On my last post, I introduced you to primal movements: pulling, pushing, bending, twisting, lunging and squating. I covered some exercises that deal with pulling motions. These mostly work back muscles and biceps. Go back and read the introduction to these series to go over some general rules of resistance training.
On Part Two, I will be covering the next two, pushing and bending. It is very important that you keep a balance between pushing exercises and pulling ones. Since pushing motions tend to utilize the noticeable muscles (chest, shoulder and triceps) many people, especially guys, overemphasize these muscles to the detriment of the back muscles. To avoid postural problems, you must remember to keep your routines balanced.
Select a light pair of dumbells if you have never worked with dumbells or with free weights in general. It is the safest to have someone hand you the dumbbells. Otherwise, sit on the bench and bring the weights towards your chest. Lay back slowly. Once on your back, flare your elbows out and align the weights with your elbows so that your forearm is perpendicular to the ground. This is your start position. Push the weights up from that position until the weights touch above your chest.
On your way back to the start position, try not to bring the weights down past shoulder level if you were looking at yourself from the side. If you were looking at yourself from above, make sure your elbows are not in line with shoulders. The beauty of dumbbells is that they shed light on any muscle imbalances from one side to the other. You also develop more coordination (proprioceptive reflexes).
The best and most basic exercise in this category is the push up. However, not everyone can lift their body weight from the ground. Of those who can, few can do a push up properly. That’s why I did not choose the push up as a beginning exercise. It should be included in your routine as soon as you can properly do them. I will cover push ups on a later post since they are very therapeutic.
Other exercises similar to the one I just described are the machine chest press (vertical or horizontal) and barbell bench press. These should be avoided until you know that both sides of your body are equally balanced.
Select a set of light dumbbells. Find a shoulder press bench. If you don’t have one available at your gym, set the back of a bench close to 90 degrees (perpendicular to the seat). Carefully bring them up towards your chest. Bring the weights to your side so that the dumbells end up directly over your elbows. Make sure your upper arms are parallel to the floor. This is your starting position. Press the weights up overhead. Bring them back to starting position. You may go slightly under parallel on your return. Make sure you do NOT arch your back when you bring your weights overhead.
Alternate exercises are are machine shoulder presses, military presses and other overhead exercises in this category. Again, using dumbbells ensure that your weakest side is not getting weaker since you will have an instant cue about it while exercising. That’s why I consider these as the very basic exercise as far as overhead pushing exercises.
To finish up this section, I would like to add that although it is true that you should exercise your joints through the entire range of motion, it is also true that when dealing with your shoulder joint you need to be careful. I described these exercises to minimize the possibility of shoulder injury.
When we bend at the waist or the hips, we are aided by gravity. We put very little effort into bending forward. When this motion becomes important is when we throw or run. We arch our backs before we begin a throwing movement. We activate our core muscles to bring our upper body over our hips to add power to our throw. When we run or walk, we use our abs to bring our legs forward and to stabilize our bodies. Bending motions deal primarily with our outer core, particularly with our rectus abdominis; however, our external and internal obliques and hip flexors are also involved in the movement. The inner core stabilizes our movement.
The objective of a crunch is to bring the front of your ribcage to the front of your pelvis or your pubis regardless of the position you are in when performing them. Most of you have perform a crunch at one point or another. A vertical crunch is not much different than a regular crunch.
Start out in front of a cable machine. Grab the handles from above your head and kneel on the floor facing the machine. Your body should be straight at this point from your head to your knees (the guy on the picture above should be straighter). Place your hands on your forehead and keep them there through out the exercise. Bring your chest towards your stomach without bending your hips or bringing your butt towards your ankles. You should feel this exercise on your abdominal area. Make sure that you do not move your arms throughout the exercise. Set the weight so that you can do from 15 – 20 reps.
So now, you know 5 exercises for your weight/resistance routine. For the push and pull exercises, start out by setting the weight so that you can perform one set of 12 – 15 reps only. If you can perform more than 15 your weight is too light. If you cannot perform 12 your weight is too heavy. As you become more used to these, you should be able to perform two sets of these exercises.
Next up: Exercises involving the final 3 primal movements: Twisting, squatting and lunging.