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Functional Exercises: The Push

Get up on this, we’ve made it to May! Last month I jumped on my soapbox to discuss consistency with working towards your goals and stepped away from highlighting functional exercises but now we’re back on track.

In case you’re new here, functional exercises are exercises that mimic movements you do in your daily life. They work to improve strength, balance, coordination, joint range of motion, and overall quality of life.

Functional exercises recruit multiple muscle groups, which means they use more than one joint and take more energy to perform. A plus for fat loss. But these exercises use free weights, like dumbbells and kettlebells, or bodyweight instead of exercise machines. Exercise machines target one specific joint or group of muscles.

There are seven functional exercises and so far, we’ve gone over the hinge, squat, and lunge movements.

Next up, is the push movement.

Movement away from the trunk horizontally or vertically and back is considered doing the push movement. What is the trunk, you ask? LOL, take away your head, neck, arms, and legs. That’s your trunk.

This means when you open doors, vacuum, put your child down, or put the groceries away (ok, this may involve a majority, if not all the functional movements, but in this case putting groceries in the pantry or refrigerator) you are performing the push movement.

Upper body push exercises protect your shoulders and lower back from injuries, as well as improves your balance and posture. It also improves your flexibility.

When performing upper body push exercises, it is essential to remember to keep your shoulders back and down, your chest up, and look forward.

Visualize a pencil placed along your spine, right between your shoulder blades, and you’re challenged with holding that pencil in place with your shoulder blades. You do not want to round your shoulders forward or hunch your back. This will make your posture worse and potentially cause injuries to your shoulders.

Practice perfecting your posture while driving. Try keeping your shoulders pressed against the back of the seat and your head against the headrest.

Alright, back to push exercises. The most common push exercise is a push-up, but the movement is not limited to your arms and hands. Since it is the most common, let’s break it down.

The push-up targets the back, shoulders, biceps, chest, and triceps.

To perform a push-up, you will:

  • Start on the floor, on all fours.

  • You want your hands slightly wider than your shoulders.

  • Straighten your legs and arms and push yourself away from the floor.

  • Lower your body until your chest almost touches a blade of carpet (literally picture that while you’re executing this lol).

  • Pause, then push yourself back up and repeat.

Remember to keep your back straight and your core engaged. Your butt should be down, with your body forming a straight line. Don’t arch your back or let your body sag downward. Also, remember to keep your hands firmly on the floor or mat so that your wrists are protected.

If this is too difficult for you, the modified version would be to keep your knees on the floor instead of straightening your legs out.

And if you’re thinking “Um, if I get down on the floor, who’s gonna get me back up” or some variation of that, no worries there is another modification.

  • Find a wall and stand an arm’s length from it.

  • Place both hands on the wall at shoulder-level height and shoulder-width apart.

  • Your fingers should be pointed toward the ceiling.

  • Slowly bend your elbows and lean your body towards the wall until your face almost touches the wall. Remember that blade of carpet I mentioned earlier? This time imagine your nose almost touching the wall.

  • Keep your back straight and elbows bent at around 45-degrees outward instead of at your sides.

  • Pause, then slowly push back to the starting position and repeat.

Make sure your hips don’t dip forward while doing a wall pushup.

Other push exercises for the upper body include

  • Shoulder Press

  • Chest Press

  • Triceps Dips

  • Lateral Shoulder Raises

  • Planks

When it comes to the lower body, push exercises generally include variations of squats and lunges, along with the leg press. Learn how to perform a squat read here. Want to perfect your lunge, read here.

Be sure to utilize this new knowledge that you have. I want you to especially remember to hold that imaginary pencil between your shoulder blades while exercising and as you go about your daily life.

Forward progress, always.

Ivy J.


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