Hi guys! My name is Greg Walsh, and I run a gym called Wolf Brigade in Rochester, NY. Today we’ll share some important details of common strength & conditioning movements and make some suggestions that will allow you to incorporate them into your training regardless of fitness level, scale them to your ability, and make progress without getting hurt or discouraged. For those of you with an already sound fitness base, hopefully we can provide a few small pieces that will prove some use.
We’re going to start as “basic” as it gets: Push-ups and lunges!! We like to say of things like this “Simple, not easy”, because if done correctly, consistently, and aggressively, these movements can challenge and improve those at any fitness level.
Let’s start with push-up:
– Make yourself into the strongest possible plank by squeezing your feet and legs together (leaving no space between them), squeezing your butt, and tucking your hips.
– When placing your hands on the ground (or on any surface you may need to for scaling purposes) they should be underneath your chest- not your shoulders, chest should be broad, and head should be neutral (eyes on the ground).
– The pits of your elbows should be facing forward and arms begin and end each rep locked-out straight. When you begin the push-up, the elbows travel back towards your feet, and not out to the side- locking out with elbow pits forward goes a long way in ensuring that happens.
– At the bottom, elbows should be touching/ very close to your body, midsection should touch the floor/ scaling surface, and triceps should be parallel/ near parallel with the floor and your back!
Be mindful of your torso- you’ll want to tuck your hips and attempt to keep your spine straight throughout. Push a big breath into your belly before you move, hold it tight, and then do some great push-ups! Staying tight while moving- and only breathing out as needed for a little extra power or in-between reps- will help keep you in stronger positions and help insulate you against injury if you’re working while tired. Braced = stable, soft = vulnerable.
The pictures do most of the talking in the lunge, but let’s go over a few of the easy-to-miss details:
– Start and end position is standing up 100% straight, with hips underneath you- not behind you.
– When you begin the movement- just like in the push-up, you should already have a big belly breath (make yourself fat, not tall… ) and neutral head position.
– Front leg should be at/ near 90-degrees, and back leg should touch but not smash the floor.
– For both safety and stability, both feet should point forward, and knees should track over the top of the foot. If choosing to toe-out, keep it minimal and do not allow the knees to drop inside the foot.
– Drive into the heel of the front foot (if stepping forward) and into the ball of the back foot (if stepping backward) to make sure the “kickstand” is fully activated; Many people push off the lunging foot, but not INTO the stabilizing foot- especially when performed tired or weighted, this is a dicey, often wobbly strategy.
– Whether stepping forward or backward, we’re not leaning the torso in that direction. Keep it upright and tight!
Hands do not necessarily need to be in the “Prison” position (as shown), however that is one simple way to add difficulty, reinforce posture, and make sure the hands don’t end up on your legs when you get tired. You can put them anywhere you want, but keep them off the thighs.
Scaling: For push-up, scaling simply involves propping yourself up on any stable platform that is higher than the ground (couch, stairs, phonebooks… ) – Not one single other thing changes. No push-ups from your knees, no broken, wiggly-worm push-ups from the ground, just pushing a little less of your weight by creating a little more of an angle. For lunge, if needed, scaling is simply finding something to stabilize you and/ or hold on to- wall, couch, person, railing, etc.- Again, nothing else changes!!
Rep schemes: A simple, endlessly progressive way to train the movements together is a pyramid of, for example, 12 reps each, 10 reps each, 8, 6… and so on. As your fitness level and familiarity with the movements improve, decrease any rest you may be taking, adjust any scaling you may be using, and then add an even number to the top of the pyramid! If training the movements independently, 5 high-effort sets of 10 reps, with between :30 seconds and 1 minute rest between each, is a great start. If position breaks, either rest longer and/ or scale the movements! Speed is not a substitute for form, and one great rep equals at least three crappy ones; Those that pay the most attention to the details are almost always the ones that make the most progress.
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Greg Walsh is a product of counter-culture, and remains immersed in it to this day. The discovery of BMX bike riding and hardcore music in early adolescence opened a door of questioning and critical-thinking that has paved the way for everything since. Action sports, hardcore music, martial arts, and strength & conditioning have all proven to be lifesavers, not simply pastimes, and contributing to each in the best ways humanly possible is Greg’s daily mission.
Wolf Brigade is headquartered in Rochester, NY, and is the product of Greg’s lengthy training experience and varied physical backgrounds. Wolfbrigade.com chronicles and details daily training and contains hundreds of videos, pictures, quotes, and pieces of writing. Greg’s non-fitness writing website, warofattrition.com, accepts subscribers, and his first novel, Theft of the Age, will be available everywhere in the spring of 2016.