Sophisticating Pushups with Elbow Rotation by John Sifferman

Most people progress in their strength training program by increasing the load that they are using, or altering variables such as frequency, duration, intensity, volume, etc. What most people neglect is the inherent need for the body to learn more sophisticated movements. My Coach, Scott Sonnon, has showed me the errors in the thought process of Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS). The human body craves adaptation and sophistication – not simplicity. Sure, simple goals can be achieved by simple training programs. The process of building attributes like strength or endurance are pretty clear and achievable by anyone. However, simplicity in a training program only works for so long, and it seldom is effective for achieving any training goal other than “general conditioning.” When you have a specific need and goal in mind for movement quality, you need to sophisticate your movement.

The great thing about sophisticating basic movements is that it has a cumulative training effect. The more each exercise is sophisticated, the greater the training effect for your body and health. Not only are you working just strength and endurance in a pushup, for example, you are also working in joint mobility, coordination, balance, and perhaps even a feeling of competition (which is supremely important, especially when preparing for an athletic event.

Here is one example of what sophisticating movement looks like – an exercise I learned from RMAX Head Coach Ryan Murdock of

Sophisticated Pushups – elbow rotation by John Sifferman

As you can see, there are still the elements of a basic pushup – but it has become sophisticated and now offers more benefits than before.

I mentioned that this exercise is good for full contact sports like MMA and football, but the rule of sophistication and the benefits of this exercise still applies to everyone who wishes for pain-free movement health – even if you’re not an athlete. Done correctly, this exercise will aid in your prehabilitation against carpal tunnel, elbow tendinitis, and other joint problems – which is one of the reasons I have it plugged into my routine, to “bullet-proof” my elbows.

Your Question of the Day is: What other exercises would you like to see sophisticated in the future?

Please post your comments below (you may have to click here to get to the comments page).

To your health and success,

P.S. If you would like to learn more about sophisticating your movement, I recommend you check out the RMAX International website.

9 Responses

  1. Nice to see you “screwing up” John. :)


  2. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered how natural I am at screwing up :)

    Thanks for dropping in Adam – you’re comments are most welcome here anytime!

  3. John, this was actually the most useful demo/explanation of the arm screwing pushup I’ve see – no one else has bothered to explain “why” to do the arm screw and where the “training effect” was – ie, for the elbow, while you are on the ground, shifting from center to the side and back. For some reason, something clicked when I saw this video, and I understand it better than before. Thanks!

  4. Ludvig Martell

    Hi John.
    I would like some sophisticated exercises for the legs and the back..
    The sophisticated pushup looks nice and I´m gonna try it later with my workout.
    Have a nice day!

  5. Will push ups ruin my posture?
    Naudi Aguilar got rid of pushups from his workout regime because he thinks it is potentially harmful for the body.

    • Hey Vince,

      I didn’t watch the video, but I do know that this is not a black and white issue. Any exercise could potentially ruin your posture/structure if used improperly. But to say that an exercise causes postural distortions is definitely not telling the whole story.

  6. Vinh Dieseal

    Is it true that moving mostly in the saggital and the frontal plane rather than the transverse plane leads to dyskinesis and bad proprioception skills.

    • It certainly can, Vince. As to how and why, it’s very complicated. The short answer: move it or lose it.

Leave a Reply