When a guest asked Jack LaLanne to perform a finger push up, the fitness personality not only stepped up to the challenge, but took it one step further and performed it with his armed extended in front of him… alas, the LaLanne push up was born.
Dubbed the godfather of modern fitness, Jack LaLanne has left his mark on the fitness industry in many ways… including how he made what is now referred to as the LaLanne push up look so effortless.
Although Jack LaLanne made it look easy, this push variation is as tough as it gets, and is unquestionably one of the hardest bodyweight exercises out there.
In this guide, we outline what this push up variation involves, how to do it, benefits, muscles worked and tips for anyone brave enough to give it a go.
Using LaLanne Push Ups in Your Workouts
LaLanne push ups are a fantastic test of strength (and a bit of fun to do with friends)… but if you’re looking to build muscle and strength, we’d recommend sticking with the fundamentals and basics. Our flagship free training program includes plenty of inspiration below. 👇
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How To Do LaLanne Push Ups
To do LaLanne push ups:
- Start by lying on a mat in a superman position, with your legs and arms fully extended. Your stomach should be touching the mat.
- Shift your weight onto your toes and fingers to prepare for the movement.
- Activating your core, brace your trunk and push through your chest and arms, as well as your legs to lift your stomach off the mat.
- Bend your hips slightly so you can accommodate lifting your pelvis up.
- Keeping your trunk braced, lower your stomach back to the mat.
- Repeat for repetitions (if you can!)
Don’t be put off if you find LaLanne push ups too difficult, they really are tough and realistically, not many people are able to do them.
Tips for Mastering the LaLanne Push Up
There’s no hiding from the fact LaLanne push ups (or any sort of extended push up) are incredibly tough. To master it though, we need to break down the biomechanics of what our body is actually doing during the exercise.
LaLanne push ups are ultimately a variation of the traditional push up, so feeling very confident in performing push ups is a great place to start. As well as ensuring you can do plenty of repetitions, try incorporating other variations like hand release push ups and even clap push ups to really test your functional upper body strength.
Once you’ve got that mastered, it’s really a case of strengthening your core and learning how to generate explosive power from your abs. Extended planks mimic the starting and finishing position, so doing this exercise will help you feel confident holding quite an uncomfortable and testing plank position (which is the starting and finishing position of the LaLanne push up).
Try a Fully Extended Inchworm
The inchworm exercise (finishing with your arms extended) would be a similar movement to try, that may be more achievable for most. Our guide on how to do the inchworm exercise provides tips and ideas to help you get started.
You may also find using an ab wheel helps to build the sort of strength in your core required for LaLanne push ups. This helps test your strength but also get you used to controlling your body in unstable positions.
The final thing you’ll need to practice is getting used to pushing up whilst on your fingertips. We’d recommend mastering the LaLanne push up with your palms on the floor to begin with, and then only if you can do that, try it on your fingertips.
In terms of getting started, the best way to progress with the exercise is to start with your hands closer to your body and slowly moving them further away with each attempt.
LaLanne Push Up Benefits
Test and Strengthen Your Core
LaLanne push ups are ultimately a test of core strength. Your core will be engaged for the whole movement and is needed to create stability during an extended plank position, as well as generating the power needed to lift your body off the floor.
The time under tension for your core is very high and this will help strengthen both your abs and obliques.
This is why even with just a few repetitions, your core is likely going to feel like it’s been through a gruelling workout.
It takes a lot of strength to support your body’s weight on your fingertips. Testing and developing better finger strength has lots of practical benefits, and is a common interest amongst certain sports like climbing, gymnastics and calisthenics.
Any sort of finger push up does carry risks though, as you’re putting your joints in a situation they likely haven’t been in before… so if you have any sort of joint discomfort or you’re carrying an existing finger/wrist injury, then stick to a flat palm when attempting the LaLanne push up.
Performing a push up with your arms extended in front of you requires more stability and balance to hold the position compared to a regular push up. This predominantly means the core is working harder, but it also helps test other muscles like the arms in a different way as they are constantly fighting to help keep the body stable.
Due to the fact your core needs to be braced for the whole movement, this translates to lots of other lifts in the gym, such as deadlifts, squats, and Olympic lifts. Getting used to engaging other muscles whilst maintaining a strong brace is really useful for strength training.
Shoulder Mobility and Strength
The initial lift requires incredible shoulder strength and mobility.
If you’re bored of just doing presses and raises to target your shoulders, then this more unusual movement might help with motivation and working towards a goal.
A decline dumbbell pullover would be a useful exercise to help prime the shoulders for the LaLanne push up.
LaLanne push ups primarily work the core, shoulders, lats, triceps and chest.
They will also engage the glutes, hamstrings and calves.
Things to Consider
Although the LaLanne push up brings with it a whole host of benefits, it does put a lot of stress on the shoulders, so if you’re carrying any sort of shoulder injury, we’d recommend giving this exercise a miss.
The way the muscles contract and engage are also very different from regular push ups. Ultimately, the main difference is the way the chest is engaged and activated… as this is the primary focus on regular push ups, but not for LaLanne push ups. Instead, your abs, lats and shoulders take more of the load.
Supporting your bodyweight on your fingertips is also a tall order and something you may find is simply too uncomfortable (trust us, even with a flat palm on the floor, this is still a very tough exercise).
The LaLanne push up illustrates just how fit Jack LaLanne was. The man made this extended push up look like a breeze, but let’s not forget he also did 1,033 push ups in 23 minutes.
If you’re looking for a fun fitness challenge… and you’re feeling brave, give the LaLanne push up a go.
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