At the gym, you probably see guys doing crunches or foam rolling on the ground. But apart from that, how many guys are actually training on the floor? Nowadays, the majority of trainees seem to have some aversion to groundwork. And that’s a mistake. Taking your workout to the floor comes with lots of unexpected boons.
1. It elevates your heart rate.
Any time you go from the floor to a standing position and back down again, you’ll get your heart pumping.
That’s why I add something as simple as a set of bird dogs in between my upper-body exercises. Or I combine pushups with kettlebell swings. The swings raise my pulse, but popping up and down off the floor makes it jump even higher.
2. It improves your athleticism.
Floor work can give you an edge. In collision sports, if you get knocked down twice, you need to get up three times. The game is often decided after contact. So much so, that we now keep stats on “yards after contact” in football. If a defender pops up off the ground and gets back into the play, it’ll be very hard to make those X’s and O’s work on the chalkboard.
Another reason to hit the ground: You limbs are covered in proprioceptors—or sensors that provide feedback about how your body is positioned. The more your hands and feet come in contact with the floor during exercise, the greater gains you’ll see in your athletic performance.
3. It keeps you young.
Being able to go from sitting to standing quickly without pain can tell you a lot about your fitness level. According to Brazilian researchers, it’s predictive of physical strength, flexibility, and coordination for all ages.
It can also predict who will live longer. The researchers found that people who had difficultly lowering themselves to the floor and rising back up (meaning they had to use their hands and knees for support) were more than five times as likely to die during the next six years compared to people who could do it with ease.
Plus, training on the floor may prevent injuries. Every year, 28,000 Americans die from falls or fall-related injuries. Learning how to break your fall or get down and up without the use of one hand or both hands when you’re young will only help you as you get older.
Your Move: For all the reasons above, I do a drill called “Get Back Ups.” It’s easy to add to any program and it requires no coaching.
For each “series” below, you’ll start on your belly, on your right side, on your left side, in a pushup position plank, and on your back. Then you’ll stand up. Super simple.
But fair warning: The series get increasingly more difficult as the movements are restricted (hands on knees). You must come up with new strategies to get up and down.
For instance, in the first series you must start in each position (belly, right side, left side, pushup position plank, back) and get up without using your hands.
In the second series, you must start in each position and get up—but your right hand is stuck to your right knee the entire time. If your hand comes loose, a puppy dies.
If you do all five series in a row, that’s a total of 25 reps of getting up and down. I promise you’ll be hot and sweaty by the time you’re finished.
Series One: No hands.
Series Two: Your right hand is stuck to your right knee.
Series Three: Your left hand is stuck to your left knee.
Series Four: Your right hand is stuck to your left knee.
Series Five: Your left hand is stuck to your right knee.
You can do this with a partner, too. Have them yell out the starting position and a hand position at random.
Dan John has coached for more than 30 years. He’s helped hundreds of athletes pack on double-digit pounds of rock-solid muscle. As an athlete, John broke the American record in the Weight Pentathlon. He is the author of several books, including Intervention. (For more from Dan John. read his 5 Pillars of Successful Training.)