Tracking progress is an excellent way to keep yourself motivated and to keep you on track with your goals. Unfortunately, the classic weigh-in method of tracking restricts us to viewing our progress as a set of numbers that rise and fall somewhat unpredictably. Thankfully there are other great ways to track progress that don't require standing on a scale and comparing ourselves to "average" values.
1. Progress Pictures
If you are looking for a literal reflection of your progress, then a mirror pic of yourself every few weeks is a great way to track your progress! All of those little things that you notice when you look in the mirror will be clearly comparable between pictures.
I know when I started to use progress pictures as my primary way of tracking my progress that all of my hard work in the gym felt validated. It wasn't about how much I weighed on a scale; it was all about how my body was adapting to better serve my training in the gym. Certain areas were slimming down, while other started to thicken up with muscle (hello booty gains).
If you want to start taking progress pics to track your progress, try and wear the same or similar outfits for the pictures! Create a folder on your phone for progress pictures, and take the picture in the same place! The last tip is important because you want to have the same lighting for each picture. If you change up your progress pic location too much, then you may have one with great lighting, and then the next with unflattering lighting, which could end up being discouraging. Remember - we are trying to use this as an alternative to track progress so we can stay motivated! Check out a few of my progress pictures below!
2. Training goals
After progress pictures, having training goals has been the best way to keep me motivated. Training goals are specific goals that I make in the gym to make going to the gym more exciting. It also takes the pressure off of my workouts to simply act as a way to make me lose weight!
In the past I have set goals like : I want to be able to bench my own weight, I want to deadlift 200lbs, I want to improve my squat depth at 135lbs. Each of these is specific to one of my training days so every day I had planned in the gym I was getting closer and closer to reaching those goals.
With training goals it is really important to have a plan. With intelligent program design, you can reach training goals much faster then if you just try and progress linearly. If you have a training goal in mind, leave me a comment on this post, or use my contact form on the home page to get personalized help from me to reach your training goals!
3. Progress tracking apps
My final tip to track progress that I have found really useful in the past is downloading a habit tracking app! This is great because it means you can have a visual representation of your progress throughout the month. It also allows you to track the progress of all of your goals! Where a progress picture and training goals cannot show you your dieting goals, or lifestyle habits, these apps allow you to list all of the goals you are working on.
When I was in first year university and really struggling with my diet and exercise, I downloaded one of these apps and set 3 goals:
1. Drink 3L of water
2. Complete 1 pinterest workout a day
3. No white food
These 3 goals were so simple to work towards, and it got to a point where it was exciting to check off another box as completed. To see the whole month's calendar checked off was super rewarding and kept me motivated to continue pursuing those goals. Buzzfeed has put together a pretty comprehensive list of habit tracking apps. Just click the hyperlink and choose your favourite one!
Find what works for you
These three ways of tracking progress have been really great for my own personal fitness goals and I encourage you to try a few of them for yourself! As always though, fitness and health are achieved differently by everyone, so play around with a few other ways of tracking your progress. Find what works for you and watch your goals become realized!
I hope you're all out there crushing the day and enjoying the weekend!
I came to an important realization this week about this month's theme. I am trying to show you all of the cool ways your body moves and how you can train it effectively, which is great for in the gym, but that's 30 minutes to 1.5hours of your 24 hour day. Feeling confident in the body that you train goes way beyond the work you put in in the gym. So for today's post I want to share with you a few of the ways I have overcome some of my own body confidence issues.
It is really hard to walk through life and not be hard on myself. I hold myself to a high standard and pride myself on taking on challenges. This mindset of striving for more and for better is great in my educational and professional pursuits, but when it comes to my body, it has proven to be quite damaging.
My roommates in college found it funny when we were going out to see me come out in one outfit, and tell me it looked great, but that they wouldn't get attached to it because they knew I would change it before the night started. The truth is, I used to look at myself in outfits that my friends would wear and see how I looked different. My boobs didn't fill out the shirt as well, or my pants didn't sit on my hips as nicely. The truth about my wardrobe change routine was that I was just searching for the outfit that I disliked my body the least in. Yes, this sounds kind of sad, but it is the reality of being really hard on myself and constantly judging how I looked in comparison to my friends.
It wasn't until the end of my final year in college that I looked myself in the mirror and said to myself "this is a women's body - this is my female body - and everyday I do something good for this body that will make me even more beautiful than the day before". I switched my focus from seeing the "ideal" female body, to seeing my body as one of the many versions of a beautiful body. I forced my brain to see my daily actions as what made me strong and beautiful. What I put in my body and how I trained my body was the true reflection of my worth because I was showing my body the care and attention that it deserves.
This took time and practice to make it something that actually stuck in my mind. I still definitely have days where I see the "flaws" and compare them to my friends and family, but I am much better at pushing those thoughts out of my mind.
Positive self-talk is something so simple, and yet so effective when it comes to improving your own body confidence. Little reminders from the only person that matters - yourself - is an excellent way to train the brain to stop looking outside yourself for worth and for beauty. Over time you will look at yourself in the mirror and see how your body reflects all of the wonderful things that you are doing for it. Whether that is good sleep, excellent nutrition, healthy relationships, or a solid workout routine, you want to have your mind in the right place to actually be able to appreciate everything that you do for your body.
Forget about the numbers
I know for some people they find that tracking the fitness metrics is really motivating. That is not the case for me - or at least it wasn't when I was working on a healthier body image. Towards the end of my time in college we were practicing for our practical exams quite a bit. This involved stepping on a scale a couple of times a week, as this is part of most fitness assessments. So a couple of times a week I was getting a reminder of what my weight was. As a woman it is so common for our weight to fluctuate on a day-to-day basis. Put that over a 4 week span and you will definitely see some changes as our bodies move through our menstrual cycle. This was really demotivating and I found myself going from one extreme to the next. I would tell myself to be super strict about my diet, and then i'd step on the scale and my weight would go up, so I would go home and get twizzlers, some puffy cheetos, and some other snack, and eat them all in one sitting.
When I finally got off of the scale, and brought myself back to the basics of good nutrition, and regular exercise, that's when I started to regain a little more control over how I felt in my own skin. Judging my health based on how I felt was liberating, and pairing that with my positive self-talk set me on a path towards healthy weight loss, and improved self-esteem.
I have mentioned this before that I used to think that at my height, I should be at a certain weight. Right now I sit 20lbs heavier than what I thought I "should" be, and I have never felt better in my life. Giving up my own preconceived ideas of what a goal weight should be for myself meant that for the times I did have to stand on the scale, that those 3 numbers no longer controlled how I felt about my general fitness. I always like to give my clients the example of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Here's a guy who is however tall he is and probably weighs more than 250lbs. Now, you can be 250 lbs of lean, healthy tissue, or you can be 250 lbs of unhealthy, fatty tissue. Both still read 250lbs on the scale. So focus on what the body is made of instead of focusing on what that adds up to on the scale.
Take negativity & judgement out of the equation
My brain works in such a way that I see many things in life as a formula. I just need to put in the right values into the formula, and then I will get a result that is somewhat predictable. I did this for essays in english, and this is when I finally started to do well in english class. I also do this for client programs - lift this much, move this much, eat this way and they will achieve a certain goal. So when it comes to body confidence there were a couple of values that I had decided would give me either positive or negative body confidence.
In order to feel good about my body I needed to eat well, fit my clothes nicely, have a kickass workout, receive at least one compliment, feel like I looked like people I admired on instagram, and not dislike any part of my body that day. This made my body confidence an incredibly fragile thing.
I realized very quickly that I could have all of those except one, and my whole day would be thrown off. I would see someone on instagram post a picture and get way more likes than my last selfie, and that would make me feel shitty. Or I would go out feeling really great, and have no one say anything. This one happened a lot when I would go out with friends and they'd all get attention from boys at the bars but it seemed like no one even noticed me. If I ate one "bad" thing, that would quickly throw off my day, and if I chose the wrong pair of pants that day and they didn't slip on nicely, or my stomach bulged through the elastic waist-band then that was game over.
It wasn't until I really started to practice the positive self-talk that I realized I needed to change the equation entirely. Stop leaving it up to how I interpret how the world sees me, and give myself complete and total control of how I am perceived. So I deleted instagram for a while, made sure I only wore clothes that fit me really well, built a really great workout program, and worked on my relationship with food through intermittent fasting. With all of those aspects taken care of I was able to give myself new variables for the equation and made it very simple:
Positive body confidence = Did I do something good for my body today?
To wrap this all up, I just want each and every one of you to know that I get that it is tough to feel good all the time. You shouldn't expect yourself to feel amazing 100% of the time because we would never be able to appreciate the really great days if we didn't have a couple crummy days mixed in. The world makes it really easy to judge ourselves and compare ourselves to others. Most businesses count on that negative perception of self to make their money! So as best as you can, try a few of the things I talked about in this post. Training the mind takes time, just like training anything else, so be patient and stick with it! Over time you will start to notice that you can be out in the world and focusing on how cool the world we live in is, instead of only seeing the things that make you feel less beautiful than the people around you.
I hope you have enjoyed this post as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you :)
In February of 2017, while volunteering for the Heart and Stroke Foundation, I was asked to create and present a presentation on the importance of heart health to various retirement residences and businesses in Simcoe County. Every week I would drive to 2 or 3 homes and stand in front of small groups of individuals and explain to them the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease and strokes. I have to say that this was one of the most valuable experiences from my time with the H&SF.
Being someone who was usually surrounded by health conscious people, and individuals who are able to keep up with the latest information on how to stay healthy, it was an eye opening experience to present to the general public. Often times I would go into a retirement residence and those who attended the presentation were half asleep when it began, which was actually a great way to calm my nerves. With every presentation I got more comfortable with the information and really began to enjoy standing in front of an audience and presenting. At the beginning of the presentation I would ask the audience how many of them had been affected by heart disease or stroke - directly or indirectly. At every one, more than half of the attendees put their hands up. Everyone wants to share their stories, so I would give them an opportunity at this point to engage and share with their peers their connection to heart disease and stroke. At one of my presentations, a resident put his hand up and began to speak. It wasn't exactly easy to understand, which makes sense, because what he was saying was that he had had a stroke a few years earlier and it had affected his speech. I may have gotten more comfortable with the content I was presenting, but I was always blown away by the stories people would share.
Connecting with people at the beginning was a great way to get people listening. Once I had people connecting with the issue, then I would get into the real meat and potatoes of the presentation. Initially I had a question period at the end of my speech. At my very first residence I received a few really great questions. The resident's wanted to know if fat was healthy, if salt was bad for their health, and what they could do every day to improve their health. This gave me the idea to include this in the presentation. So for the rest of the month I included a FAQ portion at the end. I spoke about the sugar cover-up that led to the fat-free era and thus the obesity crisis. I explained the difference between butter and margarine and why we should avoid margarine like the plague. I offered my best lay-mans terms version of how the body uses salt for many of it's metabolic processes, but also how they could reduce their sodium while living in a home where food is prepared for them.
Although I felt great to be sharing this information with them, it was heartbreaking at the same time. When I presented the information on how the sugar industry covered up the dangers of sugar by blaming fat, I literally saw every one of them thinking back to that time in their lives. Many of these people were raising their own children during this time and feeding their children according to what they believed was right. To watch them process being cheated by science and a multi-billion dollar industry was incredible and slightly devastating all at once. Many of these people had lost friends and family members to heart disease or stroke, which they were then realizing could have potentially been prevented if it hadn't been for the cover up.
Which brings me to why I am writing this blog today. Your cardiovascular health, or the health of your heart and blood vessels is crucial. That may seem obvious, but you really need to know that many of the factors that affect your risk of developing cardiovascular complications are lifestyle related.
Tips for a healthy heart
1. Quit Smoking
Smoking is incredibly damaging to the heart and lunges. When you inhale the smoke and everything else that gets burned up in a cigarette, this gets filtered from the lungs into the blood stream. Many of the toxins in smoke are damaging to the blood vessels. This damage results in "ridges" in the blood vessel that end up "catching" sugar molecules, bad cholesterol, and other molecules that flood through the blood vessels. As more and more of these things catch onto these ridges, you can end up with a partial or total blockage. These blockages eventually cut off the circulation at that point and can be life threatening.
2. Reduce your intake of foods that promote the production of LDL, or bad cholesterol.
Did you know that there are 2 types of cholesterol? HDL or the Happy cholesterol, and LDL, the bad cholesterol are the two cholesterol forms that we are concerned with when talking about the heart. As I mentioned, LDL is one of the components of blood that can get stuck on the ridges in the blood vessels. Too much of this floating around and you massively increase your chances of developing blockages. Exercise, healthy diet choices, and maintaining low stress levels increases your HDL concentration in the body and this is how we "clean up" the LDL in the body.
3. Reduce your stress
Stress is interpreted in the body as a time to increase cortisol levels in the blood. Cortisol is the stress hormone, and if truly stressful situations, like running away from a bear, is really useful. It signals a cascade of reactions and changes in blood flow to better serve the survival instinct. Unfortunately this primal process has not adapted to the busy lives we live today. Tests, work deadlines, first dates, and the recent increase in social anxiety disorders, has meant that our bodies are constantly pumping out cortisol to try and help us get through these stressful situations. Our bodies really do only have the best of intentions, unfortunately, these changes in blood flow can take a toll on the health of the blood vessels. Stress also creates the ridges in the blood vessels.
Now before you think you are doomed, don't stress. These things are very minute, and their accumulation can take a lifetime before they get to a dangerous point. With that said, why not learn some stress management techniques now so you can prolong the health of your blood vessels.
4. Exercise regularly & eat well
It is no surprise that exercise has positive effects on the heart. This is why there is an entire area of exercise devoted to cardio-health. Training the heart through HIIT workouts, and long distance events gives the heart to adapt to healthy stress. Exercise makes the heart more efficient at getting blood and oxygen to the working tissues, and bringing de-oxygenated blood back to eliminate the metabolic byproducts. How's that for a natural cleanse? It helps to reduce your resting blood pressure, and is an excellent way to keep high stress levels at bay.
Proper nutrition for heart health could be it's own post. There are so many factors that play into feeding the body well for a happy and healthy heart. The quick summary is to ensure you are eating healthy fats - ie. the ones that occur naturally in plants and animals - not the kind that are manufactured *cough cough* margarine *cough cough*. Yes this includes the trans fats, and saturated and unsaturated fats. The whole lot of them! Just as long as they come from natural sources, and you keep the trans fats to a minimum. Not only do fats provide you with way more energy than carbs or protein - 9 kcals per gram to be exact - but they are also crucial for supporting a number of metabolic processes in the body, including the production of hormones and the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K.
make your heart sing
This has been a bit of a longer post, but I hope it reflects not only my passion for the topic but the importance of the issue. I say do something good for your body every day and it is actually something I started saying while doing the heart health presentations last year. It just takes a few conscious decisions every day to reduce your risk of developing health complications. You don't have to have a massive workout, or eat perfectly, they just have to be choices that will put you in a better place to live a long, happy, and healthy life.
Do something good for your body today
After spending the first week of February talking about upper body exercises and movements, I figured it was about time that we got into the real meat and potatoes of any workout routine. It is time to learn about about our lovely legs and how we can train them.
You've got two options
When we train our legs we are either knee dominant or hip dominant. How we get into the knee and hip dominant movements depends on where we are hinging, and where the weight is with respect to our joints. Your main knee dominant movement is the squat and your main hip dominant movement is the deadlift. Knowing how to work both of these movement patterns effectively will give you incredibly strong, and well balanced legs. Perfecting these exercises will also help you sit down and stand up well (squatting), and pick things up off the floor and put them back down safely (deadlifting).
Knee dominant movement
In the images above, the red circle is the load, the blue lines are the body, and the faint lines are very simply showing the biomechanics of these movements. Biomechanics was one of those subjects in school that really opened my eyes to how incredible the body is. One slight change in foot position or where you place the weight can change the whole feel of the exercises. In this picture you can even see how a slightly more leaned-over position completely changes which joint is the main fulcrum for the movement.
To achieve a knee dominant exercises, the knee needs to be a greater degree of flexion than the hips. You also want to take a look at the thickish red line (in the first picture it goes from the hip to the thin red line). This helps us see our moment arm. Moment arm is a fancy physics term that I won't get into too much in this post. What you need to know, is the greater the moment arm, the greater the demands on that joint. In the squat, or knee dominant movement, the moment arm from the knee to the thin line, which shows the line of force from the load, is slightly larger than the one coming from the hips. This means that the knee is under greater stress in this movement than the hip joint.
What moves the knee joint? You quads are your main extensors of the knee, meaning they help you straighten out the leg and therefore help you to stand up out of a squat. This is why knee dominant exercises can also be called quad dominant exercises.
hip dominant movement
So if creating a larger moment arm from the knee is what makes an exercise knee dominant, then creating a large moment arm from the hip must be how we achieve hip dominant exercises.
One to add here is that it is the moment arm from the flexed joint. This is why training your back to be very strong and maintain a neutral position is crucial before attempting the deadlift. If there is any flexion in the vertebrae, then there will be stress on back. Although there are some large muscles in the back, the intervertebral muscles - the muscles between the vertebrae - are tiny. Look at the multifidus, interspinalis, and lateral intertransverseri muscles on the image below and think about using those tiny muscles to move your deadlift load, instead of your glutes and hamstrings. Might I remind you that your gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in your body? Seems a bit silly that people think deadlift is a back exercise.
look forward to leg day
Your legs are incredibly powerful and, when trained effectively, can move some impressive weights. Just this past week I was able to pull 205lbs in a deadlift for 2 reps and I weighed 141lbs on that day. That is over 60lbs more than my own weight!
As with all exercises, it is really important to ensure you have proper technique so I strongly suggest getting a friend, or personal trainer with good knowledge in proper squat and deadlift technique to coach you through the squat and deadlift before you attempt to do it on your own.
Go out there and crush leg day!
Do something good for your body today
Ladies and gentlemen - the day has finally arrived where I get to talk about my favourite group of exercises in this first category of exercises. Today, we are going to get into the muscles that give Michael Phelps such a beautiful back, and help him win all of those gold medals.
Today we are going to talk about how to build a back that will allow you to hoist yourself up during rock climbing and kick ass on Netflix's Ultimate Beast Master. Today is all about the vertical pull muscles. These bad boys of the back are amazing. Although not the largest muscles in the body - shoutout to the gluteus maximus - these muscles have the potential to produce a ton of power and take you to new heights (literally).
Our vertical pull muscles include the latissimus dorsi, the biceps, your rhomboids, your traps, the posterior aspect of your deltoids, the teres muscles, and your infraspinatus. That is quite the squad of muscles, but these are actually, quite often, poorly trained. Think of all of the people you know who can do a proper pull up.
In terms of aesthetics, the biceps certainly get a lot of attention, and many people are performing the lat pull down exercise at the gym, but more often than not, they are not engaged the lats to their full potential. So how do we do that? Keep reading to find out!
The scap pull up is one of the best ways to train your scapula and the surrounding muscles to move they way they should during vertical pulling exercises.
This also trains grip strength, which is a really important thing to develop.
To perform the scap pull up, set yourself up hanging from a bar. You can use the chin-up grip, parallel grip, or full pull up grip (as shown in the image). Allow yourself to hang from the bar. Next, pull your body up by moving the scapula, or shoulder blade, down the back. Try to avoid simply moving the head forward, or pinching the shoulder blades together, the way you did with the horizontal pull exercises. It is a small movement, and takes some practice to fully understand how the movement should feel.
Next up is the assisted pull up. Once you have gotten really good at engaging the lats, and other small muscles that pull the scapula down, you can jump into the assisted pull up.
These machines are great and really allow for you to progress into the pull up well. Unlike other machines where the weight you choose is the resistance you are trying to move, the weight you choose on this machine is how much weight of yours will be lifted by the machine.
I try to get people to start with about 60%-70% of their bodyweight. Then choose the grip you would like to try. Chin up grip is the easiest, with palms facing you. Next is parallel grip, and the hardest is full pull-up grip. Do as many of these as you can going into full extension of the arms (arms straight out), and make note of that so you can push yourself to do more the next week.
For this exercise, get your knees placed directly under your hips and grab the handle bars however your please. Lower yourself down so your arms are fully extended, and then perform a quick scap pull up, followed by your pulling yourself up towards the bar fully. This will ensure maximum lat engagement.
The arms will be used in this exercise as well, but try and make the mind-to-muscle connection to use the large back muscles to get you up.
You can't mention back day without mentioning this heavy hitting exercise. The lat pulldown is a great way to develop the latissimus dorsi muscle. These are the bat wings that I often mention on my instagram.
To perform the lat pull down effectively, grab the bar outside of the bend that most lat pulldown machines have attached to them. Sit yourself down with your hips lined up beneath the bar. Slightly tilt the torso backwards. Make sure you aren't just arching in the back, or tilting the hips backwards.
Once seated in place, put those shoulder blades in the proper position by pulling them down the same way you do in the scap pull up. Once the shoulder blades are in place, you are ready to pull the bar down to the collar bone area. Pulling the bar any lower usually results in the shoulders rounding forward, which is not at all what we want here.
Allow the bar to return to starting position slowly, and then repeat the previous steps.
Many of the exercises that you can do to help develop the muscles required in the vertical pull movement are all some variation of the pull up or lat pull down. Here are just a few:
Now go grow them wings!
"Do something good for your body today"
So we know how to train the muscles that push doors open and pull things towards us. What if we want to raise the roof? Fist bump with force? Well you're in luck because the next topic for our February theme is vertical push. This is an interesting group of muscles because, similar to our horizontal push muscles, these muscles are on the small side.
When we want to train our vertical pushing muscles we focus on the shoulders, or the deltoid muscles, and the triceps. You can see in the images below that compared to many of the other muscles in the upper body, these muscles are much smaller. Our biological need to press things over our heads has always been minimal. If anything we have needed to pull ourselves up! I'll talk more on that in a few days.
Pressing weights over our head is actually a fragile movement. I say fragile because there is actually a nerve that runs underneath the shoulder muscles and through the shoulder joint area. When we over train these muscles, or if we end up with compensation patterns that put our shoulders in unfavourable positions, we put that nerve at risk of being pinched.
That shouldn't discourage you from training your shoulders! You just want to keep it in mind while you train and ensure you keep your posture proper. It is also important to start small. If you push too heavy with these muscles, you may end up training the upper traps more than the deltoids.
Dumbbell lateral raise is a great way to train the shoulders. There are tons of ways to modify this exercise as well so that you can tailor it to your workout. Dumbbells, cables, or the machines at the gym are all options for you to implement this exercise into your regime.
If you are trying this for the first time, grab a small pair of dumbbells. With palms by your sides, slightly bend the elbows so that you don't put any unnecessary pressure on the elbows. Raise the dumbbells out to the side until the dumbbells are are shoulder height. Going any higher than that will engage the traps. Lower the dumbbells slowly and repeat!
Another great exercise for the shoulders is the dumbbell overhead press. Again, this exercise is very versatile. You can use dumbbells, you can use a barbell, you can do it seated or standing, even single arm!
Similar to the lateral raise, make sure you start small. You are lifting weights above your head, so if you go too heavy and something goes wrong, then your head is catching that weight... and that's never a good thing.
For the dumbbell overhead press, start seated and with light weights. Bring the dumbbells to about ear height and out to the side of your head. You can either face your palms forward, OR face your palms towards your ears. Engage the core so you do not arch your back, and press the dumbbells straight up overhead. Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position and repeat!
time to raise the roof
Along with those two exercises, here are a few other options for you to train the vertical push movement pattern.
I hope this blog has been helpful! Next up is the vertical pull muscles. Similar to how I loved talking about the importance of horizontal pull muscles, I think that your vertical pull muscles are super important, so keep an eye out for that blog going live in a few days!
Happy vertical pushing!
"Do something good for your body today"
To kick off our month of getting to know our bodies a little bit better, I want to introduce you to the concept of push and pull exercises. You may not even realize it, but our bodies are set up to do 1 of 2 movements (sorta). We either push, or we pull. This can occur in either the horizontal or the vertical planes and each use a combination of joint actions and muscles to accomplish this.
For our first blog of the month, I am going to go over the muscles and some exercises involved in the horizontal push group of exercises.
If you were to push something away from your body while standing up - this could be a person, a box, or the doors to a building - you would be using the horizontal push muscles. These are the push-up muscles that allow you to create distance between you and the resistance/load/weights etc. This is primarily your pectoralis major muscles, and tri-ceps, but also includes the front portion of your shoulder muscles, the flexors of the forearm, and the anterior core muscles.
Despite the fact that this group of muscles includes some of the smaller muscles (compared to your pull muscles, which we will see look at on Saturday), this muscles are incredibly overworked. Specifically the pectoralis muscles. When we sit at our desks, drive our cars, watch television, or look at our phones, the shoudlers round forward, activating the pectoralis muscles. For many of us who have jobs where we have to sit at desks with our arms forward on a keyboard all day, these muscles are constantly being worked. This is why for many of us, doing 1 push up is easier than doing 1 proper pull-up.
This lack of variability in posture causes the muscles here to shorten over time. So when you see people with very rounded shoulders, especially in elderly people, it is likely because their pectoralis muscles have shortened over time and it is actually difficult for them to correct their posture.
All this to say, training our horizontal push muscles should be less of a priority than our horizontal pull muscles. If you want to include a horizontal push day, focus more on the tri-ceps, transverse abdominals, and serratus muscles to improve arm strength, core stability, and shoulder blade alignment - respectively.
Horizontal Push Exercises
A true classic in the world of fitness and health. Being able to lower your body to the ground, and push yourself back up sounds easy, but for many of us is incredibly hard to do. I have mentioned the push-up first because this should be your true test of horizontal push strength. Can you move your own weight well?
To accomplish the perfect push up, you should be able to go from a straight arm plank, to lowering your body as one unit (ie. no hip, shoulder, or head dipping) to the group, and then press yourself back up as one unit in a smooth motion. Try not to snap the elbows up as this causes unnecessary strain on the tendons and ligaments in that area.
There are a ton of ways to work the tri-ceps. You can you the cables, a straight bar, your own body-weight in a tri-cep dip, or with a tri-cep kickback. I want to highlight one that I think is a great place to start. It targets the tri-ceps more than the chest, but still gets enough pec-activation that your work on strengthening your pecs.
The dumbbell tri-cep press (as I like to call it - it is more commonly known as the dumbbell close grip press) can be done either flat on the bench, or on incline. Taking two dumbbells together, bring the dumbbells to the chest, keeping the elbows close to the body, and press the dumbbells straight up. Lower the dumbbells down to the chest, and repeat :)
This final exercise is such a great one to master. The plank is a classic because it is so important to our daily lives. It actually part of a larger group of exercises known as the anti-extension core exercises, but is worth mentioning here because having a strong core in pushing exercises will protect your back from injury, and will give you a stronger push as well.
You can modify the plank in a ton of ways as well. You can go straight arm, from the knees, on a ball, and even add some movement into the plank on the ball by pushing the ball out and pulling it back in (small pushes) to really challenge the core.
more exercise options
I wanted to give you a few quick options to try out on your next push day, but there are so many more. Below I have listed a few names by their most common (i hope) names. You can look these up and add them to your own program.
Please Note: When trying to exercises, always start with a light weight. I don't care if you are the most jacked guy or girl, if you haven't tried an exercise before, start light and work your way up to something challenging once you know you have the perfect technique ***
So there you have it, friends! You are now group-of-exercises/muscles closer to understanding and loving your body so much more!
There are tons of "push-day" workouts out there, so search around and find a few that you like. Remember, though, that most of us have over-worked pec muscles, so focus less on building strength in the pecs, and more so on the horizontal push supporting muscles like the tri-ceps, rectus abdominals, and serratus anterior.
"Do something good for your body today"
Riri's Discoveries blog documents Riri's most recent research, her travel adventures, and her personal fitness journey.