While attending my first Vladimir Vasiliev seminar in 2005, he asked us to do something very confusing. He wanted us to perform a push-up without using our muscles. This was very strange, and I struggled to understand what Vladimir was asking of us. How do you do a push-up without using your muscles? How do we do anything without using our muscles?
While practicing, training, and teaching, I would often think back to this request. I became obsessed about doing a push-up this way. So much so, that this concept was swirling around in my thoughts at various moments on any given day. I haven’t figured this out yet, but I have a better understanding of what Vladimir wanted from us.
At this seminar, Vladimir performed a demo of several push-ups without relying on his muscles during the seminar. To say it looked different would be an understatement! The push-ups were different from any push-up I’ve ever seen before or since; his body became a wave of motion going up and down.
I now come to realize that Vladimir’s movement had a purpose. Push-ups can be described by using muscles to push your weight up and then using the muscles again to guide your weight back down, Vladimir’s demo took out the middle man (that being his muscles) and just moved his body up and down to complete the push-up No pushing at all!
He wasn’t pushing. He was moving.
And there is the answer – Movement. How do we do push-ups without using our muscles? We do them with movement.
What Vladimir was really showing us that day was not for us to disregard our muscles, but for us not to rely on our muscles to perform the push-ups. He wanted us to use movement to perform a push-up instead of strength. Take your muscles out of the equation and focus on your movement. Don’t rely on muscles to perform this exercise. Instead, use the movement in the body.
Visualize a push-up as a wave like motion in the body causing the going up and down. It’s just movement to me. I have to go up, so I move my body to go up. I have to go down, so I move my body to go down. Simple. Nothing too fancy about that. You’re not relying on your muscles to do a push-up; you’re relying on your movement. My body moves around, going up and down, never staying still and never a straight path up and down
After doing these push-ups off and on for a few years, I wondered just how powerful our movements can be compared to our strength. I found the push-ups to be fairly easy when relying on movement instead of strength. I felt no strain in my body or muscles. It was as if I could continue to perform these push-ups way past the point of muscle exhaustion.
My brain made the next leap in this exercise, and I began to wonder what could be the possibilities of relying on movement instead of strength. Movement is more powerful than strength. Even if I have something on my back, I should still be able to move up and down.
So I asked a 230 pound man to lie on my back, and I decided to see if my movement could complete a push-up this way. My strength was not helping me perform a push-up with someone on my back. I tried that and failed! I would strain and tense my body relying on my strength and this went nowhere. However, when I used my movement with the same man on my back, I was shocked to discover that it was easy to complete several push-ups; going up and down with no strain put on my body.
I demo this push-up sometimes in class to show just how powerful our movement can be compared to our strength. The heaviest weight I’ve tried was 230 pounds across my back. I don’t know if I’ll try someone heavier, but I won’t say never.
Here’s a video clip of some of these push-ups. I’m using the movement in my body instead of relying on my strength/muscles. Notice my body is in constant movement as I go up and down, never moving in a straight line. Also notice the breathing in conjunction with my movement. I didn’t really touch on breathing in this post, but you can’t have one without the other.