Strength Training for Yogis: Push Ups for a Powerful Chaturanga

It’s easy to lose good form if you don’t have the upper body strength for repeated chaturanga.

There is a misconception in the yoga community that doing a million chaturangas is the best way to build strength in the arms. Chaturanga is the transitional pose between plank and upward facing dog, and it forms part of the vinyasa flow. Yes, chaturanga will build some strength, but only for that particular movement.

Because of the nature of the transition, it is easy to get away with less than ideal form, which can cause repetitive stress injuries in the shoulders over time. The best way to prevent those injuries is to build strength. And if strength beyond chaturanga is what we want, we need to train the full movement of a push up.

Anatomy of a Push Up

The triceps are the main movers for a push up. They extend, stabilize, and resist flexion of the elbow. They contribute to poses like side plank, arm balances, handstand, and forearm stand. Your ability to perform multiple full range of motion push ups directly correlates to your strength in those types of poses.

“It starts with understanding the proper mechanics of a full range of motion push up.”

But building that strength can take time. Use your time off of the mat to slowly increase your pushing strength, whether through modified push ups, full push ups, or ring push ups. This will take your yoga practice to the next level. It starts with understanding the proper mechanics of a full range of motion push up.

Push Up Breakdown

There are five basic points of performance for a push up.

Starting in a plank:

  1. Shoulders stacked over wrists
  2. Belly button and front ribs lifting towards spine

As you lower halfway:

  1. Elbows hugging close to side ribs
  2. Active legs
  3. Broad chest

For those of you working your way up to a full push up, try these two modifications:

1. Knee push ups

2. Push ups from the ground

  1. From plank, slowly lower down to your belly to the count of five.
  2. Keeping your knees down and belly lifting to spine, push-up into top of knee push up.
  3. Come back to full plank and repeat.

Start in a high plank position.

Lower slowly to the count of five, all the way to your belly.

chaturanga, plank, push up, yoga, strength training

Press up into a top of knee push up. From here, push up to a high plank and repeat from step one.

Workouts to Build Your Chaturanga

Below are three workouts that can be done at home, at the gym, or outside. They require minimal equipment and twelve to twenty minutes of your time, depending on which one you choose.

Warm Up:

  • 100 jumping jacks
  • 30 seconds side plank (each side)
  • 5 sun salutations
  • 1 minute plank
  • 5 sun salutations
  • 30 seconds side plank (each side)
  • 100 jumping jacks

Workout #1:

  • 54- 42- 30-18 back-stepping lunges (total)
  • 21-15-9 push up

(This means 54 lunges, then 21 push ups, then 42 lunges, and so on)

Workout #2:

  • 10 EMOM (every minute on the minute)
  • 5 ring push up

Top: High ring plank and push up; Bottom: Ring plank and push up

Workout #3

18 minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible)

  • 50 jump rope single unders
  • 5 push ups
  • 10 sit ups
  • 15 squats

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