Proper Superman Push-Up

Young girl stretching in the gym

You've got a powerful chest, bulging triceps and abs of steel. You pump out multiple reps of push-ups with ease. You're so fit that you can't envision a version of the push-up that could be your kryptonite — that is, until you encounter the superman push-up.

It's just the variation you need to take the standard push-up to new levels of intensity. You begin from the floor with your limbs in an extended position, which is just about the hardest place to start because it requires such dramatic muscle activation from your abs and chest to rise up.

Don't cheat your way through this move, or you'll miss out on its extra back, glute and hamstring strengthening aspects.

What Is It?

The superman push-up looks easy enough, until you try it:

  1. Start by lying on your belly with your legs extended behind you and your arms reaching out past your head. Move your hands together so your thumbs are touching. 
  2. Engage your core and upper thighs. Press down with your feet and your hands as you raise your body up, parallel to the floor. Your hands and feet remain the only parts of your body that are grounded.
  3. Lower back down to complete one repetition. 

Tips: Your body should remain straight like a board — no waving of the core to coax yourself up. Keep your arms and legs as straight as possible, too, so you look like you're flying.

Eventually you'll work up to just five repetitions for up to three sets. The superman push-up is not a high-volume exercise.

Read more: What is the Hardest Push-Up?

Train for It

A strong core is an obvious need for a successful set of these push-ups. Crunches aren't going to give you the strength you need, however. They train the superficial rectus abdominis, which may look good in the mirror but don't offer enough functional support on their own for the superman push-up.

Train with plank position on your hands and toes, or forearms and toes, at your ab workouts several times per week. Work up to a minute or longer hold to build up the strength in your transverse abdominis — the deep ab muscle that makes your core stable and rigid as you press up and down. Plank position also builds stability in the erector spinae and other important supporting muscles of the back that make the superman push-up possible.

Build up to a Superman Push-Up

Once you've mastered the plank, teach your muscles to be strong in the superman position:

  • Start at the top of a standard push-up — hands just a bit wider than your shoulders and in line with your armpits.
  • Walk your hands forward a few inches and hold for about 10 seconds. If you're still feeling strong, walk the hands another inch or two forward and hold. 
  • Keep inching your hands forward until you're able to hold the top of the superman push-up for 10 seconds or longer. 

As you're training, you might modify with widely set feet and inch them together as you become stronger over the course of several weeks. Building up to a proper superman push-up takes time and diligent training, be patient as you grow stronger with time.

Read more: Superman Lower Back Exercise