In the second part of our series on ‘Movement that Matters’, we’re going to look at the pushing movement.

Now, people who have used the gym a lot in the past might be a little bit confused as to why we’re talking about pushing rather than the specific muscles of the body. This is one of the key differences between a functional approach to training and a more isolated or bodybuilding type of approach.

The vast majority of people don’t actually need to isolate one muscle; in fact, it’s actually a bit of a waste of time. It’s much more useful and provides a greater benefit to the body as a whole to work on combined movements as opposed to isolated specific muscle groups.

The pushing movement will obviously include the muscles of the chest, the muscles of the shoulders, and the triceps. You are hitting all of the key muscle groups that you would do in a more isolated bodybuilding approach, but actually, you can do it all in one go, which not only saves you time whilst you’re training, but is also much more applicable to how you live your life on a day-to-day basis. So we don’t look at talking about ‘I’m going to train my chest today’ or ‘I’m going to train my shoulders or my back today’, what we do is we look at isolating the movements that we want to change.

There are many ways you can build these in together and you can actually combine the movement patterns, which gives you a much bigger ‘bang exercise’, and gets you more variations of workouts at the time that you’re in the gym.

Types of Pushing Movements

The most obvious of the pushing movement is a simple press-up. You’re pushing your body away from the ground. When we’re looking at pushing movements, we are also talking about whether we’re pushing our body towards or away from something, or whether we’re actually pushing something away from us. That equates to what we call an open or closed chain movement. To be quite honest, it’s not hugely important to understand the difference between the two, but it’s just good to have a variety. So rather than always training with a press-up, or always training on something where you push yourself away from a fixed surface, it’s very good to change things up and have a mixture within your training programme.

Programme types of pushing exercises you can do are really, really wide and varied. This is the point where actually you’re only really limited by the equipment you’ve got or your own imagination. The reason I like the pushing exercise, and actually why I’ve chosen to do this one before the pulling exercises, is that there are many, many more pushing exercises available to you if you’re not using a gym.

You can do a press-up on the floor or against a wall to make it much easier if you’re just starting out. You can do a press-up with your feet lifted up in the air. You can do a press-up where you’ve got your hands on a ball or an unstable object. You can do your press-up where you’ve got your hands on another person if you’re into some sort of acrobatic moves. You can do your press-up stood in a handstand position. There are so, so many variations, way more than I can list in this blog here. It really is a question of using your imagination, getting a bit creative and coming up with some ideas.

We have things called the TRX System, which are quite good to help you mix things up. They are really, really important in the pulling sort of aspects of the movement patterns.

So, there are lots of different things out there. The key is to make sure that you’re using all the muscle groups and also that you’re pushing your arms away from your body in a multitude of angles. We’ve really got to get away from the restricted, strict, bodybuilding movements where we think that a press of any form has to be done in a specific way to a specific angle to hit a certain part of the muscle. We simply don’t live our lives like that, so it’s really important that the pushing movement hits every part of the muscle and does it in a wide and varied manner.

Using Gym Equipment

If you do use the gym, and you have access to all the equipment in the gym, then that obviously opens up a much greater variety of pushing movements you can do. Any of your standard chest presses, incline presses, shoulder presses, with dumbbells or with a barbell etc would all count. Unless you’re training for anything super specific, my advice is to keep it varied, hit all the different parts of the muscle groups, work your different angles out, pushing out at different angles, making it look as crazy as you like. You’ll certainly get a lot of people coming to talk to you if you’re doing something as different as that.

We can talk about the reps and sets, the tempo, muscle response each exercise will give you, and once you know all of that, use your creativity and go and have fun. At the end of the day, this is a hobby and it is there to have fun.

In the next part of the series, we’ll move on to one of the other movement patterns, lunging.