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The Push of the Big 6 Human Movements: by Bob Poston MS, CFT

By postonsfit4life | In Fitness, Health Coaching, News, Personal Training | on January 26, 2017

Our last writing looked at bending and I hope you were able to get some valuable information out of that. If so, I hope you were able to recognize and correct any incorrect lifting patterns you were employing. The next primary human movement that I will introduce to you is the one that you may have seen lots of on television this past Friday, that’s right, pushing. This movement, working in different angles, will engage all of the upper body muscles that I will talk about in this article. Let’s take a look at the push, both in daily activities and in exercise movements.

The push movement, by definition for this article, is the application of pressure or force against an object with the intent to move it away from your body. We push all kinds of things around every day. It can be as simple as pushing a cup out of your way on your work desk and as big as helping to push a stuck vehicle out of snow. The first push example just requires an extending of your arm and moving the cup. The second however requires you to get into a position that provides leverage for you to be able to exert much more effort and force to initiate any movement.

The upper body muscles used for push movement patterns include the chest (pectoralis major and minor); the front shoulder (anterior deltoid); and the upper back portion of your arm (triceps brachii or triceps). They all work in concert to perform the primary movement pattern of pushing. Let’s take a look at strength training exercises for each.

The chest is probably the most popular muscle group to train among male exercisers. The chest is part of that group of muscles we call the “mirror” muscle group. They get trained the most because they get viewed the most. You can’t see that group of muscles behind you, so they do not get as much attention. As the roosters strut around the gym, they eye each other and wonder how much each other can “bench”. The chest bench press is the king of push movements for most male trainees. This movement is performed on a bench and is executed with the bench lying flat, placed at an incline position or in a decline position. These exercises are done primarily using a barbell, dumbbells, cables and resistance bands or tubing. An important point about incline bench chest press movements is that the angle of the bench should be less than 45 degrees. I like it around 32 to 35 degrees. When you start getting to 45 degrees and above, the emphasis is less on the chest and more on the front shoulder. I also like to have my clients standing and performing push movements using cable machines or TRX straps performing a pushup movement at different angles. There are also machine based chest press exercises that can be performed lying down or in a seated position. Following are some examples of a Barbell Flat Bench Press, a Dumbbell Incline Bench Press, a TRX Strap Pushup and a TRX Strap Chest Press.


Assisting the chest group in all push movements are the anterior delt and the triceps muscle groups. In order for the pectoralis muscles to get engaged, these two groups will initiate the movement. They get plenty of work when you do a big chest workout day, thus the reason why many trainees isolate them on a separate training day. Exercises that will isolate the front delt are presses on a bench that is at 45 degrees or higher and a straight arm raise to the front using dumbbells or resistance bands, tubing or other forms of resistance. The front delt provides stability to the shoulder joint and it assists with the forward and rotational movement patterns of the arm. The following is an example of a Dumbbell Front Raise:


The triceps brachii is the three headed monster on the back upper half of your arm. The three are the long head, the lateral head and the medial head. This group together is the leader when you need to push as they perform the extension of the elbow so you can straighten out your arms. As stated earlier, they are going to get plenty of work when performing chest press movements. If you are looking to isolate them in a workout, then a pressing movement, with the elbow locked into position, will hit them alone. When I say elbow locked into position, I mean that it is not moving but only serving as a hinge for the movement. If your elbow starts tracking (moving forward and back), then your shoulders will come into play and the triceps are not isolated. Following are some examples of exercises to isolate the triceps muscles. They are a Cable V-Grip Press Down, a Standing Dumbbell French Press and a Single Arm Dumbbell Kickback. Notice that the elbow remains in the same spot throughout the movement:



These are just samples of different exercises that can be programmed into your upper body push day workout routine. There are many many more movement patterns that you can incorporate into your routine. You need to change things up to keep challenging your body to change. Not only should your exercises change, but you also need to change the angles of movements, the numbers of repetitions (reps) and the tempo of the rep as well. If you have any questions, please seek out the direction and guidance of a Certified Fitness Professional where you work out. If you do not have one where you train, please reach out to one of the Certified Fitness Professionals at my training center in Dunkirk. We would be more than happy to get you on the right path for your personal fitness journey. I wish you great health and fitness.

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