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The pushup is probably the most popular calisthenic exercise, and for good reason. It hits almost your entire upper body, engages your core, and never gets any easier the more you do it. I won’t go into the stuff that everyone already knows about pushups – yeah. They’re great. Keep doing them! The main topic of this post is clap pushups! So let’s get down to it.
If you are like me, doing the same type of pushup over and over again gets a little dull. Thankfully, the pushup is an incredibly versatile exercise, and the benefits can be vastly different simply based on HOW you do the pushup. And that’s why I get so excited with clap pushups (clearly, it doesn’t take much to excite me). They are intense and after a set of them you will be winded, but the payoff is amazing explosive strength that cannot be achieved with regular pushups.
Clap Pushups Target Different Muscles
Unlike regular pushups, clap pushups are not done with smooth, methodical motions. These movements are high-intensity and short-burst. Such movements strengthen you in ways that cannot be done with regular pushups, because clap pushups increase explosive strength.
I find it very important to train my explosive strength, which increases my Type II muscle strength, also know as fast-twitch. You won’t improve explosive strength without explosive exercises like clap pushups. I wrote an entire article on the importance of explosive strength, which I suggest you check out as well.
The Type II muscles that are hit with clap pushups include: chest, triceps, shoulders, core, wrists, and forearms. There is also some upper back being worked as well.
Depending on your level of strength, your first attempts at clap pushups will vary. If you are newer to calisthenics and/or fitness in general, you will do fewer reps. If you’ve been working out for a while, then clap pushups will not be as challenging–HOWEVER, they will still feel foreign to you, because again, you are working out the Type II muscles that have been ignored.
Getting better at clap pushups is similar to improving regular pushups. Start high, and work your way down!
Step 1: Clap Pushups Against the Wall
For absolute beginners, starting with clap pushups against the wall is a great way to ease your upper body into adjusting to the new explosive movements. It will also give you a read on how much progress you need to make to reach a full-fledged clap pushup.
Reps: 8 – 20
Once you hit 20 reps without resting, back your feet up progressively to add more bodyweight resistance to the move. Once your feet are far enough back for maximum reach and you are able to do 20 full reps, you can move to Step 2.
Step 2: Higher Incline Clap Pushups
You will be moving more of your bodyweight as you continue to progress with your clap pushups, because you will be exploding upwards at lower inclines with each progression. Find a sturdy table, railing or countertop.
Reps: 8 – 20
Similar to the previous step, you can start this progression with your feet closer to the platform. Back away a bit every time you can hit 20 reps from your position. Once you hit 20 reps at full reach without resting, move to Step 3.
Step 3: Lower Incline Clap Pushups
Ready for even heavier explosive movements? For the lower incline, you can use a set of stairs or a sturdy piece of furniture.
Reps: 8 – 15
If these are too hard, start this progression on your knees instead of your toes. Once you can do 15 reps, switch to your toes. After 15 reps of those, you can move onto full-fledged clap pushups!
Step 4: Clap Pushups
You’ve made it down to the floor! Congratulations.
Rep goal: 15
Again, don’t hesitate to start by doing these on your knees instead of your toes. Once you can do 15 proper clap pushups without resting, why don’t you check out some new variations to the clap pushup? Keep improving!
More Advanced Variations
Variation A: Weighted Clap Pushups
Strap on a weighted vest or put on a backpack with free weights inside, and slowly add more and more as you continually hit that 15-rep mark! Weeks or months later, try doing unweighted clap pushups and you will truly realize how much explosive strength you’ve gained with this exercise. You will feel like you’re flying!
Variation B: Decline Clap Pushups
Angle your upper body downward. Place your feet on a higher platform for an insane challenge and great results. Hell, add the weighted vest while you’re at it!
Variation C: Multi-Clap Pushups
Try to do more than one clap at the height of your explosion. Again, this can be added on to Variations A and B with enough time. It may not look clear in the gif, but so far, I can only get in two claps. 🙂
Variation D: Full Body Explosive Pushups
Don’t just explode up with your upper body – lift your toes off the ground at the same time. You can turn this pushup into a full-body workout. I am not yet ready to pull off more than one single rep of this move, hence no gif for this one. Stay tuned!
The pushup is a remarkable bodyweight exercise, and the fact that its many variations can have even more variations in themselves goes to show how much this move can benefit you. Clap pushups are just one of these variations, but they are especially unique because they hit those Type II explosive muscles that non-explosive pushups (and variations) cannot hit. Give them a try, and once you have enough confidence in doing them I suggest making them a mainstay of your workouts. The more you do them, the better you get, and then you can do some very cool tricks like the variations I mention above. And as usual, make sure you remember to stretch!
Do you like to do clap pushups? How far along have you gotten with your clap pushup training? Let me know in the comments below!