“What’s the hardest push-up that you could possibly do?”
Pose that question to anyone who knows their stuff, and chances are that they’re going to say, “the Aztec push-up.” There’s a good reason for that.
Aztec push-ups are a positively brutal plyometric exercise that pushes your strength, speed, and even agility to the utmost limit.
This move is no joke, and should only be attempted by those with both a high level of physical fitness and a desire for a challenge. Because even if you’re a push-up veteran, chances are that you are going to struggle with Aztecs, at least for a while.
If you think yourself ready to take this arduous journey with us, however, by all means keep on reading.
Aztec Push-ups? Plyometrics? What’s All That About?
Simply put, an Aztec push-up is a type of push-up similar to the clapping push-up, but significantly more demanding.
In fact, clapping push-ups may be considered a prerequisite for the Aztecs. If you can’t do at least ten clapping push-ups in one go, then you’ve got some work to do before you can tackle the Aztecs.
Still here? Great, let’s continue, then!
As for plyometrics, jump training, or plyos, these are specific exercises that employ explosive, quick movements in order to train power. Not strength—power—meaning a combination of strength and speed.
The point of these exercises lies in training a muscle to rapidly move between a contraction and an expansion. As such, they are incredibly popular among professional athletes like sprinters, martial artists, and high jumpers, for obvious reasons.
Therefore, if you want that explosive, 0-100 power, then plyometric exercises are for you. And even though Aztec push-ups may not be the best place to start, the progressions we’ve listed below most certainly are.
Aztec Push-up Progressions
These progressions are meant to bring you from zero to someone who can regularly perform their Aztec push-ups.
We’ve mentioned before that clapping push-ups should be considered a prerequisite, but in order to put things into perspective, we’re putting them on the list as well.
Just keep in mind that the fact that these exercises are explosive, doesn’t mean that you should be cruel to your body while working on your Aztec push-ups.
Always give yourself time to rest between sets and workout days.
For optimal results, we recommend 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps per workout day. Never forget to give yourself at least a day off between workout sessions.
We always stress the importance of warming up before your exercise session, but in this case, we also recommend that you start stretching if you aren’t doing so already.
Your ability to touch your toes will play a major role in whether or not you’ll be able to do a good Aztec push-up.
Off to the progressions now.
Yes, we’re starting below the prerequisite. If you can do a push-up, chances are that you can also pull off an explosive push-up.
It’s more or less the same thing, with the difference that with the explosive push-up you’ll actually propel yourself upward at the end of the ascending portion. This will start you on your plyometric push-up journey.
As probably the most well-known move on this list, the clapping push-up will set the foundation for what comes next.
As the name says, propel yourself up as you would with an explosive push-up, clap your hands, and lower yourself down without kissing the floor.
This is a solid way to train your power, as well as improve overall coordination and muscle memory. And you will need plenty of that for the next exercise, as well as the ones further down the line.
These don’t require any more power than the clapping push-ups, but you’ll need a fair bit more of coordination for a whole set. Don’t be surprised if you progress quickly between the two progressions. You’ll get the chance to hit a wall soon enough.
This one is a bit less explosive than the previous three but will demand even more coordination and stability.
So, in order to do a knee touch push-up (technically the opposite knee touch push-up), you’ll want to separate one arm and the opposite leg from the floor and touch the knee with your palm while you’re at the highest point.
You return both limbs to their starting positions as you lower yourself back down. Alternate sides for each repetition and always do an even number of reps.
This one is likely to give you trouble for a good while, as it returns to the explosiveness of the first three progressions, but requires even better coordination than progression four.
What you’ll want to do with the knee clap push-ups is to propel yourself up, separate both your arms and legs from the floor mid-flight, quickly rock your knees forward, slap your knees with your palms, and get everything back in place before hitting the ground. Good luck!
We’re almost there. Here you’ll still propel yourself up but will transition into a standing toe touch position (check the linked video if this seems vague).
After you’ve touched your toes, you are to spring back down into the lowering portion of the push-up. If you’re thinking of a burpee, but going into a toe touch instead of a jump, then you’ve got the right idea.
And here we are. Once you reach this progression, feel free to give yourself a pat on the back, as you’ve officially mastered the trickiest—and probably the hardest—push-up in existence.
Chris is an experienced Calisthenics practitioner focused on isometric exercises and street workout. He founded thehybridathlete.com in 2017, which was subsequently acquired by theyhybridathlete.com
He is based in Portland and has been working out using solely his own body weight and bars for the past 6 years.