How To Do Thumb Pushups

I did it. I did five thumb pushups, and so can you.

I never thought I’d reach this goal, the kind of strength that only cartoon and comic book characters can flaunt.

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The kind of strength that Bruce Lee inspired within me.

Bruce Lee doing a two thumb suspension on the set of Game of Death

Bruce Lee doing a two thumb suspension on the set of Game of Death

 

I first saw this picture of Bruce Lee when I began delving into my isometric training. I’d seen the one inch punch, the two finger pushup, and all manner of strength and training feats from Bruce Lee…but somehow this one had slipped under my radar, and caught my interest more than any others.

I mean, I had seen others perform two finger pushups, and I had achieved some myself after training, but…

I had NEVER seen anyone balancing on their thumbs.

So I looked more into the feat. Apparently, a two thumb suspension was only the tip of the iceberg.

In 1980, Jim Arvanitis, the founder of Neo-Pankration, went on the Guinness Game World Records Show and performed a feat unmatched to this day. He performed 61 thumb pushups in 47 seconds.

A thumb suspension was certainly no walk in the park, but a thumb pushup was a whole new territory that I had previously never thought of exploring.

The flame was lit within me, and no matter what obstacles presented themselves, I was determined to achieve the thumb pushup.

Jim Arvanitis performing one of his famous thumb pushups, which he can also do with one thumb

Jim Arvanitis performing one of his famous thumb pushups, which he can also do with one thumb

 

Thus began my training journey, arduous and rather unique in its goals. Coupling some fingertip pushup variations with high intensity isometric training laid the foundation for my fingertip strength.

How To Do Thumb Pushups

 

Fingertip Pushup Variations

 

 

Fingertip pushup variations will be your best friends when it comes to having the strength to do a thumb pushup. Practice doing pushups on all your fingertips, removing a finger as your overall hand strength increases. I started with a 5-4-3-2-1 drill where I’d pushup with all my fingers, remove the pinkies, then the ring finger, etc. until I could hold the position on my thumbs at the 1.

Take it slow, because this is a skill that can easily cause injury if you try to speed through it. If you don’t feel safe removing fingers, continue to practice with all of your fingers, and progress slowly.

  • When you’re ready to take these progressions to the next level, elevate your feet on a chair and try the 5-4-3-2-1 pushup variations and hold the two thumb suspension at the 1

Grip Training

isometricgrip

Having a strong grip will do no wrong when it comes to preparing for any fingertip pushup variation. Train as many facets of your grip as you can. Your flexors and extensors should be trained equally, so exercises that involve an intense crush grip and powerful extension. Personally, isometric grip exercises are optimal when it comes to the overall ability to skyrocket grip strength in a short time, and ensure that the tendons in your fingers are strong enough to support you.

Especially when it comes to hand balancing, strengthening the tendons of your fingers are just as critical as strengthening the muscles of your forearms, so steady and progressive balancing training and isometric exercises with high intensity will make your training progress consistent and enduring.

One thing that I’d do often, as in the photo above, is grip a thick railing or table, thumbs on top, and squeeze my thumbs into the surface as hard as I can for 7-12 seconds, and repeat 8 times. Time under tension is an important factor of the exercise, so try to rest as little as you can between the 7-12 second reps, if at all.

 

Visualization

Logan Christopher often speaks on the importance of mental training to achieve your fitness goals, and it really applies for the thumb pushups. You will likely be ready for the pushups physically before you are ready for them mentally, at least that’s how it was for me.

The idea of doing such a feat was daunting to me, even when I believed I could achieve it.

Honestly, the first few weeks I tried, even after the training preparation, I still didn’t get it done.

Although I got the two thumb suspension down.

Although I got the two thumb suspension down.

 

But I sat down one time before training, I breathed deeply and steadily, and visualized the feat. I mentally felt the floor under my thumbs, felt the blood and tension running through my tendons, felt the cry of victory resonating in my chest after I finally achieved my goal.

I could see, hear, practically taste what that moment would feel like to finally do a thumb pushup.

And instead…I did five.

 

 

It’s no Jim Arvanitis feat, but it was a foundation that I was more than happy to start building from.

Frankly, I look forward to all of you building your foundations too.

 

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3 Responses to How To Do Thumb Pushups

  1. Matt June 3, 2016 at 9:35 am #

    Man you made those look easy, starting from the bottom aswell!! After seeing this a few times i thought as part of my one arm pushups progressions I’d try doing just a finger and thumb on one hand for less assistance and as a step up just a thumb one my in hand. Managed 3 reps perside with finger and thumb and one rep per side with just my thumb. Couldn’t beleive it! I know I’m still a while off but the two thumb suspension is such a motivating goal. Looking forward to next article

    • Yovani.alvarez February 5, 2018 at 8:29 am #

      I did it on the first try

  2. John September 11, 2017 at 7:06 am #

    I cant bend the top of my thumb so it is very hard.

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