Tag Archive | "how to"

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How to do Press Ups

The press up, also known as a push up for our American friends, is the “How To” of the day and is considered by many to be the best bodyweight exercises for building the chest muscles (pectoralis major). Press ups also target the front of the shoulders (anterior deltoids) and the back of the arms (triceps).

Press ups - full small

The press up is like a portable gym you take with you where ever you go, and a favourite amongst the home exerciser, circuit classes and outdoor training enthusiast.  






How To – (classic full press up) 

  1. Starting from a prone position (face down), arms extended and shoulder width apart
  2. Step back into a plank like position with the legs with the feet slightly apart whilst maintaining a strong core and don’t allow the lower back to dip.
  3. Breathe in and bend the elbow allowing the rib case to lower down to the floor.
  4. Breathe out and push back up to the start position to complete the movement.

As with the bench press covered in an earlier “How To” it is possible to focus different parts of the chest muscle. Try

  • Elevating the feet to have a deeper focus on the upper portion  of the chest i.e. feet on a bench
  • Elevating the chest by placing the hands on a bench to further target the lower chest

Copy of Press ups - elevated









Troubleshooting the press up

The full press may not be for you so taking it down a level to a box press up will hopefully progress you towards hitting a perfect ten full ones. The box variation takes away some of your bodyweight from the equation.

Press ups - hands and knees

How to Box – using the full press to how to above replace step 2 with the below

  • Rest your knees on a mat and adjust your arm distance to suit your ability the closer your arms to your legs the easier the exercise will be thus meaning the further your arms are the harder it will be.  




Other variations

Press ups - clap

  • Go plyometric and add a clap, the makes the press more explosive. Warning this is a tough one
  • Staggered press up – using either a full or box press up position place one hand in line with your chest and the other in the normal hand position and repeat on the other side.




As always try to use mirrors when possible and seek local advice from a trainer if you feel you need a little more guidance.



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How to do the Plank

The plank is a deceptively effective (hard!) core exercise that affects the whole of the mid-section with emphasise on the rectus abdominus which runs vertically from sternum to pubic bone and the transverse abdominus which encircles our internal organs and is our natural weight lifting belt. The plank is an isometric exercise – meaning no movement occurs – and teaches the core muscles to “lock” the spine in position.

The plank exercise can be regressed or progressed to suit the needs of the individual. Regardless of the variant used, it is essential to make sure that the lower back never sags or arches but stays in the neutral position and that breathing is maintained throughout the performance of the exercise so no holding your breath!

Plank variations in order of difficulty

On knees and elbows
On feet and elbows (pictured)
On feet and hands (like the staring position of a press up)
On feet and one hand
On one foot and both hands
On opposite foot and hand
On hands and feet with feet resting on Swiss ball
On feet with elbows resting on Swiss ball

Copy of Plank


Once you are able to hold your desired plank variation for 30-45 seconds, try to move down the list to challenge your core muscles further but make sure that you only progress using good form to avoid the risk of injury.




Andreas Michael


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How to do Bent Over Rows

In today “How to” we take a look at the barbell bent over row. In the past, bent over rows have been criticized for being a risky exercise that may lead to a lower back injury. This may be true if you perform it with poor form or too much weight but we think this exercise offers plenty of “bang for your buck” and, when performed correctly, is safe and effective.

This superior upper body pulling  exercise targets your entire upper back including your latissimus dorsi, trapezius, posterior deltoids and some of the smaller muscles including teres minor/major, rhomboids and the even the biceps have to pull their weight!

Pulling exercises are often neglected by unknowing gym users in favour of more glamorous exercise such as the bench press. A lack of pulling exercises in your programme could result in an unbalanced physique and even shoulder or back problems.

Some of the main benefits that come from performing pulling exercises like the barbell rows are:

  • Strength gains across other exercises
  • Improved posture
  • Promotes muscle balance within a training programmes

How To 

  • Stand with your feet hip width and grasp the barbell with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Lean forward at the hips to at least 45 degrees and lower the bar to knee level or lower (be careful not to bend from the lower back instead of your waist)
  • Breath in and pull the bar into your chest while maintaining a strong core
  • Return to the start position and breath out
  • Make sure you maintain a neutral arch in your lower back at all times!









Varying hand grips using either underhand and overhand and changing hand width can allow you to hit the muscles in a number of different angles.  Just some of the variations of pulling based exercises include:

  • Seated rows – great form of a pulling exercises using a cable based machine (using different bar attachments can allow different target angles).
  • Lat pulldowns (wide and close grip)
  • Chins, pull ups
  • One arm rows using a bench
  • T-bar rows

As always try to use mirrors when possible and seek advice from a trainer if you feel you need a little more guidance.


Andreas Michael


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How to do Body Rows

If you rely of bodyweight exercises for your training programme, chances are you have no problem working all the muscles on the front of your body by performing squats and press ups. The lower back is easy enough to work by doing back extensions and there are literally hundreds of abdominal exercises available. Even working the lat muscles on the sides of the upper back is simply a matter of doing some pull ups or chin ups. The hardest muscles to work when performing bodyweight exercises is, ironically, one of the most important – the middle trapezius and rhomboid muscles that make up the mid back region directly between the shoulder blades.

Why is this region so important? Good question! These muscles are vital for maintaining good posture as they keep our shoulder girdles back in a retracted position and give our arms a stable base from which force is generated by our arms. Think about it, if your shoulder girdle is unable to support the efforts of our arms, the loads we can utilise in exercises such as bicep curls and tricep push downs will be severely compromised!

Because of the nature of modern living – working at computers, driving cars, slouching in front of the TV, the muscles of the mid back often become stretched and weak resulting in poor posture. If, when standing sideways on to a mirror, you can see any of your upper back, chances are you are “protracted” and you could do with strengthening these muscles. Rounding of the upper back can, if not addressed, become habitual so it’s well worth spending some time working on these often overlooked muscles.

The body row (sometimes called reverse press ups, “Australians” and horizontal pull ups) are very simple to perform and can be made as easy or as difficult as necessary, depending on the fitness level of the individual. The important thing to remember is that, regardless of the version used, the wrists stay straight, the arm position is wide, the chest is pulled into the bar and the spine stays fixed in the neutral position with the core muscles braced

To keep the muscles of the upper body balanced, alternate 1 set of press ups with 1 set of body rows and you’re well on your way to getting good posture and better function.

Picture 1 easy – feet on floor, bar position high
Body row 2









Picture 2 advanced – feet elevated higher, bar position lower still
Body row 4









Picture 3 variation using ringsBody row 9

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How to Bench Press

bench_press 2Today’s “How to” is all about the Bench press.  The bench press is an upper body compound exercise targeting the chest (pectoralis major), front of the shoulders (anterior deltoids) and the back of the arms (Triceps). This classic lift is one of the big three lift used in powerlifting along with the squat and deadlift and is commonly used in bodybuilding. Oh and every Monday in your local gym!

The bench press offers a number of different variations to target different areas of the chest muscle.   It is common for bodybuilders in the throes on a hypertrophy training programme to perform a two or three variation of bench press or chest pressing type exercises.


  • Flat bench position – targets the middle portion of the pectoralis major muscle.
  • Incline bench position – targets the upper portion of the pectoralis major muscle and has an increased emphasises on the anterior deltoids.
  • Decline position – targets the lower portion of the pectoralis major muscle.

Other variations include:

  • Using Dumbbells which can be used with either a flat, inclined or declined bench
  • Close-grip bench press
  • Single arm dumbbell
  • Stability ball bench presses
  • Floor presses
  • Machine bench presses
  • Powerlifting style (elbows tucked in, lats flared, back strongly arched)

How To – (classic flat bench position) 

  • Using a bench lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground
  • Position your eyes directly below the bar so it will lift clear of the J hooks
  • With your back slightly arched grasp the barbell with an overhand grip wider than shoulder width apart
  • Breathe in and lower the bar down to chest
  • On the return extend the arms and breathe out
  • Maintain a steady tempo and do not bounce the bar off your chest

Ronald_BenchPay attention to your hand grip; always have a firm secure grip with the thumb opposite the fingers and never allow the fingers to point when you push the weight up on the return phase.  

If you are benching a heavy weight or working towards muscular failure, make sure you have a competent spotter on hand as when things go wrong with the bench press, serious injuries can be the result.


Andreas Michael


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