When Brie Larson first started working with her trainer Jason Walsh (@risemovement), she couldn't do a single push-up or pull-up, Walsh tells SELF. Now, Larson is banging out weighted push-ups like a pro, and posting her impressive feats on Instagram to document her progress.
In one video she recently posted, Larson did 20 push-ups. And as if that wasn't enough of a challenge to begin with, she did them with two 25-pound chains wrapped around her mid-section. Walsh says he wouldn't recommend this advanced move to his beginner clients—the strength and form needed to do it properly takes a lot of time and hard work to develop. The rigorous workout is a testament to the strength Larson has built up in the time she's worked with him.
Check out the exercise here:
This move looks complicated, but it's really just an advanced push-up. Working up to it is possible, but it'll take some time.
After spending some time working with Larson to build up her overall strength, Walsh asked her to do 20 full push-ups without stopping. Once Larson mastered the 20 consecutive push-ups, Walsh decided to complicate things: He added a few modifications to the push-up to make it more challenging.
According to Walsh, push-up modifications involve varying the speed of the push-up, changing the position, or adding weight. You can go slow as you lower your chest to the ground and faster on the way up, for example. Or you can elevate one foot at a time to further engage your core. Or you can wear a weighted vest. (Walsh recommends starting with a 10-pound weight and working your way up.)
Once Larson mastered some of these initial modifications, he raised the bar further. Walsh upped the weight, wrapping two 25-pound chains around Larson's mid-section for a total of 50 pounds. He says the chains make the move even more dynamic than a weighted vest does—meaning, the resistance the chains add throughout the movement really complements the way your strength changes in each part of the move. "As you lower yourself into the position where you're probably the weakest, the chains hit the ground and get lighter," Walsh says. "Then, they get heavier as you go up, and you're pulling more weight."
It's important to perfect your push-up form before you think about progressing it.
Before adding any extra challenges, you'll want to make sure your push-up form is in tip-top shape. Start by placing your hands shoulder-width apart—or even a tiny bit farther if that feels more comfortable on your arms and shoulders. Make sure you're in a plank position. Engage your core and keep your back flat, so your body looks like one straight line from your head all the way down to your heels; don't bend at your hips or let any part of your body droop.
Bend your elbows to lower your body toward the ground. Most people recommend keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body, but you can adjust that slightly based on what feels best for you. Then, push yourself back up, keeping your core engaged and your back flat.
If doing a push-up on your toes is too difficult, you can start with modified push-ups on your knees or with your arms at an incline. The key is to make sure you're keeping the above form notes in mind—core tight, hips tucked, back flat—even when you're doing a modified version.
In the video above, Larson has her feet planted far enough apart that they're in line with her shoulders. Walsh says that's because the closer your feet are together, the harder your hips and core have to work to try and keep you stable. Focusing extra hard on keeping those muscles super engaged can distract you from getting the most out of the move, so it's better to start with wider legs when you're adding weight, Walsh says. Then, when you're ready to make things more challenging, Walsh recommends planting your feet closer together—or even lifting one in the air.
"There are so many ways to make things harder or easier," Walsh says. "Playing around with modifications can be a lot of fun."