We REALLY appreciate you guys taking the time and stopping by to read our articles. On this next installment of the Ace the ACFT Series, we are tackling the Hand-Release Push-Up (HRP). If you missed the last two weeks, don’t even worry! You can find the last two articles below.

How to Max the 3RM Deadlift

How to Max the Standing Power Throw (SPT)

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The Hand Release Push-up

Prior to this event being published, we weren’t sure how it was going to be implemented. Do we just lift the hands up off the floor? Do we extend our hands out to our sides?


As time went on, we found out that it was the latter (for now…). With that said, the biggest difference from this event to the standard APFT Push-up is the LACK of the stretch reflex. Long gone are the days of being able to blast out 50-60 push-ups utilizing momentum alone in the first minute of the event. Sigh…

In-depth standards can be found on the ACFT webpage here.


As with the current deadlift, the athlete can utilize the stretch reflex for reps two and three to lift the load with greater force and ease. This used to be the case with the APFT pushup because the hands stayed planted and allowed the chest, triceps, and shoulders to activate, stretch and generate additional elastic force that assisted with the exercise.

Now, for the hand release push-up, the athlete must break that eccentric/loaded state, and re-initiate another rep from flat on the ground with no momentum. Outstanding. Additionally, with the arm extension to the side, our upper back muscles get lit up during this event. You will FEEL THE BURN in your posterior delts, teres minor and major, rhomboids and supraspinatus/infraspinatus. What jumps out at me here is: Rotator Cuff.


The rotator cuff is basically what attaches your arm to the trunk of your body. Interestingly, what comprises that connection is a series of tendons that extend out from the smaller surrounding shoulder muscles. You have four attachments that originate from the scapula and insert into various places on the humeral head (see above). Without going into too much detail, its important to know the shoulder structures in order to prevent injury from the HR Push-Up.

These are super small, deep muscles, and while strong in their own right, can get over worked and over trained quite easily. The key here on test day, and especially training, is warming up and getting good activation through the shoulder. Check out the video below from Squat University. As Dr. Horschig states, the rotator cuff muscles must work in unison to stabilize the shoulder effectively. Take note of the simple, yet effective ways to warm-up and activate these very important structures.

Now, back to the actual execution of the HR Push-up event. Something to consider; there is a more restrictive standard for hand placement with the new push-up event. Where as with the APFT, the hands could be placed anywhere that allowed you to break the 90 degree plane with your arms. With the ACFT, you are now required to have your index fingers inside the outside boarders of your shoulder muscle. This means both your index fingers should be hidden in a birds-eye view of you completing this event.

What this might mean for some of you is a significant change in stimulus, especially if you had wide hand placement with the old APFT. Bringing the hands closer to the midline of the body, increases tricep activity and demand. Adding insult to injury, you miss out on the momentum and stretch reflex due to unloading during the arm extension. This is something to consider when planning your training for this event.


What’s great about this is we 1.) know what’s happening at the cellular level within the muscles, so we can adjust training and 2.) we know just which muscles to now target. Training for this event should prioritize shoulder stability for safety and injury reduction followed by anything that breaks the stretch reflex. Additionally, since we now know that there is an unloading aspect to the muscles do to the arm extension, implementing exercises in explosive movement is also important.

Something I’ve seen some soldiers do prior to the event is knock out some low volume, high intensity/explosive push-ups. This is something that may actually help you about 30 seconds prior to your execution. A 2006 study investigated the effect of sub-maximal warm-up sets on 1RM bench press performance in athletic men. According to Wilcox, Larson, Brochu, and Faigenbaum (2006), “an acute bout of low-volume, explosive-force upper body movements performed 30 seconds before a 1RM attempt might enhance bench-press performance in athletic men.” This could be something to consider for those looking for some activation tips on test day.

*REMEMBER* Train smart and use variety. While knocking out 1,000,000 push-ups at PT is A WAY, there are a myriad of exercises that can exponentially improve your performance on the HRP.

Lets take a look at the accessories prescribed for the Hand-Release Push-Up event.

Accessory Focus for the Hand Release Push-up

1. Crossover Symmetry, or banded scapular stability movements

2. Hand release push-ups onto elevated plates

  • This movement, when done correctly, promotes the explosiveness needed to complete a push-up following the replacement of the hands on the ground. Highly recommended!

3. Bench Press and Strict Press

4. Tempo bent over rows

5. Dips (body weight, or weighted depending on your ability)


-Rob and Nik



Cover Photo Credit: Stars and Stripes

Wilcox, J., Larson, R., Brochu, K. M., & Faigenbaum, A. D. (2006). Acute explosive-force movements enhance bench-press performance in athletic men. International journal of sports physiology and performance1(3), 261-269.


2 thoughts on “How to Max the Hand-Release Push-up (HRP) – Ace the ACFT Series

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