How to turn “I can’t” into “I can”
So I’m not talking about mindset here. I’m literally talking about taking something you CAN’T DO and turning it into something that you CAN DO.
Let’s take for instance the pull up, which is a difficult body weight move to perform that many people would like to be able to do.
Been wanting to be able to do a true pull up for awhile, huh?
What steps have you taken to get yourself there?
Many people have a DESIRE to be able to do certain moves but never really do anything to work toward being able to do those moves.
They may do some random exercises to strengthen their back or lats, but they never outline exact steps to get themselves to a full pull up.
But if you want to do a full pull up, or any other tough move for that matter, there is a way. If you do the research, you can create a PROGRESSION for just about any move.
For any exercise move, there is a way to make the move easier and harder – a way to progress and regress.
So if you want to do a pull up, but can’t, you just need to find a regression for the move that you CAN DO. And once you master that, you need to make that move more difficult. Each time you master a level, you make the move more difficult until you reach your goal. (And once you reach your goal, you can always find a way to progress the move from their so that you are always challenged.)
Usually progressing a move isn’t the challenge…Those are the glamour moves that EVERYONE wants to do. Everyone seems to know the hardest variations of every exercise…weighted pull ups, or one arm pull ups, or one pinky pull ups (yes…there is a guy that can do a pull up with one pinky…).
But if you ask many people about ways to REGRESS moves, they usually don’t have near as many ideas.
How do you regress pull ups? Use the assisted pull up machine? Yes…that is one way. Do lat pull downs…EH…Not that good.
But there are actually a bazillion ways! Jumping pull ups. Leg assisted pull ups. Band pull ups. Negatives. Dead hangs. Pull up and hold.
See there are just a few great ones right there!
You want to do a full pull up right? How many of those have you tried?
My point is that if you want to be able to do a move, you have to EARN it. You’ve got to figure out a way to build yourself up to the moves. You’ve got to be patient as you progress yourself through even the most basic variations of the move.
You can’t just randomly pick a level to start with. You’ve got to start at a level that you can MASTER. As you build, you want to make sure that you are doing the move CORRECTLY and not just racing to complete the reps so you can move on to the next progression. Doing one of the progressions sloppily just to be able to say you did a harder variation, won’t help you reach your end goal any faster (actually it may slow you down). Mastery of each level is key if you want to achieve your goal.
If you want to be able to do an exercise that you CAN’T DO right now, you’ve got to find a regression that you CAN DO so that you can work toward your goal. Success isn’t a straight line. But having some sort of progression or system in place to help you build toward your goal will get you there with hard work and patience. If you have no direction, then you will probably just end up floundering…and if you get there it will be by accident and pure luck.
Over the next couple of weeks, I will outline some great regressions to help you EARN those glamour moves. I’ve been asked about a couple moves like the pull up (which is what I’ll start with), but if you have a specific move you want to learn regressions/progressions for, feel free to comment below or email me at email@example.com.
NOTE: Returning this week will be the conclusion of my Bootilicious series…two more posts to go! Up first will be the kettlebell swing and how to do it CORRECTLY…sorry American swing…you just don’t make the cut!
Progressing toward the elusive perfect push up and pull up
I have many women and even some men tell me that they want to be able to do perfect full push ups and push ups.
And I say “OK!”
Because there is a way to get there! Consistent hard work and a well thought out progression based on what you need to work on will get you there!
So this really applies to any exercise that you want to be able to do, but honestly two of the exercises that most people can’t do, but should be able to do are the push up and pull up (also, most people recently have been telling me they want to be able to do these two moves so I figured I would focus on them).
First, consider all of the muscles used in the move.
For push ups, you use your pecs, shoulders, triceps, core and even your quads and legs. Most often though, people need to focus on core strength and either shoulder or tricep strength.
For pull ups, core and back strength are essential. The grip you use will also determine how much bicep is involved.
Once you identify the muscles used, you can work on those muscles. That doesn’t mean you have to start doing tricep extensions and bicep curls.
You can still do compound movements.
So to work on improving your push up, first assess where you are. Can you do a push up with your hands on an incline? Can you do a push up from your knees? And when I say “Do a push up.” I mean a PERFECT form push up from that position.
Same goes for pull ups. Can you do jumping pull ups? Can you do pull ups where you jump up and slowly lower yourself down? Can you do a pull up and hold? Or can you do a chin up but not a full pull up yet?
Get a clear picture of where you are starting from. If you know exactly where you are at, you can design a program that will get you to where you want to be.
If you don’t have a clear starting point, how the heck are you going to outline a clear progression!?! You won’t know how long it will take you to get somewhere if you don’t even know where you are starting from!!
So once you know what muscles are involved and where you are starting from, you must create workouts that strengthen your weak areas and progress you toward you end goal.
While you will want to do lots of push ups and pull ups during your progression they shouldn’t be the only thing that you are doing.
For push ups, do some core strengthening exercises. Do some crawling that targets your shoulders, core and quads. Do some form of dips, be they full dips or dips off a bench. I mean even get creative with it. Try some chest flies on the slider. Do some ab roller to work your arms and core. Battling ropes can be good. Medball chest passes are a good explosive way to work your upper body.
There are lots of ways to work. Pick exercises that target your weak points!
For pull ups, battling ropes again can be good. Working on different variations of pull ups can help. Try some medball slams into the ground. You can do ones straight ahead or rainbow slams where you slam it down on each side. Do some inverted rows. Some pivot prone pulldowns. Work on your grip strength. Heck even just playing on the monkey bars will definitely help!
And the good part about some of the things that you can do to work on both of these moves is that they will improve your overall posture and strength not JUST progress you toward a perfect pull up or push up.
There are even moves that can benefit both exercises in some way such as the parallel bar press. Just hold your body straight up off of parallel bars or a dip machine. Don’t be a “turtle” aka keep your shoulder blades pull back and down and your spine long. Your neck should be long and not tucked back into your shoulders like a turtle pulling its head into its shell. Just hold. Keep your abs engaged and your shoulder blades retracted. You will feel this in your back and your arms and even your core.
Anyway, there are a bazillion ways to strengthen your body to progress toward a pull up or push up. Don’t just flounder blindly and HOPE you will get there. SET UP A PROGRESSION!
If you need help or want some exercises to help you strengthen your weak points, let me know! 🙂
I love feeling completed exhausted after my workouts. I love that feeling of just wanting to sit on the couch and not move for a couple of hours.
I especially love that feeling when it takes me less than 30 minutes to get it!
Like today, Ryan and I went down to the gym in our apartment building. This honestly is one of the most ridiculous gyms I’ve ever seen. Four treadmills, two recumbent bikes, a bench press machine, a leg extension machine and one functional trainer (aka a cable machine with a pull up bar). It also has medicine balls up to 10lbs and 3 kettlebells ranging from like 2lbs to 20lbs. Not exactly a personal trainers dream gym.
BUT that didn’t stop us from getting in a killer workout in the very small space that we had. We mostly wanted a cardio workout after doing the 300 yesterday.
So we did:
4 rounds as fast as possible of:
20 Burpees (Chest touches the ground on each one)
1 minute wall sit
Great workout that took less than 15 minutes. I got a nice sweat going and my legs started to burn during wall sits especially after the 50 deadlifts yesterday!
Yep..A great cardio session in less than 15 minutes. So why are you spending an hour on the treadmill?
Below is another great workout although it took a bit longer between the heavy lift and the circuit. Still under an hour though (I didn’t really pay attention to exactly how long).
Back squat 5×5
Auxiliary Lift circuit: 5 rounds as fast as possible
15ea 1 Leg Squats
30 Box Jumps
30 KB Swings
30 Jump Knee Tucks (Jump as high as you can and bring your knees to your chest as much as possible)
Also, an awesome “Show Me Yours” photo from Francine. A different way to show off her Man Biceps and Man Lats!
Now go workout and have a great Sunday and a great Easter or Passover! 🙂
Get off the floor and stop doing crunches
99% of the people you see in the gym at some point do crunches, planks…any sort of ab exercise during their workout.
But only about half of those people ever do some of the BEST exercises for their abs and for that matter their entire bodies (and these exercises AREN’T crunches!)
They are four awesome exercises called the pull up, push up, back squat and deadlift. And to be honest, they are really all you need to have great arms, chest, back, abs, butt, quads, hamstrings and even calves!
So why are you wasting time on crunches? Actually, why are wasting time on a lot of those silly single muscle group movements!?! I mean seriously…those exercises only help the top 1% not the average Jane/Joe.
If you think you don’t have enough time to workout, you should stop wasting it by doing crunches and single muscle group movements and start doing these four exercises!!!
Let’s face it…we know these are a great exercise because no one ever wants to do them! When no one wants to do an exercise, it generally means it is hard.
Just look at all the muscles used:
- Lower sternal fibers of the pec major
- Posterior deltoid
- Teres major muscles
- Lower traps
- Pec minor
- Levator scapulae
- Serratus anterior
- Rectus abdominis
- Erector spinae
- Transverse abdominis
All of these muscles are used some more or less depending on which pull up variation you perform. (And if you need to make all of those muscles work harder just hang some weight around your waist or perform repetitions till failure!)
Grip can effect which muscles are used more during the movement. Chin ups and narrow grip pull ups are usually the easiest and engage the most bicep while wider grip pull ups isolate the lats more. For example, with a chin up the biceps brachii are used the most but with a prone or pull up grip the brachialis and brachioradialis (muscles that are part of the bicep) are used more than the biceps brachii.
Even the positioning of your lower half can alter which core muscles are doing more work. Ideally you want a straight position though so you are fully engaging every muscle in your core!
And there are no excuses for not doing pull ups. There is always a pull up assist machine around OR a band you can use to help pull you up. Heck even start with jumping pull ups! There is no excuse to skip these! There is a variation for all fitness levels!
Again, rarely are women doing push ups in the gym and neither are men actually…Men usually prefer the more illustrious bench press…But push ups are AMAZING! AND there are a bazillion variations of push ups so they will never ever be too easy!
If you need proof of how amazing, here is a list of all the muscles worked:
- Deltoids (anterior, posterior and medial)
- Pecs (both major and minor)
- Erector spinae
- Rotator cuff
- Serratus anterior
- Rectus abdominus (ABS!!!)
- Transverse abdominus (Oh and abs again!?!)
- Gluteus maximus
You may be thinking, “What?! Push ups work your legs too!?!” YES THEY DO!!!
Your glutes and quads aren’t primary muscle groups in the movement, but they do assist if you do push ups from your toes. They keep your body in a nice straight line!
And like the pull up there are variations that work the muscle groups listed in different ways. There is the narrow push up, which engages more tricep and shoulder (also known as the chaturanga or even the diamond push up) and there is the wide grip push up, which isolates the chest more. There is also the decline push up where you elevate your feet, which not only makes the push up harder but also works your pec major more. AND if you put your hands on unbalanced or uneven surfaces you can work your core more!
I mean there are just a bazillion push up varieties so you will never get bored. AND beginners can’t claim push ups are too advanced! Push ups from the knees are a great modification as well as incline push ups. You can even start by doing push ups by leaning against a wall! There is no excuse why anyone can’t do an incline push up against the wall! 😉
Ok I love legs so I really love this move. And not only does this move work the biggest muscle group in your body but it also really works your core! (And if you want a great butt….SQUAT!)
A quote from “Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training” stating just my point!
Squats are considered a vital exercise for increasing the strength and sizeof the legs and buttocks, as well as developing core strength. Isometrically, the lower back, the upper back, the abdominals, the trunk muscles, the costal muscles, and the shoulders and arms are all essential to the exercise and thus are trained when squatting with proper form.
So the muscles worked:
- Transverse Abdominus (abs!!!)
- Erector Spinae
- Soleus (calves)
- Gastrocnemius (calves)
So one thing I haven’t mentioned with the two previous exercises (which is also true for them), but all of these strengthen your lower back, which so many people neglect while doing all of their crunches! And trust me, your back is as much a part of your core as your abs are even if it isn’t something you notice while wearing a bikini.
And there are also a bazillion variations of the squat. I personally have picked the back squat here to highlight because it is the most basic and you can add a ton of weight to it to make it challenging (I like heavy weights!).
MY FAVORITE EXERCISE EVER!!!
Maybe I love it because it works like everything!! It works everything from your fingers (grip strength!!) to your toes!
It works (and I copied this list because well…the deadlift works everything).
- Rectus abdominis (under aponeurosis)
- Abdominal external oblique muscle
- Abdominal internal oblique muscle
- Intertransversarii laterales lumborum
- Latissimus dorsi
- Levator scapulae
- Quadratus lumborum
- Rhomboideus major
- Serratus posterior superior
- Serratus posterior inferior
- Splenius cervicis
- Teres Major
- Trapezius muscle
- Rectus femoris
- Vastus lateralis
- Vastus intermedius
- Vastus medialis
- Biceps femoris muscle
- long head
- short head
- Biceps femoris muscle
- Gluteal muscles
- Gluteus maximus
- Gluteus minimus
- Superior gemellus
- Gluteal muscles
- Flexor digitorum profundus
Enough said? haha