Enter the Push Up


Push Ups are under rated.

I could leave this post there and you’d have as much as you need to know.

But lets expand.

You know how the plank gets touted as a great core exercise?
Well imagine if you added some movement to the plank?

There’s a stack of ways to do this, I’ll probably cover them in future blog posts, maybe even a pdf download…
But the most basic would be simply to lower towards the floor and back up while maintaining position.

This is often called a “Push Up”, some time, “Press Up”

But it’s not just a core training drill, although that’s most people’s limiting factor when starting on the exercise.
It’s also great for the shoulder joint.

When done with good form.

And by that I mean adhering to the following technique points:

  • Start in a good plank position, pelvis tucked under (posterior pelvic tilt), chin tucked in
  • The hands should be directly below the shoulders
  • This means the arms are vertical
  • Rotate the pit of the elbow forwards, or the point backwards.
  • As you lower towards the floor, the elbows stay close to the sides, they can flare out as far as 45 degrees, but no more.
  • The hip stays tucked under.
  • Lower under control, move deliberately
  • Keep the chin tucked, do NOT allow the shoulders to raise up towards the ears.
  • Press out powerfully, but don’t lose form.
  • Stop the set when form deteriorates.

There’s more to push ups than you’d think!

Using my "plank-o-meter" to check form

Good Start position, using my “plank-o-meter” to check form

Forward head posture Scapular winging out Low back collapsing

Bad Start Position: – Forward head posture
-Scapular winging out
-Low back collapsing

 

But done right we are working the entire torso. You should feel the Lats work, the lower traps, the abs, glutes, even the thighs. And of course you’re working into the chest and triceps.

Done wrong we stress the low back, we grind up the shoulder complex and over use the upper traps & neck. We achieve nothing good.

Good bottom position

Good bottom position

Bad bottom position

Bad bottom position

Actually those pics were taken today after I discovered my injured shoulder could just about take a push up, but I couldn’t get into a bad enough position to really show it because of the pain it caused.

Let that be a lesson.

If I can’t demo bad form without it hurting my injured shoulder, yet the good form pictures were comfortable, what makes you think poor form is good for your “healthy” shoulders?

One last consideration is depth.

Obviously we want to go as deep as possible.

Correction, we want to go as deep as possible while maintaining good form.

This means keeping the shoulders set. If our shoulder starts to roll forwards, we’ve probably gone too deep. Watch someone do a push up or video yourself from the front or side.
If you lower into a push up and as you approach the bottom you see your shoulder come up and forwards, you’re losing form.
You’ve lost the serratus tension, you’ve probably lost your lower traps and you default to your upper traps.

Not a healthy state to be in.

I deal with this a LOT when I get the Thai Boxers coming to me.
Help them keep the shoulder position, even if that means sacrificing depth for a short while and their shoulders magically stop hurting.

Have a look at these two images I found on google images, I’ve no idea who they are and am not doubting their work ethic, but look at how the shoulder has rolled forward in the bottom position:

670px-Do-1000-Push-Ups-Step-3wm-0809-tricep-pushup

Here’s a video:

Get this nailed and you’ll notice the immediate benefits.
I’d suggest getting a solid set of 20 reps done before looking to other variations, such as using the rings, going wider, narrower, explosive etc etc.
You’ll find loads of variations like these and more in the No Equipment, No Excuses eBook (hint, hint…!)No Equipment, No Excuses - Bodyweight Training for the Home, Office or on the Road

 

Regards

Dave Hedges
http://www.wg-fit.com

 

 

 

“This’d Be Great For Building That Monkey Strength……”


“…….You know, getting Monkey Strong, not Powerlifter Strong”

rise-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-caesar

This was the sentence uttered by Peter,  a private client yesterday when I had him doing an unfamiliar exercise.

And yes mate, I know exactly what you mean.

Monkey strong.
We know our closest relative the chimpanzee is many many times stronger than us poor Homo Sapiens.
But not only that, the Chimp is fast, agile and can cover fair distances over a variety of terrain and do it pretty fast.
I don’t have exact figures, pretty much everything I know about chimps comes from the Planet of the Apes movies and David Attenborough shows.

David Attenborough and the Rwandan Gorillas.

David Attenborough and the Rwandan Gorillas.

But they’re strong.

And this seems to be what Peter was getting at.

He’s been around, he’s done the gym, he’s done BJJ and now he’s dealing with an ageing body that no longer wants to do all the things his mind thinks it still can.
His shoulders are bollixed and his hip is fighting off the arthritis.

But he’s determined to grow old disgracefully. My job is to help him.

So we had him working some pressing strength. Not easy with shoulders like his.

But there’s an exercise that may not build absolute maximal strength, like the type displayed by power lifters, but will build “monkey strength”

It’s called the Half Kneeling Angled Barbell Press.

Jam one end of a bar into the corner, or a landmine jobbie or as I do, an old car tyre.
Load the other end.
Get down on one knee, the loaded end of the bar held at that same side.
Squeeze your glute for all it’s worth, lift the chest up, anchor the shoulder down and press that bar out.

Here’s my Canadian buddy Adrian Crowe doing some Angle BB Pressing:

That’s the angle barbell press.

It’s easy on dodgy shoulders if you’re strict while still allowing significant loading.
It asks a lot of assistance from the abdominals and glutes.
It puts some length into the hip flexors.

It pretty much ties together the entire torso, training it to act as a unit. Which is where the “monkey strength” reference came from I guess.

I use angle barbell work a lot with my fighters, their shoulders need to be taken care of and integrated “monkey strength” is far more important than simple, bilateral maximal strength like in a bench press. In fact I feature it in the Fighting Back eBook aimed at the BJJ community.

Click the image for more info

Click the image for more info

I highly recommend you try this lift.

Regards

Dave Hedges
http://www.Wg-Fit.com

If you’re interested in my classes / private training, CLICK HERE

Kettlebell and other workshops, CLICK HERE

 

Get Up and Get Awesome


If it's good enough for Iron Man.....

If it’s good enough for Iron Man…..

I think it’s fair to say the Turkish Get Up is one of my favorite things to do.

It’s also pretty fair to say there’s a lot of people who would agree with me that it is an incredibly valuable lift, for a number of reasons.

It’s also fair to say that a lot of people talk a lot of bollocks about the lift.

There are many ways to work the get up depending on the type of response you’re trying to elicit from the body.
And just the other day I had two very different lads in who have get ups programmed into their workouts but for very different reasons, and as a result, they do the lift differently.

The two lads are Don and Les. Don is a BJJ player, fairly new to the sport coming into it with very little of any sort of training. Much like most people who take up a martial art, it was his first real training experience.

Les on the other hand is a bit of a machine. He’s a hockey player (proper hockey, not that padded up ice dancing thing…) and loves to train hard.

The two lads both partake in sports that live in a forward flexed posture. The hockey player is hunched over with his stick on the floor to control the ball. The BJJ guy, especially the new guys, are usually on their backs in a foetal position trying not let the better guy fold them in half.

Don realised early on that he needed to get some serious core strength going, so he came to me. At first he couldn’t hold a plank steady for 30seconds.
With some “gentle persuasion” he accepted my homework assignment and  couple of weeks later he passed a 2min plank test.
But he despises the plank, and to be fair, 2mins is plenty,.at least that’s what Dr Stuart McGill says and who am I to argue.
So what next? Various exercises, all very core centric with an emphasis on developing the get up.
Some days he worked volume with a comfortable weight, other days he’s pyramid up to a max.
Just the other day a 75kg Don did this with a 40kg bell

In total he worked up to the weight before managing 3 reps each side. It was only the second time he’d worked the 40.
Interestingly, a shoulder injury he picked up from an overzealous submission attempt has magically cleared up.

He first noticed his shoulder had cleared up, ie no longer clicked or ached when he started working with the 32kg bell regularly.

Which brings me to Les.
As I said, Les is a different animal. Les is completely anterior chain dominant, he lives in his sporting posture, forward flexed, internally rotated shoulders. Much of what I talked about in Fighting Back direct applies to Les.
It’s no surprise his shoulder blew up and he ended up in physio before coming to me.
Now we have him doing a bottoms up half get up every warm up.
In the beginning he could barely hold the weight out. A strong lad being crushed by an 8kg bell shows a huge problem.
So Les worked the movement with no weight, than slowly added load in the standard grip until eventually he could manage a single bottoms up rep.
This clip shows him performing the drill on his injured side

Remember this is him simply warming up. His training is very much about getting that posterior chain kicking in, but before anything happens we use this drill to turn on the rotator cuff and integrate the shoulder into the rest of the body.

Already in just a few weeks Les’ symptoms are reducing and he’s able to take on more movements.

So we have one exercise, the Get Up, being utilised in two very different manners according to individual athletes needs.
There is no one best way to perform any given exercise, especially something as global as the get up.
The mainstream kettlebell community may deride Don for not bridging up during the get up, but his hips are not our focus. We do other work for that.
They may also be baying for blood because Les doesn’t roll enough, not realising that to get to where he is now is an achievement in itself and a constant work in progress.

The key point here is that we can take an exercise and break it down, tailoring it to suit the athlete. We don’t try to make the athlete suit the movement, we.make the movement suit the athlete.

Spend time with the get up, get to know it intimately, and while a half bodyweight get up is the standard we want to achieve, for many, like Les, it’s not realistic.

Regards
Dave Hedges
http://www.WG-FIT.com

A Quick Guide to Upper Back Strength & Shoulder Health


Your shoulders take a beating.

Especially when your training partner knows 99 ways to hyper extend the joint to cause enough pain to make you tap before ligaments & tendons begin to tear or the joint becomes dislocated.

It’s not just your opponents attempts to submit you, but the general posture of a fighter that can stress the shoulder joint. Having a rounded (kyphotic for you anatomy nerds) upper back encourages the shoulder blades to “wing”, which stretches out the muscles in the mid and upper back region preventing then from doing their job.
And their job is to control the scapula (shoulder blade) whose job it is to keep the shoulder joint stable.

Poor scapula control leads to poor shoulder stability and a vastly increased risk of shoulder injury.

You must keep the upper back strong and get the muscles firing.

I don’t know if you’ve heard of Joe DeFranco, but he’s one of the world’s top strength coaches and an influence of mine.
It’s through his work that I learned of an exercise called the handcuff drill. It’s the first drill featured in this clip:

The other exercises shown are also of great value for resetting the shoulders and strengthening the upper back, but the handcuff drill, being equipment free is one that should be added to your BJJ warm ups, in fact I feature it in the Fighting Back manual when I discuss how to warm up.

As part of your supplemental strength work for the upper back, there is a one drill that is a must.
It is the Inverted Row, ideally on rings or a TRX unit.

The Inverted Row is classed as an upper body horizontal pull. Which if you think of the direction of pull used most in your BJJ, it’s against an opponent to the front of you, so mostly horizontal.
But why this drill really works is that it is closed chain. That means your body is moving through space.

Using the rings allows the hands to rotate and move relatively free which will allow the scapula to retract as you pull and protract as you lower. Add a 2-3 second pause at the top of the pull and you’ll feel your rhomboid muscles scream for mercy!

Here’s a clip:

Shoulders are one of the most commonly injured joints across the athletic spectrum, but in a sport like grappling where it is actively attacked.
Take care of your upper back as a priority, your training efficacy and longevity will appreciate it.

As a wee bonus, here’s a video of European BJJ Champion Seb going through a conditioning set incorporating the Inverted Row:

 

Have you got your copy of Fighting Back yet?
Click the image:

Click the image to Purchase

Click the image to Purchase

Regards

Dave Hedges
http://www.WG-Fit.com

Monday Mobility – Indian Clubs for Shoulder Health


Your shoulders are probably fucked.

Whoa Dave!

It’s first thing on a Monday morning and you’re not only making blind accusations, but dropping F-bombs while you’re at it!?!?!?

Well. Tell me I’m wrong.

Tell me that you never have pain when you lift your arm, that your scapular flow across the rib cage unrestricted, that you can raise your arms fully overhead while in a flat footed squat.

Tell me you’re shoulders don’t internally rotate, that your pec minor isn’t as taught as a violin string.

Ok, maybe that’s just me.

But since I discovered the Indian club, my shoulders have never felt better. And it’s not just me. Many of my crew now come in early specifically to get their hands on the clubs before training.
All say their shoulders feel healthier, stronger and more flexible.

So today’s monday mobility is all about swinging the clubs, here’s a video:

 

 

When you buy a club, err on the lighter side. Remember, we are talking about mobility here. Yes, you can get heavy clubs, but they are a very different animal and require specific technical training before you even try swing them.
For mobility, the clubs I use are 2kg, and even these are too heavy for most, don’t be ashamed to drop as low as 2lb per club.
Do enough reps and you’ll feel the benefit, a deep warmth (or burning sensation) through the whole shoulder and forearm, a smoothing out of the shoulder and scapular motion and a feeling of traction as the weight of the club amplified by centrifugal force provides traction along the arm.

Enjoy.

 

Dave Hedges
http://www.WG-Fit.com

 

Warming Up the Upper Body with Indian Clubs


The shoulders can be a touchy bit of our anatomy.
Very few go through an athletic career, or even just regular gym training, without some shoulder issues. I’ve certainly struggled from time to time.

Many of the issues can be prevented by ensuring we follow a balanced training program. Actually, scratch that, we should follow a deliberately UNbalanced training program in that we use our shoulders for more pulling actions than we do pushing actions.

But a few years ago I started hearing about theses magical things called Indian Clubs and how they can regrow missing limbs….

Actually, that’s a lie, I never read that. But much like the kettlebell, the sales and marketing people will have you believing that they are pure magic.
They’re not magic, but they are damn good.

The clubs are swung in circular motions. The centrifugal force gives a nice bit of traction through the shoulder joint stimulating the connective tissues and teasing out tightness. The circular action takes the shoulder through its natural ranges of motion and stimulates the rotator cuff in a relatively natural manner.

All in, since implementing the clubs in my upper body warm ups, my shoulders have never felt as good.

The following clip shows how I like to use them and the sequence I encourage my guys (especially the Kettlebell Sports Guys) to use them. It’s a demonstration, not a tutorial, so treat it as such and go out and find someone to show you the finer points.

The clubs I use are 2kg each, believe it or not, this is actually relatively heavy for clubs with many espousing the use of 2lb clubs. I also use the 7lb sledgehammer for a more strength emphasis.

Here’s the video:

Like I said, these are great for the old shoulder joints, but only if used correctly and with caution.

Enjoy your weekend and I’ll catch you all back here on Monday

Regards

Dave
http://www.wg-fit.com

 

Shoulder Health & Improved Posture


Evolution

Take a look at the picture.

While it maybe humorous, it is alarmingly close to the truth (as all good humour is..)

The last image, the guy sat at the desk, hunched over a keyboard is how many of us spend 8 hours or more every day. Imagine the havoc that will play on your posture.

Now, ok, you go to the gym, but really is an hour in the gym going to undo 8 hours of sitting at desk? And is your program helping or is it hindering your progress?

I’m not going to go inot the ins and outs of program design here, but I will pass on a tip I have on good authority with regards to program design:

Pull more than you push – Eric Cressey (www.ericcressey.com)

That means all you bench press addicts better add in some chins, Dumbell/Kettlebell cleans and rows into your routines quick sharp.

But for ongoing general shoulder health we have to take basic good habits out of the gym and into our daily grind. We Continue reading