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In this edition of the write up, I provide several tips and lists for conquering pushups, pullups, glute bridges, that intimidating goal, and some great core stability variations for beginners that don’t involve the word ‘plank’.

Pushup Progressions

Pushups are an incredibly valuable exercise. I list the many benefits of pushups in articles listed here. For many clients, I include pushups as a horizontal pressing exercise in every program. For many clients, a perfect pushup is a desirable strength goal. Here is my method for taking a client from zero pushups to banging out several. The emphasis is on maintaining ideal form throughout the process – no saggy pushups allowed!

  • Incline/Barbell Pushups
  • Band AssistedPushups
    • (Start Grease the Groove once able to accomplish 1 unassisted pushup to nearly full range of motion. In this instance, perform 1 pushup several times a day.)
  • Pushups
  • Decline Pushups & Yoga Pushups
  • Weighted, Band-Resisted Pushups, Handstand Pushups, 1-Arm Progressions

Pullup Progressions

Another big accomplishment for several clients. I’m generally not a fan of the band-assisted chinup, as people tend to fall too quickly from the bar. I’ve had excellent success focusing on chinups with an isometric hold at the top, at various points of the descent (also called sticking points), and long (5-8 second) descents from the bar. I’ll often help a client to the bar, by pushing from their ribs or hips.

  • Pulldown Variations - Pronated, Neutral Grip, or Supinated
  • Assisted Pullups for low reps and a 5-8s descent (Negative Chinups)
  • Grease the Groove Chinups, once able to perform 1 unassisted chinup
  • Bodyweight Chinups, until able to complete 10 consecutively. Continue to Grease the Groove
  • Weighted Chinups

Simultaneously, continue to emphasize strength in rowing movements. Mastering and becoming very strong in rows will help develop your strength for chinups. A common mistake is focusing only on chinups while neglecting rows.

Weekly habits

Recently, I’ve come to appreciate the power of a weekly habit or a weekly goal. If you’re not a “cold turkey” kind of person, weekly habits can be a great way to build a new habit. This method makes the process of achieving a difficult goal, or making several life altering changes, simpler.

Select a goal, such as a nutrition, workout, or recovery goal. Plot out steps to reach that goal, and aim on mastering each step. Give yourself 1-2 weeks per step.

Example: A client wants to lose 30lbs and has poor nutrition. They’re unable to commit to fully changing their nutrition, but agree to eat a healthy breakfast every day. They agree to focus on this goal for 1 week. After a week of successfully eating a healthy breakfast, they decide to focus on a healthy lunch. After 6 weeks, their diet is transformed.


Glute Bridge Progressions

Glute activation and strengthening is important, whether your goal is a stronger deadlift, a better butt, or a lower risk of knee, back, and hip injury. The problem is that many people feel glute isolation exercises, such as bridges, hip thrusts, or pull throughs, in the wrong muscles, such as the quads, hamstrings, and lower back. While Bret Contreras is the undoubted glute master, here are some easy coaching cues that I use with my clients to help them turn on and feel a glute burn.

  • Set up with your shins vertical, so that your feet are closer to your hips.
  • Adjust your foot width until you find your ideal set up. I personally prefer about 6”, but some of my clients do best with their feet practically touching.
  • Play with foot rotation and find your best solution. I do best with my feet rotated about 15-20 degrees, my squat stance, and others feel best with their feet straight ahead.
  • When in doubt - rest your hands on your glutes (grab your butt, seriously) and make sure that you can feel the muscle contracting.
  • Elevate the feet. Many sedentary and deconditioned clients do best with this version.
  • Work on isometric bridges. Perform a set of glute bridges, and then hold the top position for as long as possible.
  • Focus on feeling the glutes through a maximal range of motion, even if that’s incomplete. If you feel your lower back at the top of a bridge, you’ve gone too far for your glute strength. At this point, you are compensating by substituting lumbar hyperextension for hip extension. Lower your hips and work on gradually improving range of motion.

Non-Traditional Core Stability

Building core stability is my primary goal with abdominal training. Whether you are an athlete, recovering, or simply interested in a six pack – focus on stability. I’ve had clients that are unable to perform planks and other staples for a variety of reasons. Most recently, I’ve had a client that was literally incapable of breathing during planks or side planks! In that case, prone dumbbell pullovers saved the day.

Here is a small list of nontraditional methods of improving core stability for beginners. In each variation, the emphasis is on maintaining proper breathing with a neutral spine. Limit range of motion to where you are able to feel the core working while avoiding spinal flexion or hyperextension.

  • Dumbbell Pullovers (progression – prone with knees bent, bench, off-bench. With each, keep your spine in neutral to train the abdominals to resist hyperextension)
  • Pallof Press variations
  • Wall Press Ab variations (source: I-FAST – Mike Robertson & Bill Hartwell). Be careful that you feel these in the lower abs, not the lower back.
  • 1/2 Kneeling and Tall Kneeling exercises with a variety of equipment. Perform stability chops or lifts, curls, overhead presses, band/cable rows, band/cable presses, and halos.
  • FMS Rolling variations and patterns
  • Straight Leg Lowering variations

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