Tag Archives: at home exercises

The “Push Off”—A Nice Alternative to the Push Up

The “Push Off,” so deemed by this guy one day when toying around with bodyweight exercises as part of a home workout, is—at the least—a welcome alternative to the sometimes grudging, standard push up, an old basic that sometimes elicits images of physical torment!

the agony of it all

the agony of it all

But the push off might even be considered the ultimate of at home exercises, as you’re not just using your bodyweight, but you’re also using a doorway (see instructional pics, noted by caption, further below) of your home.

Many Advantages

This “little brother” to the push up can be used for warm-ups, for those not ready to do a set of several regular push ups, or simply to toy around with some variation.

No matter where you’re at in that pecking order, push offs can make you more aware of how your muscles function than any form of chest or pushing exercise. That’s because without having to exert a ton of force, you can focus a lot more on your body’s response to various tensions and angles when doing these. There’s no large weight (bench press) or deep and difficult angle (elevated push ups) demanding your main attention, distracting you from really feeling the chest muscles working with the movement.

Another benefit, potentially a huge one, is that you can adjust mid-exercise a whole lot easier and safer than you ever could doing, say, a heavy bench press. For example, if you feel some kind of discomfort, it’s easy to stop anywhere in your range of motion during the repetition. If, on the other hand, you’re on your back with a heavy barbell on your chest, you have no choice but to try and push the weight all the way up, or hope you have someone spotting you. If neither of these are available, pray!

Prepare to Push

Prepare by, as always, warming up your joints, especially your upper body, but even  some for your legs, as you’ll be on your feet the whole time.

similar muscles are used for the push off as the push up

similar muscles are used for the push off as the push up

Place your hands while standing against both sides of a door frame (see instructional pic #2, as shown by caption) about the level of the bottom of your chest. Experiment with what’s best for you, or you can adjust that height for variation of how you’re hitting your chest. Placing your hands flush with the door frame sides will help your wrists compared to the more acute (bent back) angles they’re at when doing push-ups with palms flat on the floor.

The lower you place your hands, the more it works the chest and less the shoulders and lats and vice-versa. As noted in  the more general, thorough chest article, many people tend to push somewhat higher up their bodies, which brings in their shoulders and lats but not enough for their chest muscles. It’s critical to get a great mind-muscle connection to get the most out of these.

Stand back at a distance where your hands are still in position to both sides of the door frame (like for instructional pic #2 below) while arms are fully extended and where you’re still standing almost upright.

(You can of course make this exercise easier by moving your feet up closer to the door frame. This not only decreases the distance you travel, but also the angle from gravity, as you are closer to a standing position the whole time)

Beginning path

With your arms extended, use them to move under control toward the door frame. Keep your core (midsection area) tight, not allowing it to sag forward (same with a push-up). As you start approaching the door frame, move your head to the side to allow your body closer to the frame and make the movement more challenging (see pic immediately below).

note head slightly to side of the door frame, allowing for more depth in the movement

Instructional pic #1-note head slightly to side of the door frame, allowing for more depth in the movement

Push away from the frame slowly, under control and focusing on feeling those chest muscles engaging as your body continues to move away from the frame. Proceed until your chest is totally contracted while your arms are fully extended (see next pic below).

Try and maintain that mind-muscle connection with your chest as you allow yourself to slowly drift back toward the door frame. You won’t feel it the same way as you do moving away from it, but it will help you keep the focus that provides you a great benefit even from a very basic exercise like this.

full extension of the movement (or repetition)

Instructional pic #2-full extension of the movement (or repetition)

As you gain confidence and comfort with this movement, you can do several things for variety, including changing the speed, where you explode off the door frame instead of moving deliberately. You may get a better muscle pump due to the variation. Further, it can increase your ability to move explosively in real life situations, where you never really know what may be required.

Variety the Spice

You may also challenge yourself by doing push offs with one arm instead of two. Just adjust whatever slight amount needed to ensure balance as you perform the exercise; it’s a far easier change than trying to go from two-arm to one-arm with the standard push-up!

A less considered option that increases difficulty is standing on one leg to do them. Doing so causes some core tightening to maintain body stability, since you don’t have the benefit of planting two feet on the ground to stabilize yourself. Further, since you’re on just one leg, physics causes your upper body now to exert more force, since the other leg’s force is taken away from you.

any pushing exercise on one leg changes the dynamic

any pushing exercise on one leg changes the dynamic

I mentioned above that shortening the distance (placing your feet closer to the door frame) makes it easier, partly because you’re more upright the whole time and not contending with gravity as much as a result.

But if you want to make gravity more of a factor instead, you can maintain your regular, full distance with your feet and make your main focus be at the hardest part of the rep (upper body closer to the door frame, as in instructional pic #1, where gravity is strongest since you’re leaning forward more). You’re also in a naturally tougher spot from a leverage standpoint (it’s harder the furthest you are away from full arm extension, generally).

You ask “how do you focus on that portion of the exercise; don’t you have to do a full repetition (where you go from start to finish (arms extended)?” No, you don’t.

Partial Reps

You can do what’s known as “partials” (or zone training, or J-reps, depending on the degree of specifics and application). Focus totally in the first half of the range of motion (from start to middle, or the distance from instructional pic #1 to pic #3 (below), then dropping back to the starting position, then back to the middle position, etc, until you start to get fatigued.

middle portion of the movement

Instructional pic #3-middle portion of the movement, one which epitomizes a home exercise

You can then do the second half/extended arms portion for several partial repetitions to finish your set. This portion of the movement (pic #3 as starting point, pic #2 as end point) is normally much easier due to leverage and gravity factors. But since you have already fatigued some from battling the more challenging portion for several partial reps, this “easier” part now will actually become more challenging than normal.

I’ve detailed the push off done with a door frame, but the reality is you can easily adjust this for just about any surface, making the exercise more challenging the lower the surface you place your hands on.

Your Home Is Your Gym

My first client, who had experienced broken forearms in previous years, didn’t want to perform regular push-ups but needed to strengthen her upper body. So I had her use her fairly high kitchen counter top, using the same form essentially as I’ve described and photographed above. In time, she began doing these “pseudo one-armed” (more weight shifted to one side of her body, then the other), with one-armed being the next logical option.

You can also use a sturdy table, a chair, your bed, or anything else that has some stability for you. The possibilities are practically endless as to what home prop you can use to push off from.

any reasonably stable surface in your home will work for push-offs

any reasonably stable surface in your home will work for push-offs

The doorway is a great way to begin though, and it sets the stage for each level, eventually leading you back to the good ol’ push-up if you choose. Most importantly, it helps give you independence from gyms and total flexibility in your home workouts.

Bert

Less Workout Time, Greater Benefits

In addition to at home workouts simply saving time from preparing for and driving to and from the gym, you can further cut time in those exercise sessions done in your comfy confines.

It’s called supersetting, and it’s also a very sensible approach to training, because it helps ensure much better body balance, which not only looks good and provides greater functional fitness, but even more importantly acts to prevent injuries.

You do, however, need to be highly familiar with the home exercises you’ll be using, since you will be moving more rapidly and switching movements frequently. This will require concentration, familiarity, and decent cardio capabilities, especially the faster your pace.

The basic concept is to work a particular muscle group for a set, for instance, the chest press (eg, dumbbell bench press or pressing laying back on an exercise ball–more on chest exercises here). Since your chest needs a little time to rest in order to effectively handle another set, shift to the opposite side and work that, in this case your back.

First stage of push-pull superset

You can do dumbbell rows, for example, or use exercise bands, creating a pulling movement; the exact opposite from the pushing done with the chest exercise.

After doing one “round,” (a set of chest followed by a set for the back), do a second and then a third round of this same combo before going to two totally different body parts.

Another superset example would be doing an exercise that works predominantly your quadriceps (front muscles of your upper legs) followed by a hamstring exercise for the back of your upper legs.

great exercise for your lower backside, an area often neglected

great exercise for your lower backside (hamstrings and glutes), an area often neglected

For the front, you can do squats, either bodyweight or holding dumbbells (or even adding a weight belt if desired). These do hit the back of the leg some, but still work the quads more. Follow that up with doing something like a glute-hip raise (see pic immediately above), as the movement has various names), where you start off lying on the floor, elevate your feet on something like a bench or exercise ball, and then raise your hips off the ground by utilizing those hamstrings.

After doing one round of squats followed by glute-hip raises, you should then be ready to do another set of squats, followed by the glute-hip, etc, for a total of three rounds.

This front-back concept also would apply for the arms, where you can do a set of dumbbell curls, followed by tricep extensions or kickbacks.

front-back concept diagram for biceps and triceps

front-back concept diagram for biceps and triceps

Another superset can be shoulder presses matched up with pull ups or a lat pulldown (if you have a home machine; if not, you can use exercise bands for the same effect).

Yet one more superset would include your all-important core, where you’d do a set of crunches followed by a set of hyperextensions (note pic below). I’ve found personally the most readily available way to do this is with the ever portable exercise ball.

Here’s an example superset workout for the whole body, albeit a fairly abbreviated one. Remember, in this article, we’re here to save time!

3 rounds of each superset

Superset #1:

Dumbbell bench press (or pushups) followed by dumbbell rows

Superset #2:

Shoulder press followed pull ups or lat pulldown with bands

Superset #3:

Bicep curl followed by tricep extension or kickback

Superset #4

Bodyweight squat (or holding dumbbells for added resistance) followed by Glute-hip raises.

Superset #5

Exercise ball crunches followed by Hyperextensions

excellent instruction on hyperextensions

excellent instruction on hyperextensions

*If you have done three rounds of each of these supersets with minimal rest between rounds and supersets, you should be reasonably tired. However, if you still have something left in the tank and feel the desire, re-do Superset #4 (legs), since the first three supersets were upper body.

Hopefully, you’ll find this type of home workout both challenging and refreshing, especially considering the amount of physical activity and resulting health benefits you can achieve in a relatively short amount of time. Home exercises allow for many possible superset combos, so you can obviously modify based on what you have available or simply what you feel like performing at the moment.

I have plans for a new article soon that lists many at home exercises to choose from, virtually all of which can be used in some combo with another to create any number of possibilities for superset based home workouts.

Bert

What is Ageless Vigor?

This seems like an ideal topic for my first blog post. Some even think the term is too close to Viagra—though I suspect the ever-popular virility drug adopted its name in part from it.

The now departed but always great Jack LaLanne, the epitome of vigor at any age.

Vigor, however, to me means energy, vitality, and life. This is mostly in the physical realm as to my own path and calling; but it relates big time to an overall approach and attitude toward life itself.

For this blog and my training philosophy (see About page for more), it particularly means physical vitality, enjoyment and thriving via a wide range of at home exercises you can choose from. Your level of thriving and energy may be less than someone else, but that’s not the point. Where you are only matters in that your starting point may be a little different than another, but where you end up depends a lot more on what you desire from your inner self.

Your vigor, for instance, can be badly suffocated by fears, anger, worry, and great amounts of stress in general. But it will be boosted enormously by joy, abundant health, childlike curiosity, new learning, love and embracing others and life as a whole.

As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7). You must opt in your own heart to choose freedom and fitness. The temptation to fall in line with the majority these days is both strong and surrounds you. How many choose that easier path, flopping on the couch for endless hours, nary getting more exercise than walking to and from the car, into the office and back to the car and the like?

The fruits of fitness far exceed merely looking better for yourself and others—though that’s certainly one advantage that you can enjoy. More importantly, it provides you a platform from which to spring forth with more joy and ability to live more fully in so many ways. What a contrast to the continually increased disablement we see in so many around us, who become more obese, more dependent on others (doctors, friends, family) to do things for them or, at minimum, lacking the ability to do for those around them.

76510293fitnesscrop

“Ageless Vigor” simply means taking the reins at any age and moving toward greater independence and freedom, even if that’s just a small step or two initially. This blog will deal with both the idea of fitness freedom and how that is aided by freedom from the gym via home workouts. You’ll be armed with all the info you need to maximize your own vigor from the convenient confines of home.

Too, I focus a lot on safety within highly effective exercise. It’s hard for you to be full of vigor if you’re injured. The more sound your exercise form, the obviously greater the benefit and long term strength, stamina, and energy

One side note: Not long ago, I knew nothing about WordPress or writing/creating a blog. But since I knew it would be vital to the success of my training business, I ventured out—armed with just my simple knowledge of computers—and dove right in. I even sought the help of a friend who has a background in marketing; he’s volunteering some of his time to help guide me through the process.

So another word of inspiration to you: as you begin your own journey towards developing a healthy “ageless vigor”, you may have to become a student of health, nutrition, and physical fitness—and learn a few new things along the way. And I advise you to find a close friend or family member who shares your goals and work through the process together.

 “The journey of a thousand miles begins with taking the first step”. If this information has even mildly motivated you, I applaud you for taking a first step.

Here’s to your new Ageless Vigor!

Bert