The hard part is over. You made it to the gym and that’s usually half the battle. Now that you’re there, what are you going to do? This is where a lot of people get stuck but don’t worry, I’ve got your back.
This is part three of a six-part series that focuses on the exercises that gives you the biggest bang for your buck in and outside the gym. If you need to go back in time, click the links below. This series will go as follows
Part three – Pushes
Part four – Hinge
Part five – Carries
Part six – Groundwork
PART THREE- PUSHES
This move is installed in our hardware. Therefore, we already know how to push ourselves away from the floor when lying face down or push our friends and family out of the way when they’re bothering us, without even batting an eyelid.
Pushing is a movement that we do every day without even realizing it, so it makes perfect sense to strengthen this movement in the gym so we can remain injury-free and push aside anything this world can throw at us, just like Chuck Norris.
The pushing variations below are broken up into horizontal and vertical movements and are listed from easy to more difficult. Only move on when you feel comfortable and ready for the next exercise.
1. Incline pushups (easy)
The incline takes gravity out the equation and lightens your load. This allows you to build upper body and core strength while perfecting your pushup form. This exercise can be made easier or harder by increasing or decreasing the incline. However, use an incline that allows you to do 8-15 reps for 3 sets.
2. Single arm cable chest press
With a narrow base of support while lifting unilaterally, this exercise works on your core strength, balance and irons out any strength imbalances you may have. However, be careful and go light when first doing this move because it’s easy to lose your balance. And we don’t want that.
Use a weight that allows you to do 3 sets of 8-12 reps on both sides with good form.
3. Barbell bench press/dumbbell bench press
Barbell bench press
Dumbbell bench press
These exercises are similar but with a few crucial differences. The barbell locks you into the press movement while the dumbbells allows you a little more freedom. If you have any shoulder issues, go with the dumbbell press before trying the barbell.
The barbell allows more resistance while the dumbbells train the stabilizing muscles of the shoulder. Both movements are great but it depends of your comfort and strength level. Try both and see what works for you.
Use a weight that allows you to do 12 -15 reps and when you’re feeling comfortable, go heavier and do between 6- 12 reps.
4. Pushups (difficult)
Please watch this video because there is more to the push up than meets the eye. It’s a complete full body exercise that requires your full attention. The exercises above will help you build the required upper body/core strength to do pushups with good form.
Feel free to go back and forth between these exercises if you’re unable or even able to do a few pushups. They will all help you to build muscle and get stronger.
Before pressing overhead, you need to be able to get your arms overhead without compensations from your ribcage or lower back. To see if you have the required shoulder mobility for overhead pressing do this test below.
Back to the wall shoulder flexion
If you’re unable to touch the wall without compensation do a combination of weighted deadbugs and land mine presses to help improve your shoulder mobility.
Weighted deadbugs 6-8 reps
1. Single arm landmine press (easy)
This is a hybrid movement, somewhere in between a vertical and horizontal press. Most gyms have a landmine but if they don’t, you can shove a towel and a barbell into a corner and that will work just fine.
The trick of this exercise is to reach at the very end of the movement. This will help with your shoulder mobility and health. If you’re new to this movement, start with a weight that allows you to do 8-12 reps for 3 sets.
2. Seated dumbbell shoulder press
I like the neutral hand position (palms facing each other) when pressing dumbbells overhead because it’s safer for the shoulders and it targets the triceps more. Also, being in a seated position makes this variation safer for the lower back. Make sure to sit up straight and to press until your biceps are right by your ears.
A good rep range to start with is 3 sets of 8-15 reps.
3. Half kneeling shoulder press
The half kneeling position makes this press a little trickier because it narrows your base of support. So, if overarch your lower back while pressing, the floor and you could become one.
This is why it’s a good exercise to hone in your form. Furthermore, the half kneeling position helps strength your glutes and open up your hip flexors. Use a weight that allows you to do 3 sets of 8 reps on both sides with good form.
4. Barbell shoulder press (difficult)
Whether you do the seated or standing version, the barbell allows for extra loading which means extra muscle and strength but it comes with a greater risk of injury, so be careful. Please do the regressions beforehand to bullet proof your shoulders and pressing mechanics before you do this one.
Start with 3 sets of 8- 12 reps and when you when you feel ready, try 3-5 sets of 3- 6 reps.
Sticking with basics and following the progressions above will build a strong and bulletproof upper body that will have you leaping over buildings with a single bound.
Look out Superman. There’s a new sheriff in town.
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