Category Archives: Man Bicep Form Bible
It sucks. Plain and simple.
And there are a ton of reasons why you could be suffering from knee pain (reasons I will be getting to at a later date).
But no matter why you have the pain, it generally causes you to avoid leg exercises that could help you develop stronger, more powerful legs.
Lunges and squats generally cause pain. And even traditional deadlifts or sumo deadlifts may be uncomfortable.
But just because you have knee pain doesn’t mean you can skip leg day.
Actually when you have knee pain, you NEED to develop stronger legs, especially stronger glutes. Strengthening your glutes can often help alleviate knee pain (even though weak glutes are not necessarily the direct cause of knee pain).
Single leg deadlifts and straight leg deadlifts can both be great options. If your knee pain is a result of a previous ankle injury, single leg deadlifts can be a great way to also work on and improve your balance.
HOWEVER, I have found that one of the most torturous standing glute exercises isn’t a variation of the deadlift, it is the Anterior Reach Lunge by Nick Tumminello.
This move is so great that I love using it even with uninjured people. It seriously is a deceptively hard move and one that is sure to make your butt SO SORE the first time you do it.
How to do the Anterior Reach Lunge:
1. Start standing with your feet together. Beginners should start with bodyweight while more advanced lifters can hold weights by their sides. Intermediate lifters or people suffering from low back pain may want to do the lunge with a front reach instead of adding weight.
2. Step forward with one foot. Beginners can keep the step forward smaller. A bigger step forward will make the move more difficult.
3. Step forward and bend the front knee slightly as you hinge over. All of your weight should basically be in your front leg with your back leg used for balance and support.
4. While you are stepping forward, your weight shouldn’t continue to go forward as you hinge over. Your front heel should be firmly on the ground while your back leg stays straight.
5. Your back should also be flat as you lean/hinge over.
6. The more you lean over, the harder the move. DO NOT ROUND YOUR BACK TOWARD THE GROUND. It doesn’t matter if the weights touch the ground or if you can only lean over a little bit. It only matters that you push the butt back, keep the core engaged and the back flat as you hinge over.
7. If you do the reach instead of holding weights, you will reach your hands overhead and in front of you as you hinge over. Do not round as you reach.
8. Feel a nice stretch in your glute and hamstring as you hinge over. Make sure your weight isn’t going forward into your front toe. The heel of the front foot should be firmly planted on the ground. After you hinge over, stand up and step back.
9. You can choose to complete all reps on one side or alternate legs as you go.
Knee pain is no excuse to skip leg day, especially GLUTE DAY. For more great glute strengthening moves that could help alleviate your knee pain, check out these 10 Mini Band Moves.
P.S. For some reason this move does really make me think of the bend and snap…Anyone else get that!?!
A while back I did a post about what I thought were the five foundational exercises for health.
I said, “Deadlift, Squat, Push Up, Pull Up and Sprints.”
I started thinking about this list after the wealth of new information I’ve learned over the last year since writing that post.
What would I change about that list now that I’ve experienced so much more and learned so many new exercises?
The crazy part is….
Those to me still hit everything.
Although the Turkish Get Up was a tempting one. Super functional. A great way to get total body strength. A great way to help older adults strengthen their core and create a stronger mind-body connection. A GREAT move. Probably the closest one to making the list. But would it make the list…No…It would be #6.
Same goes for the hip thruster or glute bridges. While the hip thruster is arguably the BEST glute exercise out there and glute bridges are great for glute activation, which is essential, they just wouldn’t make the list. They just aren’t as complete to me as the five moves I chose.
Honestly, deadlift, pull up, push up, squat and sprints hit EVERYTHING. Almost all the moves work the entire body. And they are functional. They are also movement patterns that I think everyone should be able to do.
I guess the only thing that made me hesitate about committing to the list above is the fact that all of them are sagittal plane movements and I really do believe it is important to move in every direction. I guess for that reason the only thing I might at some point do is switch out squats for lunges…but at this place and time, that just isn’t happening.
So if you every wanted to know what I think the five best foundational moves are:
Every workout progression should include some variation of these moves, if not these moves in their purest form.
Now the only other comment I would make about this list, is that BEGINNERS may have VARIATIONS of these moves to start. BUT the intent and purpose of those moves would be to get them to these five.
Last night while we were doing a glute workout, I got asked, “If you could only do one move for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I didn’t even have to think…Actually it was easier than picking five moves…
Why do I think the deadlift is the queen/king of exercise moves?
Because it hits everything down the entire back side of your body, which honestly is generally highly underactive in a society that sits all day hunched over a computer.
It works a ton of big muscle groups. It strengthens areas that are weak on post people, their back, their core, their glutes…
And it is functional. Think about how many times a day you have to freaking pick things up off the ground.
People tell you, “You need to squat down to pick stuff up!”
But actually you DON’T need to squat down!
You need to DEADLIFT!
The deadlift is not a squat. Your chest does not stay back. You HINGE forward. And when you pick something up, you generally ned to lean forward to get it.
And on top of all that, DEADLIFTS ARE EMPOWERING.
I’m sorry, but there is nothing like picking something super heavy off the ground to make you feel strong and confident.
For me conquering any other task, even the 300ft on the Versa Climber which made me want to throw up 12 hours later and made me want to cry for my mommy, didn’t feel near as empowering. It didn’t make me feel near as strong. (Actually it just made me feel sick and like I never wanted to step on the Versa Climber again….)
To me deadlift is queen…or king….end of story. I could list a bazillion more reasons, but those should give you the gist of why I think that.
So my question to you is, “What do you think are the five foundational exercises?” And if you could only pick one, “What do you consider to be the best of the best?”
There are no right or wrong answers. Every list has great points and every list has flaws. I even showed you what I thought were a couple of the flaws in mine. (The great part/bad part about fitness is that there really are no right and wrong answers…Ok…maybe there are a few wrong answers…But those are generally when people do stupid things with bad form….)
Anyway, looking forward to reading some other lists! Hope you share yours!
Recently I’ve had to do way more running than I would ever have liked to have done in my lifetime.
I don’t regret a second of it though because I’m running with Jodie and she is one strong and amazing woman. (And her half marathon is August 18th! GO JODIE!)
HOWEVER, I have noticed one thing…Everyone thinks they can run.
MOST PEOPLE HAVE THE WORST RUNNING FORM EVER!
People who have never worked out before in their life often turn to running as their first exercise option.
But what people don’t realize is that RUNNING ISN’T EASY!
Yes, running SHOULD BE a natural movement pattern.
But it isn’t for most adults anymore because we sit hunched over a computer screen for 8 hours a day.
And that sitting over the computer causes postural distortions that then hinder us from properly executing movements that should be natural…aka RUNNING.
I don’t know if Jodie has ever noticed this when we are running, but occasionally I will have like sensory overload where there are just too many runners with incorrect form ahead of us and I have to pass them or I will go insane. I speed up and run around even if I had to step off the path because I just can’t handle it.
And when I say all of this, I’m not trying to be mean or judgmental. I think it is great that people are getting out and being active and doing SOMETHING.
I’m just trying to get across the point that there is proper FORM to running and that if you don’t have decent form you are probably going to get injured.
And injury hinders us from really reaping the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, which are to FEEL BETTER and MOVE BETTER.
So what is proper running form? (And note here I’m talking about longer distance running and not sprinting although many of these things apply to both.)
Well I can tell you it isn’t the knock-kneed running you see so often occurring on the trails. Boy does that annoy me.
And many of those people wonder why they have knee, hip or low back pain!
Anyway, proper running form and common problems….
First off, your upper body should be RELAXED.
Your head shouldn’t be flexed or extended, but should be in line with your spine. This means your eyes should be focused slightly ahead and/or slightly downcast.
Your shoulders shouldn’t be up by your ears. I call this the “turtle” position. No hiding your head in your shell! You don’t want to hold tension anywhere that isn’t necessary. Your shoulders being elevated may have to do with sitting at the desk all day and tension in your upper traps. Try a scapular hold to help you activate your lower traps and roll out your upper traps to alleviate this problem.
Your shoulders may also be elevated because you are forcing too much arm movement. Your arms should be relaxed and swing loosely. If you even notice many long distance runners don’t have much arm movement at all. Their upper bodies are simply relaxed. (This doesn’t mean your arms should just hang by your sides. Your elbows should be bent to about 90.)
Your hands and wrists should be neutral. No weird flexion or extension. AND you shouldn’t be holding your hands in a death grip. RELAX!
You also need to be conscious of how much you rotate. Too much rotation is bad. While running does work your abs, you shouldn’t be doing russian twists while you are running. If your hands are crossing the midline of your body then you are rotating too much. (This could mean you have a little lack of coordination or poor hip flexion aka the movement when you bring your knee to your chest.)
Also, do not have excessive lean or rounding forward. While sprinters will lean forward during the acceleration phase, once they hit maximal speed (or when you are jogging) you should be near perpendicular to the ground.
Now your lower body…
Your low back shouldn’t be arched and you should not waddle (aka have excessive hip sway from side to side)! This means weak core and glute muscles as well as tight hip flexors that need to be taken care of before you just pound away the miles. (If you have lots of rotation this can also mean your hamstrings and adductors are tight as well.)
I’ve also noticed that there are a number of people with a slight hip hike when they run (one hip is higher than the other). This means different problems are occurring on each half of our body, which guess what? LEADS TO INJURY! Roll out your entire hip complex if this is occurring and search for tight spots on each side. You are also going to need to work on adductor and glute medius (your side butt) strength on the side opposite the hip tilt up.
You should also have a good range of motion around your hip and be able to produce force with each ground push off. I see it all the time…Runners bobbing up and down. Don’t waste your energy going up and down! PUSH FORWARD. While you shouldn’t consciously have to think about going forward, each time you push off you should propel forward NOT UP. If you don’t move forward fluidly but do bob up and down, you need to work on your ankle mobility, hip flexibility and posterior chain strength (aka glute, hamstring…whole back of your body….).
Your knees…THEY SHOULDN’T COLLAPSE IN! I see this so often when I’m out running with Jodie. If your knees collapse in, you need to work on your ankle mobility….great thing I have all a lot of the info you need RIGHT HERE. You also need to roll out your inner thighs, hamstrings and strengthen the outside of your leg and glutes. Some single leg balancing would also be a great way to help correct this problem. Also, just a slight side note…But if your IT Bands are always tight and hurt, you may want to have someone see if your knees are collapsing in!
Your feet may also be part of the problem. Take a look at your shoes. Do you run on the inside of your foot or the outside. Many people I’ve seen run on the inside, which makes sense since many of those same people run with their knees collapsing in. All of it is connected and can lead to shin splints, knee problems, plantar fasciitis and even low back pain! If you run on the inside of your feet roll out your lower leg and not just your calf. You will actually want to do a number of the exercises I outline in a post about how to get rid of shin splints and plantar fasciitis!
If your feet turn out that is also a problem to address. It can mean spots in your calves and hamstrings are tight while your glutes and even muscles in your hips are weak.
And last but not least…Don’t overstride. Don’t try to reach with the leg. Let the legs SWING. It all goes back to relaxing and being mobile, which is hard when you sit for 8 hours a day!
Sorry if this is a bit more technical than the usual post, but I want people to start thinking about how they run since so many people turn to running as their exercise of choice.
The whole point of working out is to feel better, to move better. To feel stronger and fitter.
And honestly, bad movement patterns do the exact opposite even if you don’t feel the negative effects yet.
This doesn’t mean you have to give up running.
It just means you should do some strengthening and mobility work so that you can do the thing you love without injury. And you may find you even do it better if you do some of the mobility and strengthening required to have proper running form!
NOTE: I did not discuss heel strike. Interesting read about foot strike.
We are born with better movement patterns than most of us have now as adults…Just kidding…sort of…
But babies, that can’t even walk yet, can most certainly do certain things better. They definitely squat better AND crawl better than most adults do.
Babies do rock bottom squats like it is nothing. While trying to get an adult to do just a squat to 90 degrees can sometimes be a painful, long process.
Same goes for crawling.
Babies motor around like it is nothing. They crawl over grass, concrete and carpet, barely even noticing the change in texture.
But when adults are asked to crawl, they barely make it five steps before they are out of breath (or complaining about their hands on the turf)…and that is even if they can first understand the coordination of crawling.
It makes me sad how much we lose some natural movement patterns. It makes me sad that we lose such a great mind-body connection.
And I don’t think it has to be this way!
Everyone should be able to crawl, whether or not it is a table top crawl or a basic bear crawl. We should all be able to do it!
So here is a little breakdown of the basic forward bear crawl and proper form.
Now you are probably thinking…Why the heck would I ever want to crawl when I can walk?
Because crawling is GREAT exercise! (And it is kind of fun too!)
Crawling works your entire body, from your shoulders to your knees. It is a great core strengthener AND it is great cardio.
Plus crawling works on your coordination and agility.
And honestly, the older we get and the more we lose that mind-body connection (our coordination and balance), the more we need to crawl.
People just accept that as they age they won’t have the same coordination or balance that they once had. And while, yes, our body does change with age, that doesn’t mean we have to accept that falling or feeling uncoordinated is just a part of life.
Getting our body and mind to continue to connect and work together is key. And movements like the bear crawl help us work on that connection.
So now the question really is…Why aren’t you crawling!?!
Try it today! Set a timer for 5 minutes and see how long you last crawling around. You can even mix in backward and sideways crawls once you master the forward bear crawl.
So yesterday when Ryan and I were doing some foam rolling stuff, I used a table for a couple of the moves.
It was just our little $10 Ikea table, but it was amazingly sturdy considering I put it together…Although that may be better than if Ryan put it together…Sorry Ryan…But it’s true…
Anyway, when I used the table, Ryan said to me, “I wonder if you could do a full body workout with just that table?”
My answer, “You totally could!”
Here are 10 moves you can do with just a cheap little Ikea side table! Love you Ikea! 🙂 (The moves are in no particular order)
1. Decline or Incline Push ups – You can make the push up easier or more advanced using the table. To make the push up easier, put your hands on the table and then perform the push up from your knees or toes. Doing the push up from your knees will make it easier than from your toes. To advance the push up, put your toes on top of the table.
2. Balance Lunges – The balance lunge is a great leg move to do if you don’t have weights. Place your back foot up on the table and hop your front foot out so you are in a nice wide stance. Then lunge down, dropping your back knee toward the ground. Really sit back into the lunge. Make sure you aren’t going forward and that your front knee is not going past your toe. You should feel a nice stretch in the front of the leg that is back when doing this move.
3. Single Leg Squats – This table is a great way for beginners especially to start working on their pistol squats. It is also a great way to really correct imbalances since you are working legs individually. If the table is too low for you at the beginning, start with a two-leg squat to bench. Then progress to one leg. Beginners can completely sit down on the table. As you advance, try to only barely tap the table with your butt before standing up. Do not rely on sitting on the bench to stand back up.
4. Incline or Decline Climbers – These aren’t mountain climbers. With climbers you are working your shoulders and triceps. Beginners should start in a plank position with their forearms on the table. Next climb up one hand at a time until you are at the top of a push up position. Then climb back down to complete the rep. Advanced exercisers should do this move with their feet elevated on the table instead.
5. Glute Bridge off table – A great way to advance the glute bridge is by putting your feet up on the table. You can do either a double leg glute bridge, which is a bit easier, or a single leg bridge, which is a bit more difficult. Start by lying on the ground with your heels on the table. Your butt should be close to the table. Arms are bent to 90 with elbows driving into the ground. Squeeze the glutes and drive through the heels, lifting your hips as high as you can in the air. Keep your core tight and glutes squeezed. You should not feel this in your low back. To make the move even more beneficial, hold each rep at the top for 2-5 seconds.
6. Handstands – Handstands are a great upper body move. Using the table you can either do a beginner handstand hold or you can make the move more advanced by adding in a push up. To do the hold, place your feet on top of the table. Walk your hands back a bit and push your butt up towards the ceiling. Push off your toes to get as vertical as possible, creating a nice straight line from your hands, up your arms and core to your tailbone. If this is easy, add the push up in while holding this position. Drop your head down to the ground and then lift back up.
7. Plank Holds – Plank holds are a great overall core move and the table can be used to make the move easier and more difficult. Beginners can hold front and side planks with their hands on the table and feet on the ground while advanced lifters can have their feet on the table and hands on the ground.
8. Lying Bat Wings – One of my favorite moves is scapular wall holds. When playing with the table, I realized you could do the same hold while lying face down on the table. Lie down with your chest on the table. Bend your arms to 90 degrees and then pinch your shoulder blades down and back. Try to bring them together you are pinching back so hard. Hold that move. Beginners can hold for 30 seconds. Advanced can hold for up to a minute. If you want to make it even more challenging, you could add weight to each hand…even if it is just in the form of a book.
9. Reverse Hypers – A great move for the glutes and hamstrings and most easily done with a piece of equipment; HOWEVER, using a table is a PERFECT way to do reverse hypers at home. Lie face down on the table. Make sure your hips are right at the edge. Squeeze your legs together and lift your legs to basically parallel to the ground. Hold for 2-5 seconds and lower. You can do reverse hypers with either bent or straight legs. Both have their benefits. You should not feel either though in your low back. Keep the core tight and really squeeze the glutes.
10. Dips – One of the most common home exercise moves, dips can’t be ignored. Place your hands behind you on the table with finger tips hanging over the side. Beginners can bend their legs while more advanced exercisers can keep their legs straight. Drop your butt as close to the ground as possible, bending your arms to 90 degrees and keeping your back and butt close to the table. You could even make the dips harder by doing two push ups followed by two dips for 3-5 rounds. Talk about a way to smoke your triceps….
If you like these moves and have enjoyed other Man Bicep posts, I suggest you head over to my new site Redefining Strength for a sneak peek and a few great workout freebies, including a COMPLETE FOAM ROLLING VIDEO LIBRARY!
P.S. Thank you Ryan for an amazing post idea!
In my opinion two of the hardest bodyweight moves, especially for women, are pull ups and push ups.
These are also, in my opinion, two moves that EVERYONE should be able to do!
The other week, I outlined some tips and progressions to help you build toward a full pull up and today I want to address the push up.
A few things I usually see when clients do “push ups:”
- They don’t go all the way down. They bend their elbows maybe an inch. (Guys do the opposite of this where they don’t actually lock out at the end of the push up)
- Their head juts forward as if they are looking towards their toes.
- Their shoulder blades are jutting out.
- Their elbows flare out way up by their ears and their fingers are rotated in toward their chest.
- They do THE WORM!
Here is a photo of some pretty ugly form….doing a number of the bad things above.
So if you do one….or maybe all…of these things, how do you do a perfect push up?
Perfect push ups form:
- Your body is in line from your heels to the tip of your head. Your finger tips should be pointing forwards and your hands should be right outside your chest. Your feet are together not shoulder or hip width apart.
- At the top of your push up, your arms are locked out and your legs are straight. You are squeezing your butt cheeks and are drawing your belly button in toward your spine. You are in a straight line. Hips aren’t dropping to the ground. Head is jutting forward. Back is not excessively arched.
- As you lower down, you lower your chest directly between your hands, keeping a nice straight line. Your elbows shouldn’t flare out from your body. Your elbows should almost make an arrow with your body. Like –> Your shoulders, elbows and wrists should all be in a straight line.
- Your chest should touch the ground when you lower. Your body should move together. Hips shouldn’t move back up first. Everything should lift as one. Don’t let the hips sag or the elbows flare out as you lift.
- You should then return to the exact same position you started with.
Now that you know the form for a great push up that doesn’t mean you are going to be able to perform one perfectly.
First you have to address the issues you are having with your form.
While a full range of motion is something that you have to practice and developing strength in your chest, shoulders and triceps is always beneficial, there are some other issues you have to address first.
Below I address areas you should foam roll, stretch and strengthen if you are having some of the problems I listed above. If you don’t know if your form is breaking down, have a friend or a trainer watch you perform a push up!
Problems and some fixes:
- Head jutting forward and/or chin tucked to chest – Roll out and stretch your upper traps and neck.
- Scapular winging (aka if your shoulder blades are really popping out) – Roll out and stretch your chest. Strengthen your mid and lower traps with the scapular wall hold. You can also strengthen your traps and your serratus anterior (the muscles sort of on your ribs under your armpit and down the side) with this great exercise, the push up plus or scapular push up.
- Shoulders are up by your ears – If your shoulders are up by your ears, roll out and stretch your traps and your neck. You are also going to want to do a ton of scapular wall holds to strengthen your mid and lower traps! When doing the push up, focus on engaging the muscles between your shoulder blades.
- Elbows flare out – Many people are taught to do a push up like a T, but that puts a ton of strain on the rotator cuff. Make sure to roll out and stretch your chest. Also, having your elbows in closer will require you to strengthen your triceps since having your elbows in closer engages your triceps more. Also to help you remember to do this, start the push up with your hands right outside your chest. As your hands get wider, it becomes easier to revert back to the T form.
- Hands turn in – Make sure to keep the finger tips pointing straight ahead. Pretend your hands are both on a piece of paper. Try pressing down and apart as if you are trying to rip the piece of paper in half. This will help you keep your hands straight and will help you engage your lats and keep your body tight overall.
- Low back sags and hips go toward the ground – Start by rolling out and stretching your low back and your hips. You will then also want to strengthen your core and your glutes. When I say “strengthen your core,” I don’t mean do a trillion crunches. You want to work on “bracing” your core – you want to work on contracting your abs and drawing your belly button in toward you spine. You can practice this by laying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Draw your belly button in toward your spine and press your low back into the ground. Hold that position. That is how you want to brace your core during a push up. When doing a push up, to keep your hips from sagging, squeeze your glutes and draw in your belly button!
- Butt goes way up in the air – If this happens you are also going to need to work on core strength. Planks are a great way to build up the core stabilization needed for a push up…Because let’s face it…A push up is basically a moving plank. Also, use the drawing in maneuver I went over above to teach yourself to engage your core! Also, if you squeeze your glutes during the push up, it is going to be extremely difficult to have your butt up in the air!
Once you begin to address those issues, you can start to work on building up toward that perfect push up.
Today, I don’t want to get into all the supplemental moves you can do to strengthen your chest, shoulders, triceps and core, but I do want to discuss how you can regress the push up so that you can do it no matter what level you are starting from.
The first push up regress is NOT from your knees.
The wall push up is the first step. Step about a foot or two away from the wall and place your arms out toward the wall right outside your chest. Your finger tips should point straight up toward the ceiling. As you lower your body toward the wall, your hands should be outside your chest. Go as close to the wall as you can (do not smack your face into the wall). Make sure you keep your elbows in super close to your body. This is a great time to really work the triceps and keep your arms against your body. Your wrists, elbows and shoulders should all be in one straight line. Your body should remain in a straight line with your core and glutes engaged. Don’t worry about keeping your heels on the ground.
If you can perform 3 rounds of 20 wall push ups with perfect form easily, it is time to use a lower incline. Squat racks (if no one is using them because people definitely don’t like you doing anything put squatting in them) and Smith machines are great places to help you work on your push ups. I hate Smith machines so this is about the only time I would use one.
Smith machine push ups allow you to control the incline. As you progress, you can lower the bar until you are basically parallel to the ground. You want to keep the same form as the wall push up.
Since we don’t have a Smith machine at the gym (and since we just moved and our jungle gym for squats isn’t set up) I demonstrated these from a bench…which is also another tool you can use if the incline is appropriate.
And if you only have a bench, but the incline is just a bit too low, you can do push ups off the bench two different ways. You can do them from your toes or from your knees.
Doing push ups from your knees can allow you to decrease the incline as you progress down toward the ground.
Once you’ve mastered the incline push up and have gotten down to at least the height of a bench (from your toes), you can start to try push ups from your knees on the ground.
If you aren’t completing full reps and your form is breaking down, don’t keep progressing!
You’ve got to EARN the next level!
Then once you can perform perfect push ups from your knees, start to add in one or two push ups from your toes until you can do 5, 10, 15….100 from your toes!
Doing even one perfect push up doesn’t happen overnight. Take your time! Quality is important if you want to get the most out of each and every push up!
Once you’ve mastered the perfect push up, it is then time to start playing around with decline push ups (feet up on bench or such) and other fun variations…Like my favorite the push up to dip!
But remember…YOU’VE GOT TO EARN THE PROGRESSIONS!
Do you love push ups?
So I’ve encountered a lot of people recently who are doing exercises and weights way beyond their current abilities.
And they feel entitled to do the workout moves even though they really aren’t doing them correctly.
They feel entitled because they believe they are in shape. Because they’ve been doing intense stuff for years. Because another trainer let them do it.
Well, I’m sorry, but you don’t just get to do an exercise, you have to earn it.
I mean think about it right now…Do you actually do a full push up? Is your push up perfect?
Is your body in a perfectly straight line? Do you touch your chest to the ground and then completely lock out at the top?
Or does your chin jut forward? Are you’re arms at 90 degrees from your body? Do your hips sag toward the ground or is your butt up in the air?
Be honest with yourself because I can tell you now after hours of watching push ups that 95% of the people out there can’t do a push up worth SHIT.
Sorry to curse, but seriously I am just fed up. I saw all these men and women deciding that they deserved to do the toughest push up progression when they honestly weren’t even near ready.
Is it pride or bragging rights or just that we want to be “bad-ass” that make people stupid enough to do something truly beyond their level?
Or do people really just not realize how bad their form is? Do they not equate their nagging injuries to the fact that they are trying to run when they haven’t even learned to crawl properly yet?
And the funniest part is that I don’t consider myself a stickler on form. I believe that there is a scale of “acceptable” form aka form that is good enough that the person won’t get injured, BUT that as the person gets stronger will be worked to be improved.
However, the form I’ve seen is just completely unacceptable especially since people keep pushing to do something harder than they should.
Why does everyone believe they are above progression!?!
SLOW DOWN PEOPLE!
FORM is important to the extent that it PREVENTS INJURIES! And usually correct form means that you are doing something in the most efficient and functional way possible – the way that will truly give you the most power and STRENGTH.
So why waste your time on incorrect form and just keep pushing ahead when you won’t get near as much out of the move as you could if you just slowed down and took the time to properly engage the correct muscles?
Maybe you never thought of it that way…huh?
Stop trying to run before you can walk and walk before you can crawl. If you take the necessary time at each stage, you are going to find that not only will your lifts be stronger but that you will also suffer from fewer injuries!
So try a push up. Before you do that hard variation you saw in the magazine, ask yourself if you can really even do more than one round of 20 perfect push ups in all of the levels leading up to that new variation.
If you can’t, spend some time EARNING that new variation! It may be a great way to motivate yourself to work hard over the next few weeks or months!
Check back soon for a post about how to do a perfect push up…And in the meantime learn how to do a pull up!
Notice I didn’t say ab exercises because these moves work way more muscles than just your abs – they work your ENTIRE core.
I could have listed things like the single leg squat and deadlift since they are so great in terms of working your core, but since I’ve talked about them a few times recently, I decided to include some different ones to add to your exercise repertoire.
Really any single limb movement is going to engage your core more be it rotational or anti-rotational. For some single limb movements you can use to work your core, check out this blog with single limb exercises.
Below are some core focused moves that I really love!
- Wall push – This move can either be super easy or super tough…It is up to you. To do this move, stand up against a wall and push into the wall as if you are going to move the wall backwards. Get up nice and close to the wall as if you are at the bottom of a push ups. Drive all the way up through your feet into your hands against the wall. Your core should be tight enough that if someone comes and pushes on you from any angle you won’t move. (To make the move more difficult, have someone actually push on you from all angles as you hold!)
- Pull up and hold – You can do this as a chin up or pull up. You can do it off a bar, off a peg board, off of TRX straps…wherever. But what you need to do is pull to the top of a pull up or chin up and HOLD. Keep your legs straight down toward the ground and your chin above the bar. Keep your chest pressed out and shoulder blades down and back. Squeeze your belly button in toward your spine and keep your glutes tight. Hold as long as you can. This move is also a great way to work on pull ups (especially if you do a slow negative on the way down!).
- Inchworm with row – So when I first started and had to train both of the owners, I busted out this move for one of their workouts because it is probably one of the best full body moves out there! To perform the inch worm, start standing. Place your hands on the ground as if you are performing a hamstring stretch. Then walk your hands out until you are in a high plank or top of a push up position. Then walk your feet back in, keeping your legs as straight as possible until you are back in that standing hamstring stretch. To make this move harder, add a dumbbell back row in the plank position. So with the weights walk your hands out to the plank just like you would with the basic inchworm. In the plank, perform one dumbbell row on each side, then walk your feet back in. Make sure to keep your hips from rotating when performing the row (you want a solid plank position…not butt up toward the ceiling!). To make this move super hard, add sliders or even plate weights that will slide to your feet. Instead of walking your feet back in, slide them together back in, like you are performing a jackknife. The sliders will also make it more difficult as you walk out and as you hold the plank.
- Power Ropes Sidewinders (Can also do rainbows) – I picked this rope move because it is super super good for the obliques and works rotation unlike the moves above which all work in the sagittal plane. In a nice athletic stance, you rotate side to side as quickly as you can, causing the rope to smoothly snake all the way down. You can also mix in some rotation with the rainbow wave, which reminds me a bit of a Russian twist. You start at the hipbone and make a rainbow up to the shoulders and down to the other hipbone. For videos of these moves, check out John Brookfield’s Youtube. He and Ingrid have some great moves for the ropes, including waves and pulls (as well as a lot of other cool random stuff!).
- Windmills (or progressed to Turkish Get Up) – So I actually saw these in an article the other day and was like “I haven’t done these in FOREVER and I used to LOVE them! I haven’t done them in forever because recently I’ve been doing the Turkish Get Up. BUT both are great for shoulder stabilization as well as core strength. To perform a windmill, you can start with out weight. Feet should be about shoulder width. Turn out the toe of the side that you aren’t going to work to about 45 degrees. Straighten the other arm up toward the ceiling. You are then going to hinge over, driving the butt cheek of the arm that is up out to the side as much as you can. Then you are going to stand back up, keeping the arm straight toward the ceiling the entire time.
- Landmine wipers or twists – So this can be both a rotational and anti-rotational move. You can either rotate from hip to hip with the barbell or you can decide to fight against rotating as you lower the barbell down to about shoulder height on each side.
- Sit Thrus – One of my favorite moves. It kind of looks like breakdancing when it is done correctly…at least to me anyway. To do this move, start in a table top crawling position. Start up on your hands and toes with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Then you are going to literally sit through. With your right knee bent, you are going to sit through your left side, raising your left hand off the ground. Then return back to the starting position and repeat on the other side. (Check out the top two photos below to see the two main parts of the move.)
- Planks with pulls or waves – So there are actually like three exercises really included in number 8. There is the plank with a pull from either in front or behind. This one can involve a hip hinge like the one show below with the chain.
There is also the plank with a pull through across the body. With this one you reach your hand under and across your body while holding a plank to grab a rope or a sandbag. You then pull the bag or rope across your body to the other side. Depending on your goal for the move, you can either use a slight hip hinge or you can fight against the rotation of your hips to hold a strict plank. And last, but not least, there is a plank with one-handed battling waves. I had my volleyball girls do this one the other day. It is harder than you would think!
- Handstands – Handstands are just an amazing move. A full handstand without support requires a lot of core strength. As you work up to that, you can work on your core strength by doing variations of the handstand. You can start with a downward dog and then progress by walking your feet up a wall. As you get your feet up higher on the wall, walk your hands as close as you can to the wall until you are completely vertical. Once you get in super close, you can advance the move by walking side to side or lifting one hand up to tap your thigh.
- Bar rotations – I found these when reading Nick Tumminello’s articles. He has some AMAZING STUFF about…well…EVERYTHING! These honestly are like a standing variation of the Russian twist, but I definitely like them better! (And I kind of like them when I need to vent a bit of anger…they feel like I’m fighting something haha)
Runners up: I really love these moves as well so want to mention them even if I don’t go into detail.
Medball throws both sideways and overhead. Medball slams both rotational and straight ahead.
Any front loaded exercise like front squats or good mornings. When you front load you force your core to work harder to stabilize!
Also, I love any sort of hanging knees to elbows or feet to bar or even skin the cats. However, since crossfit became popular I feel like most people know those so chose not to include them. Also, those can be incredibly tough and not easily done by everyone. Everyone can do some variation of the exercises above.
I also wanted to include a ton of plank variations…Plank on the power wheel. Plank with reach throughs. Plank with reach back and out. Planks on sliders where you slide your feet backwards and stretch out then come back to starting…ACTIVE planks. I love ACTIVE planks. But there were just so many that I honestly feel like planks need their own full article if I’m going to touch on them!
And last but not least, resistance band rotations and even the stability press…actually especially the stability press. I love anti-rotational moves!
What are your favorite core moves that aren’t either crunches or sit ups?
So the swing that I would like to discuss is the one that is best for your butt – the Russian swing.
The Russian kettlebell swing is a hip hinge just like a glute bridge or deadlift. The main muscle working in the hip hinge is the glutes with help from the hamstrings (and of course other stabilizer muscles).
And while you see everyone and their mother’s uncle attempting some sort of hinge exercise, most people don’t do it correctly – People either turn the hinge into a reach with their back (aka back rounding) or a squat.
It’s interesting…the hip hinge should be an easy movement for us to do but it is actually the one that most people have trouble with.
So how do you teach this easy but hard movement?
I start most people out with glute bridges. Once they have mastered the two leg, bodyweight glute bridge, I move them to a standing hip hinge near a wall.
The key with the standing hip hinge near the wall is to use the wall as a guide. You want to make sure that they keep their back flat and reach their butt toward the wall.
If they have trouble keeping their back flat, you can have them hold some sort of dowel down their back and make sure that the dowel doesn’t come off their head and butt because their back rounds or really separates from their back because they over arch.
If they seem to have trouble getting their butt closer to the wall (or even to touching it…I sometimes start them close enough so that if they do it correctly their butt will actually touch) and they aren’t rounding their back, then they are most likely squatting.
Use the wall or pole or something behind them to teach them to stick their butt back and hinge at the hip-joint. If they perform the movement correctly their butt should either touch or at least get closer to the object behind them!
After they master the bodyweight standing hip hinge near the wall, I will add a resistance band around their hips to teach them to be explosive with the movement.
With this move you face away from the wall with the resistance band attached to something behind you. You wrap the resistance band around your hips and step as far away as you can.
Then you hinge over and explosively come back to standing, squeezing the butt cheeks and driving the hips forward.
For this move, you will need to assume a more athletic stance (so knees slightly bent through the entire motion) than you would necessarily for the standing hinge by the wall.
The resistance band is an especially great way to teach the kettlebell swing because the band mimics the weight of the bell.
Your hips go backwards and you hinge over because the weight drives you backwards and you want to absorb the load. You then squeeze your glutes and drive your hips forward to propel the weight forward.
Once you have managed this you are ready to start on the actual swing. Start with the two-handed, single bell swing.
Starting with the kettlebell on the ground, you will hike it backwards like a football to start the swing. It doesn’t matter how high you get the kettlebell to go…and actually it really shouldn’t ever get above your shoulders!
You are powering each swing with your hip hinge. As you swing the kettlebell forward, you will have a slight lean back at the top and a slight posterior tilt to your hips because you are squeezing your butt cheeks. You arms aren’t working at all to lift the kettlebell…it is swinging because of the power from your glutes.
You then leave your hips out long enough to catch your forearms with the kettlebell descending. You don’t want to be hinging over while the kettlebell is away from your body. You hinge over only to slow the kettlebell down and absorb the momentum.
The connection between your forearms and hips is very important and is key to making sure this movement is powered by your glutes and not your low back!
Your forearms then maintain a connection with your hips as you hinge over leaning forward with your chest to counteract the weight of the kettlebell between your legs.
The kettlebell should go back smoothly and shouldn’t really swing up and hit you in the bottom. If it does, you are actually using too much power for the weight and can probably even go up in weight.
This video actual shows a great swing.
In this swing, his spine is in line from the tip of his head right to his tailbone. At the top of the swing, he is standing up straight with only a slight lean back and he hinges back over when the kettlebell drives his hips back. There isn’t a gap between his forearms and hips as he goes back into the hinge. Everything is connected and moves TOGETHER. As he hinges over, his butt goes back. He doesn’t squat and his back doesn’t round.
If your swing looks like this and you can feel that forearm/hip connection, you are doing the move correctly and can start upping the weight or playing around with variations.
Another variation of the swing, the single arm swing, can also be a great way to learn the swing movement as it can sometimes force people to maintain that forearm to hip connection. BUT this variation is more challenging on the core and may be more challenging on the grip.
To progress the swing move, try a double bell swing, but when you do this make sure you have a really really good handle on the other two variations first.
While the kettlebell swing can be a more frustrating move to truly master, it really is a great way to develop glute strength and improve your power. It can be a great way to get over a deadlifting plateau if you find yourself struggling!
Shoot some people even argue that heavy kettlebell swings are even better than deadlifts….and, while I love my deadlifts, kettlebell swings are definitely pretty freaking good.
So work on your swings today. If you aren’t confident in your hip hinge (if you round or squat), start with a beginning move like the glute bridge and progress from there. Don’t just jump right into swings and end up hurting your low back!
And….P.S. Speaking of progression yesterday…this article is basically one to do the kettlebell swing!
So the glute bridge is one of my favorite moves. It can be a good part of any warm up or a great strength exercise by itself.
It is also a great way to mix up your hip hinge workouts from vertical to horizontal! It is also incredibly hard for many people to keep their core tight enough so that they don’t feel this in their low backs, but instead feel it in their butts.
Really really focus on drawing your belly button in toward your spine when doing this move so you DON’T feel it in your low back!
So the basic glute bridge is done on the ground. You should place your feet about hip width apart and bend your knees bringing your heels in close enough that you can touch them with your finger tips.
You then squeeze your butt cheeks and raise your hips as high up as you can. You should basically be on your shoulders and heels when you drive up. You should actively squeeze your belly button in toward your spine and squeeze your glutes.
Make sure that you aren’t just simply pushing back into your shoulders off of your heels. You actually want to drive straight up and while you are pushing through your heels you want to actually think about driving your shins forward.
You should feel this move in your glutes and a bit in your hamstrings NOT in your low back.
You can also do this move with one leg raised. I like to do it with one leg off the ground with the knee bent to 90 degrees and the foot flexed. I focus on getting my hips up just as high as they were with two legs. Try to also not let your hips rotate!
Another variation that I like of the basic glute bridge is the bridge on the power wheel.
Basically the same as the glute bridge on the ground EXCEPT you have to really drive your feet straight down into the ground and squeeze your butt and core or you are going to wobble over or the wheel will run off.
Many people also feel this move a lot more in their hamstrings.
This variation is a great way to advance the traditional glute bridge and make it into a great part of your workout.
To make this move harder, you can actually roll the wheel out and then back in toward your butt. The key though is to NOT drop your hips even as your roll out.
A great intermediate move if the power wheel is just a bit too hard especially moving it in and out is the glute bridge on the sliders.
Put your heels on the sliders and raise up into a glute bridge. Just like with the power wheel, straighten the legs out keeping the hips high and then bring the heels back in so that you are in the basic glute bridge position. Repeat slowly and make sure to keep your core tight so that your low back doesn’t feel this move.
The last glute bridge variation that I really like to use is a great strength move. A beginner can do this with only their back on the bench and feet on the ground. To make it more advanced, you can do it with your back on a bench and your feet up on a bench as well (or your back on the ground and feet up). To make that harder, do it with only one leg.
The hardest variation actually returns you to the position with your back on the bench and feet on the ground. You can add weight to this position by laying a barbell across your hips.
Actually you can almost weight down any position to make it harder EXCEPT the power wheel. If you advance from this move, you could weight down the one-leg variation.
But make sure that when you weight down the glute bridge, YOU DON’T FEEL IT IN YOUR LOW BACK.
Focus on really keeping the core tight by “drawing in” your belly button toward your spine!
So if you want a bootilicious (aka perky, toned) butt, try some of these moves. They will also really help up your deadlift numbers if you are looking to get your lift numbers higher!
What’s your favorite glute bridge variation?