YouTuber Laurie Shaw doesn’t let a pushup challenge pass without giving it a shot. He took on the ‘Bring Up Sally’ pushup challenge, and also did 10 pushups every time he touched his phone to decrease his screen time. Those attempts pale in comparison to his latest stunt: he’s attempting something he calls the “Impossible Pushup.”
So what exactly is the Impossible Pushup? It’s a 3-minute long pushup where you progressively lower yourself down to the ground for a minute and a half, then push yourself back up for the other one-and-a-half minutes.
“I think this is going to be a lot more challenging than it sounds,” says Shaw.
Before he attempts to do it, he researches if the Impossible Pushup is in fact a safe thing to try and do (more on that in a moment). He learns that the movement is also referred to as an Isometric Static Hold Pushup, and that the exercise can produce muscle tension.
On his first attempt, Shaw struggled. On the way down, he looks strong and controlled. And as his timer hits 1:30, he starts to push back up. But he doesn’t last long.
With only 35 seconds left before finishing, he breaks and loses the rep.
“Damn! Man that was tough! Down was just like a grind, but back up… phewww,” he says. “I don’t know if you saw that, but my whole body was shaking. I hate being beaten by challenges! But that’s okay, I’ll keep trying.”
Shaw spent the rest of the week re-attempting to master the Impossible Pushup, before finally nailing it.
“Ah, it felt good to finally complete the challenge!” he says.
He ends by challenging his followers to try it themselves. But if you really want to do more than just replicate a YouTube stunt, you should be mindful of the Impossible Pushup—at least in the form Shaw tries it.
“Iso-holds and slow-constant tension reps are an excellent way to learn body control and explore and own full ownership of a strength movement,” says Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. “But done at this slow, stunt pace, they begin to lose value.”
Samuel breaks down the basic parts of the exercise to explain, and offer a better use of your time.
“A standard pushup lets you work through three contractions at various moments, an eccentric contraction on the way down, a brief isometric with your torso an inch from the ground, and a powerful concentric on the way up,” he says. “This 3-minute rep eliminates any chance of a powerful concentric.”
“A far better use of those 3 minutes would be a series of reps done at tempo: 5-second eccentric, 2-second pause on the bottom, explosive concentric up,” Samuel continues. “Don’t fall into the trap of abusing time-under tension in the fashion of this YouTube video, because it’s a waste of time. You see the true “difficulty level” of this pushup reflected midway through the rep, too: The subject is able to look at camera midway through and tell you he’s partway done. Try that midway through a series of truly hard reps, and it won’t work so well.”
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