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Pushed with weights or floats?

This new study on the pectorals will surely surprise you. See what this is about.

Compared to weight push-ups , such as dumbbell push-ups , push-ups are seen as less effective. After all, pushing with a dumbbell is hardcore and the floats are for inmates or those without access to gyms, right? WRONG!

People have the impression that the hardest exercise makes you the most muscular, but from a physiological point of view, weight is not so relevant when it comes to muscle mass and its development . 

It is not the external weight that dictates muscle growth, but the internal production of force, also known as mechanical tension. Weight or any other form of resistance - whether it's an elastic band, cables or your own body weight - are just tools to apply mechanical tension. 

You do not believe me? Here is a study to support me!

The study
23 participants with average experience in training were divided into a group that did push-ups and one that did push-ups. Both groups did three workouts a week for a month. Each workout had 3 sets of 6-8 reps, so 9 sets of horizontal push-ups per week for both groups. 

Both groups also had an objective pattern of progression. This means that when a certain performance was reached, the progression was self-regulated based on the study model. 

For pushing with weights, only the weights have increased, as you would at the gym. You reach the prescribed number of repetitions in all sets of a workout, and next time you add more weights.

For floats, they progressed using different types of floats. There were 9 variations in the study, from wall floats, the kind your sister used to do when she was in high school, to one-arm floats. 

Progressions are essential, because without them you would only train at random.

What was discovered
After 4 weeks, the thickness of the pectoral muscles was measured, the performance when throwing the medicine ball and the maximum force pushed it with the dumbbell. Both groups also took a test of progression to float variations. 

Statistically, both groups had the same progress, except for the float progression test, where the group that trained with floats did much better . 

The group that pushed with weights had a slightly higher force when pushed from the dumbbell, but surprisingly the differences were small! The group of floats did not push at all for a whole month and increased almost as much strength. This shows how versatile floats are. 

In terms of hypertrophy, floats have been shown to be as effective as pushing with weights . 

What can you do
Remember that external weights are not everything when it comes to selecting exercises. Flotation uses less absolute weight, but muscle activation is similar to pushing with weights. After all, push-ups are a closed-chain version of the push, with a wider range of motion and more freedom of movement of the shoulder blades, which makes them a more favorable exercise. In addition, the floats are less tiring so you can make more volume.

And floats have a much lower risk of injury, especially when compared to weightlifting. 

What does all this mean to you
Remember, to be effective, floats must be challenging, but not a problem for many. 

Even the toughest strength athletes can't do 4 sets of 30 strict push-ups, controlling the descent (the eccentric part, when the chest goes to the floor). Start here! 

But if you really are a beast, you can do the following to progress with floats:

Increase range of motion : raise legs or hands to something higher. 
Do them unilaterally : Do floats with side arching or with one arm. 
Add weight : A backpack with weights in it, a disc placed on the back or chains attached to the trunk.
Do push-ups on gym rings or TRX : Instability will make push-ups more challenging. 
Use resistance bands:  The undulating tension helps to increase the internal tension of the muscles.