Pushing and pulling movements target the muscles of the upper extremity and core. They are often performed in daily life with a lower-extremity movement such as walking, squatting, lunging or bending. They also often involve twisting movements, which means that good core strength and coordination are really important when you are doing these exercises. This kind of pattern in how we move further reminds us of the importance of integrated movement in our training, which has a high level of crossover with how we live and move from day to day.
Balanced strength through these movements will develop the muscles around the shoul- ders and chest, as well as the back and arms. Pulling movements can be difficult to perform with only bodyweight, so many of the exercises are described using simple pieces of equipment such as exercise bands and tubing or dumbbells.
Note: Pushing exercises can be stressful on the wrist joints. If you suffer from a wrist-related injury or condition such as arthritis, use a small towel or similar item to reduce the amount of wrist extension needed for these exercises. People can often compromise their core stability during pushing exercises, so make sure you keep excellent form and perform the essential stretches for any tight areas before you start.
The wall push-up is a simple introduction to pushing movements. It is an ideal exercise to help improve stability around the shoulders and core, and will strengthen the chest, shoulders and arms ready for more demanding versions. Ensure that the floor surface is not slippery and try not to leave any handprints on your wall! Stand with your feet around a metre from the wall.
Extend your arms and lean forwards, placing them against the wall. M Bend your elbows, allowing your chest to move towards the wall.
Avoid bending at the hips; keep the core strong and your body in good alignment.
Extend your arms back to the start position.
Fitball press-up: Using a stability ball can really help make the transition to a full press-up, as it helps shorten the lever length of the body. If you don’t have a stability ball, you can do a press-up from the knees, although this isn’t as effective for developing the core strength needed for a full press-up. Begin with your thighs resting on the ball. Bend your elbows, lowering your body to 90 degrees. Extend back to the start position. The further you move from the ball, the harder the exercise.
The full press-up movement is a total body exercise that requires strength, not only in the movement muscles of the chest, shoulders, and arms, but also a great deal of core strength to maintain good form. Only perform this exercise if you are able to perform the plank exercise. Start with your toes tucked under and arms extended, ensuring your whole body is in good alignment. You should be able to hold this position without rounding your upper back, arching your lower back or lifting your hips. Bend your elbows and lower your whole body towards the floor, maintaining perfect body alignment. Extend through your chest and arms to return to the start position.
Overhead press – seated
This exercise builds strength by working above the head, and helps to shape and develop the muscles of the shoulder. The common mistake with this exercise is to compromise form to achieve the weight. Don’t make that mistake; keep the core muscles working to prevent arching your lower back excessively, as this transfers high loads to the spine.
Sit either on a chair or a stability ball.
Using either dumbbells or tubing, start with your arms at shoulder height and palms facing away.
Keeping your back in good alignment, press your arms overhead.
If you find this hard to do without arching your back, then try the single-arm standing version.
Keeping the movement under control, lower your arms back to the start position.
Dips are not only a classic exercise, but also a functional movement for building strength in the upper arms and shoulders. This movement is commonly used when rising or sitting, or when pushing up from something. Increase the challenge by moving your feet further from your body when you perform the exercise.
Begin with the knees and hips bent to 90 degrees in a seated position.
Place your hands on the edge of a chair, bench or solid surface.
Lower your body till your arms are bent to around 90 degrees.
Extend back to the start position.
Single-arm overhead press – standing
This is an ideal way to improve strength in your shoulder area for lifting overhead. Performing the single-arm movement allows the body to rotate, protecting the lumbar spine from injury.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Using either dumbbells, tubing or improvised weights, press one arm overhead.
Allow movement at your knee and hip; this is functional and has a better crossover with real life.