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3 Push Up Variations For MMA Punching Power

3 Push Up Variations For MMA Punching Power

To start I think you can agree that push up variations can be a huge asset to your training program, particularly if you need to be innovative due to a lack of equipment and resources. In addition to this push ups are pretty much inherently a combat and fight driven type of exercise. This can be easily observed in these relative training settings.

Push Up Variations For Knockout Power 

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If you don’t believe me then go out and take a look for yourself. There’s not a fight gym, military, or form of high skill law enforcement that fails to utilize push ups and push up variations to a large degree. Because of this today I want to take a look at three more variations of the push up drill to take your combat, fight, and fitness needs to the next level by utilizing some variations of the old fashioned push up to develop some quick hands and some serious knock out power.

Before I get started I want to preface with saying that the following push up variations are only going to be helpful if you have a solid handle on the standard push up and can perform those with a high level of  control and proficiency. Any weak link in a standard push up causes a break in the kinetic chain of the body and you will bleed power from that weak link. Such a weak link is even more apparent if you start trying to include more advanced push up variations into your program particularly if you are not physically ready.

With that being said once you have a handle on the standard push up exercise we can start evolving your push up ability with the following variations to help you develop some serious hand speed, reaction time, and knockout power for your MMA, Combat, and athletic performance needs! Buckle your chinstrap because things are about to get interesting.

1. Push Up Variations: Push Up Dumbbell Drags: 


The push up dumbbell drag is a drill I’ve covered fairly recently and for good reason. This more intense push up variation intensifies the push up exercise in a hurry. It’s execution involves you knocking out a standard push up to start and following up the push up by having to reach and grab a dumbbell to drag it across your body to place beside the opposite hand.

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This push-up variation allows you to perform a standard dynamic push up and then combo that with a sort of anti-rotational movement. This is done by forcing you to have to brace your body and maintain alignment in order to drag the dumbbell across to the opposite hand. This anti-rotation (having to resist the urge to twist at the hips and spine) will actually yield a strong ability to rotate the body when the time comes to throw a devastating punch such as a hook.


Let’s assume you set this one up with the dumbbell on your right side. Get your body into the standard upright push up position. Perform the push up and once you perform a complete push up grab the dumbbell with your right hand and slide it across your body to your left side. Perform another push up and do the same thing with the left arm to move the weight back.


Perform 3 to 5 sets of 5 to 10 reps on your upper body strength days, or as a solid finisher at the end of the day’s training.

2. Push Up Variations: Kettlebell Crossover Push Up


This push-up variation will help you to develop some serious coordination, body control, and single arm strength. By elevating one hand on the kettlebell (a medicine ball would work as well) you are increasing the ROM of that arm. Therefore this is more challenging because you’re forcing that arm to handle more load due to weight distribution.

So additionally you’re having to push your body up with enough force to elevate and transition the other hand over the kettlebell to perform the same movement on that hand. The increased ROM and force involved in elevating the body makes this push up variation a great deal more intense than it may appear which will produce some great hand speed and arm strength for fighting.


Get into a normal push up position with one hand firmly on the sphere of the kettlebell and one hand firmly planted on the ground. For the sake of discussion let’s say you start with your right hand on the bell. As a result, make sure that the staggered hand on the kettlebell (your right hand) is still in line with your armpit.

From here perform the push up with enough force to elevate your body and walk the left hand over onto the sphere of the kettlebell placing your right hand firm to the ground to be in position to cross back over.


Perform 3 sets of 4 to 7 reps on your upper body power days, or at the end of a training session as a solid finisher.

3. Push Up Variations: Plyometric Push Up (With Bench)


The plyometric push up is the standard in my opinion for developing tremendous upper body power and hand speed. Combined with smart strength training this drill will elevate your punching power. This will give you the ability to thump the pads. The idea is that everyone inside will hear your thundering strikes. Your opponents will regret ever facing off with you.

This version of the plyometric push-up performed on a bench allows you to quickly perform a series of plyometric push ups. It allows you to more readily initiate speed and control. By using the bench you can take a bit of stress off of your shoulders, wrists, and elbows as well.


Begin in the upright push up position. So you want to do this because you want to make sure you can maintain rigid alignment of your body. This should be the case even though your hands are elevated on the bench. In other words, you shouldn’t just be leaning over to place your hands on the bench. Therefore your body should be straight forming a rigid line from your shoulders to your ankles.

From here lower yourself to the bench and forcefully push yourself off with enough force to elevate your body off the bench as much as possible. As a goal I try to tell myself I want to push hard enough that I stand straight up. So the key here is to not break your momentum by trying to “stand up,” but rather allow your momentum to naturally carry you as far as it can. You want to do this before you start to float back to the bench to execute the next repetition.


Perform 3 sets of 4 to 7 reps in a chest press superset for advanced trainees. For starting out incorporate these in the end of some upper body training days as a smart finisher.

The Takeaway From These Push Up Variations  

So make sure to master the standard push up before incorporating these into your training toolbox. As a result be smart about scaling the volume and intensity to suit your ability level. Therefore be consistent, study, and be aware of your technique.

So have you been working on developing greater hand speed using push up variations? 

Do you have some innovative push up variations that you already include into your strength and conditioning?

If so post up in the comment section below and tell us about your push up variations.

Make sure you check out my brand new 90 Day MMA Strength And Conditioning Program right here below!


Because it’s changing lives already!

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To really ramp up some push-up variations make sure you jump on my 90 Day MMA Strength and Conditioning program. Just click the image to start.

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5 Unique Strength Drills To Enhance MMA Performance And Serious Fitness

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I'm a Certified Strength And Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and author. I have had over 17 years experience in MMA fitness, strength and conditoning, and athletic performance for most every sport. As an author and specialist I've written close to a million words on fitness and strength. I'm also a Muay Thai practictioner and enjoy helping others to reach their peak potential through fitness and performance.

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