Fitness Tips

‘Sphinx Push-Ups’ Will Stretch and Strengthen Your Upper Body in a Single Move

Zoe Weiner

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Photo: Getty Images/ Westend61

The push-up has solidified itself as the official fitness move of quarantine. At the very beginning, people challenged their friends to “see 10, give 10, do 10” on Instagram, and as of late, you’d be hard-pressed to find any at-home workout that doesn’t incorporate it to some degree. So if by now you’re feeling burned out by the standard variation, we’ve got an entirely new one for you to try that will stretch and strengthen your upper body–no equipment required.

Enter: The sphinx push-up, which DogPound founding trainer Rhys Athayde calls “a bodyweight skull crusher mixed with a high plank and low plank.” Unlike your standard push-up, which requires you to mainly use your chest to lift your weight off of the ground, this version primarily targets your triceps while also working your abs, chest, and shoulders. And what’s more? In proper form, it will also give you a serious stretch through the backs of your arms.

To do it right, start by setting yourself up in a traditional push-up position with your arms straight and your core engaged. Slowly bend your elbows to the floor to descend into a low plank position (so you’ll be momentarily resting on your elbows), then press through your palms to extend your arms back into the starting position. Be sure to focus on activating your triceps and keeping your spine straight—squeezing your core and glutes—to really get the most out of the move.

While any sort of push-up will undoubtedly leave your upper body burning, this one has the added benefit of stretching it out, too. “As the body lowers to the ground, the triceps should feel a stretch as they are controlling the descent,” says Athayde. “When coming back to the starting position, the strength aspect of the exercise comes into play as you push through your palms.”

Sound hard? Well, yeah—it is. To build up the amount of strength you’ll need to get it right, Athayde suggests working your way up with other push-up variations, such as diamond push-ups (in which your hands form a diamond under your chest), dive bomber push-ups (where you hold your body in a downward-facing dog and push up and down through your arms), and close-grip push-ups (with your hands positioned closer-than-usual under your chest). You can also practice high planks, low planks, and skull crushers on your own to prepare you to put them together in this single move. Then, when you’re ready to try the sphinx push-up yourself, follow along with the video below. And feel free to pay back your friends with an upgraded (and much, much harder) version of the “see 10, give 10, do 10” challenge.

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