similarly, it does not limit you to its standard version if you are of an advanced fitness level.

To make it easier at the beginning, you can bring your stabilizing hand closer to your upper body. The closer you move it towards your torso, the easier the exercise gets.

Likewise, if you’re looking for a bit more intensity, placing your stabilizing hand on an elevated surface like a dumbbell, step or kettlebell will get you there.

STRENGTHENS YOUR CORE

Think of your core as the manufacturer of all the stability you need to hold your bodyweight in one position until you complete your reps.

As you tighten it to help with the stability, you also tone the muscles in there to create a more solid midsection.

ALTERNATIVES TO THE ARCHER PUSH UP

RING ARCHER PUSH UP

This alternative of the archer push up is performed using TRX suspension cables with rings.

Steps:

  • Attach the suspension cables to a point higher than your head, with the rings hovering a few inches off the ground.
  • Put your hands inside the rings and get into the plank position by getting your body in a straight line.
  • Lower down into a push up while simultaneously straightening one hand to the side.
  • Pull the arm back in before moving back to the plank position.
  • Repeat these steps on the other hand to complete a rep.

ARCHER PUSH UP MISTAKES TO AVOID

 FLARING YOUR ELBOWS

People tend to perform this exercise with flared elbows, which unfortunately does more harm than good.

Some of the stability you need to perform it comes from your shoulder joints, and so you should tuck the elbows in to make you more stable when you get back up from the start position.

ALLOWING YOUR HIPS TO SAG

Your entire body should be in one straight line; from your shoulders to your hips, all the way to the feet.

Therefore, sagging your hips will likely ruin your form and disengage the muscles that work hard to keep you stable in that position.

One way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to brace your core from the first rep to the very last one.

Engaging your glutes and quads will also help keep you in alignment during this exercise.

MOVING TOO FAST

Your ascent and descent speed shouldn’t be so high that they don’t allow the target muscles to stay under enough tension for an effective workout.

Moving through your reps with speed can cause you to inadvertently take the tension off your working muscles, resulting in less engagement.

TO CONCLUDE

Like any other strength training exercise, the archer push up works better when integrated into a well-curated workout routine that has a wide variety of chest exercises.

Just to reiterate, it is fairly challenging and thus not very suitable for people of the beginner fitness level.

However, you can gradually build up to it by practicing less advanced push up variations before trying it out.

Once you’re able to do it without ruining your form, be sure to follow the guide in here strictly, and avoid the mistakes mentioned.