The archer push-up, otherwise known as a side-to-side push-up is a variation that trains one side of the body with greater emphasis and intensity than regular push-ups. You will begin in a wide grip push-up position, fingers facing opposite to the sides, and the movement involves you shifting your body weight to the side during the eccentric phase, whilst having your supporting arm straight. This exercise is an assisted version of a one-arm push-up, which acts as a progression towards achieving one-arm push-ups.
A study has found that after 6 weeks of training dynamic push-ups and plyometric push-ups displayed a highly statistically significant increase in strength based on their one-rep max bench press. This shows that training only calisthenics will have a positive carry-over in strength for weighted training due to the full-body activation in push-ups, thus, your functional strength will improve.
Archer push-ups activate more on the upper chest and front shoulders. The primary muscles worked are the pectoralis major, triceps, and anterior deltoids. The secondary muscles worked are the serratus anterior, abdominals, obliques, forearms, quadriceps, and glutes.
Archer push-ups are an intermediate-level exercise as they are a unilateral movement that uses one hand to perform the push-up, and the other is used for support, which is harder than standard push ups. Therefore, you will require to engage your core to keep your body rigid. However, it is a beginner’s friendly exercise as you can practice easier variations such as the incline archer push-ups to develop strength in your upper body for the regular archer push-up.
Begin by getting into a wide push-up position, also known as the wide plank position. Your hands are wider than shoulder-width apart. Engage your glutes and core to keep your body in a straight line. This is your starting position.
Inhale as you slowly shift your body down to the right side by bending the right elbow until your right tricep is parallel to the ground while keeping your left arm straight. Your left-hand fingers are facing outward-left, and your right-hand fingers are facing forward.
Exhale as you push back up the starting position. Squeeze your chest and triceps at the top position, followed by repeating the same movement of your left side. Your left elbow will be bent, whilst your arm will be straight. Maintain a strong core engagement.
Repeat this movement for a desired number of repetitions (see the recommended reps and sets ranges below). If you are a beginner, you can start with incline archer push-ups (where you place your hands on an elevated surface to decrease resistance), whereas, if you’re advanced level and are looking for a challenge, you can practice decline archer push up. See the Archer Push-Ups Variations section below.
You should move on to harder variations once you have achieved your reps and set goals.
It's a golden rule in calisthenics training that if you want to unlock a particular skill, you'd first do negatives as this would target the same muscle groups and help you build the strength and endurance needed to do archer push ups.
Below is a list of cues that you should take into consideration to ensure that you have a perfect form. Remember that form is everything, it's better to do fewer reps with good form than more reps with half-decent form. Your long-term progress will thank you for this.
Do you sometimes feel that on your last couple of reps of doing push-ups, you are struggling to push up, and you notice that you are using more strength on your dominant side over the other? This is a problem as it causes overtraining or overusing on the dominant side, which could lead to injury. The archer push-up will require you to work mainly on a single side at a time, this will reduce the gap in strength between the two sides, and allow the weaker side to catch up.
A 2022 study suggests that unilateral exercises have been commonly considered to be 'more supplementary' for injury prevention. Further, many key sport-specific skills involve unilateral upper body movements such as punching, pushing, and pulling. It could be argued that unilateral exercises similar to sport-specific skills, could be the best choice to enhance athletic performance.
Archer push-ups will put greater stress on your pecs, triceps, and anterior deltoid muscles than traditional push-ups. This is because more load will be placed on a single side, therefore, assists you in building upper body strength to master more challenging push-up variations such as one arm push-ups.
This exercise promotes full-body control as the body will be inclined to shift or rotate to one side with each rep performed. Your core stabilizer muscles will fire away via “anti-rotation” which is a movement that requires you to withstand the force that is trying to cause your trunk to rotate. Hence why this exercise enables you to build incredible core strength.
Incline archer push-ups is a regression exercise to regular archer push-ups as it puts your body in an upward slope position, where your hands are placed on a platform that is higher than your feet. This takes load away from your upper body, therefore making this variation easier to do. This exercise is great for targeting the lower chest. To perform this, you will:
Once you have mastered the regular archer push-ups, you should progress towards declined archer push-ups. This variation will help you build bigger and stronger upper chest and front shoulder muscles, as your body will be at a downward slope, which puts more load on the working muscles. To perform this, you will:
The one-arm push-ups is a great demonstration of strength and body control. This is an advanced level exercise as the movement requires core contraction to a greater extent. You should try this variation once you are comfortable with doing archer push-ups. To perform this, you will:
Archer push ups develop strength in your upper and arms. Mastering this variation will ready you to perform the advanced one-arm push-ups. The key to this exercise is to keep your body rigid and in a straight line by squeezing your glutes and core.
In addition, the archer push up require a strong core to stabilize your body as you lower yourself down to one side. It is an advanced bodyweight exercise that you should work your way up once you have mastered easier variations. Check out my tutorials on these movements in this:
In order to achieve maximum success, make sure you perform every rep with good form. Prioritize quality over quantity, and don't overdo it. I'd rather you do 5 good reps than 10 half-decent reps. If you feel like your body needs a rest then a break, breathe, and drink some water before starting again.
My name is Pat Chadwick, I am a calisthenics coach with over 4 years of experience in helping people from all backgrounds to achieve their calisthenics goals. My goal is to become the number one calisthenics coach in the world as it is my passion to help people change their lives through inspiring bodyweight movements. I believe everyone deserves the right to feel good about their health, body, and be delighted inside and out.