How To Do Better Push-Ups

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Mastering the push-up is easy when you say goodbye to these common technique issues.

In a previous article we learned that doing push-ups on your knees can be just as effective as doing them on your toes. Now, we’re going to address a few push-up technique issues that could be holding you back from realizing your push-up potential.

ISSUE #1: The Rocker A lot of kids learned to do push-ups on their knees with their feet up in the air and it carries over into adulthood. It’s probably taught this way because the lower leg is thought to act as a counter-balance to the upper body (think of a see-saw!) and it makes the push-up a little bit easier. But there are two big reasons why you should lose this habit immediately:
  • – The distribution of mass in our bodies is such that the mass of the lower leg is tiny compared to the mass of the upper body. Imagine an adult on a see-saw with a child: it’s not going anywhere! In exchange for the small gain of the counterbalance effect, you’re essentially grinding your knees into the floor. The rocking effect requires the knee joint to act as a fulcrum on the floor. The patella, or knee cap, is floating in front of the joint and, as we rock on the knee, it gets mashed around, causing discomfort and possibly pain. 
  • – Having your knees as the only two points of contact on the floor can make you unstable. If you’re working to try to get stronger in the push-up, this instability can take your focus away from the pushing motion, instead you are simply concentrating on not falling over. When this happens you’re no longer isolating the push muscles and it makes it that much harder to get stronger.
Here’s the solution: Rather than keeping your feet dangling up in the air, place your toes solidly on the floor. With your toes on the floor, you’ll find that the tibial tuberosity (the head of the bone in your lower leg) actually makes contact with the floor rather than the patella. And the four points of contact (knees and toes) will make your body more stable so you can focus on isolating the arms and chest.

ISSUE #2: The T When most people think of a push-up position, they think of the capital letter T – the arms are out wide and even with the shoulders.

In this position, the motion is outside of the line of action of the pectoral muscles, so the anterior deltoid and muscles of the shoulder become the primary movers. Since the shoulder muscles are relatively weaker when compared to the pectorals, the force generated is less. So if you choose to do push-ups in the T position, you may find that you struggle to do push-ups on your toes, or simply tire sooner.

Instead of thinking of a T, it’s a good idea to replicate a position that’s closer to an arrow shape.

When your arms are in this position the hands are in line with the center of the chest and the motion is within the line of action of the pectorals. This allows the bigger chest muscles to take over and the shoulder muscles are used for stabilization. When the larger chest muscles are recruited, it becomes easier to do the push-up on your toes and it takes longer to fatigue.

ISSUE #3: The Eccentric If you’re still struggling to do push-ups on your toes, give this one last thing a try. Start in a plank position with your knees off the floor and lower yourself down into the push-up. At the bottom, drop your knees to the floor and push yourself back up until your arms are extended. Lift your knees and repeat. Why does this work? It’s taking advantage of a well-known training principle: your muscles are stronger while they are extending (eccentric) than they are while they’re contracting (concentric). On the gym floor, training the eccentric phase of a movement is called “negative” training and is commonly used to build strength once you’ve hit a plateau using traditional techniques. Follow this approach and over time you’ll find that you’ll get stronger and develop confidence in your ability to do the push-up. After a while, you’ll be able to mix in a few full on-the-toe push-ups.

If you’re really keen to master the toe push-up give this 16-day push-up challenge a go.

-Alex Hernandez
Alex Hernandez is a North Carolina-based BODYPUMP and LES MILLS GRIT trainer who also teaches BODYCOMBAT, BODYJAM, and BODYBALANCE. He is a proponent of purposeful training to improve movement and performance, embraces the idea of the unsteady state, and as a master trainer for Trigger Point Performance, he regularly shares his expertise in self myofascial recovery. He is also a mechanical engineer.

This piece originally appeared on

In Defense of Upright Rows

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It’s been tarnished as a shoulder wrecker and called out as the one move that will destroy your shoulders. Not true. Those who bad-mouth the upright row should simply consider other technique options.

With so much criticism around upright rows, it’s little surprise many believe should be scratched from your workout regime. After all, there are other ways to strengthen your traps and deltoids, right? Think again. Rather than ditch them, upright rows are one move you really want to master. This is because the upright row movement is a key element of the clean and press – so you can’t get all the functional strength benefits from a safe and effective clean and press without mastering the upright row.

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The Heart Rate Tracking Mistakes To Avoid

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Using a tracker to monitor your body’s response to group exercise can be insightful and motivational too. Les Mills Trainer Jim Berg explains how to track your heart rate for best effect.

If you choose the right group fitness workout there’s no real need to track your heart rate – the workout will be scientifically shaped and tested to push your body into the right heart rate zones at the right times. But heart rate tracking can still be very valuable. Les Mills Trainer Jim Berg says that monitoring your heart rate is great for feedback, motivation and keeping check on your training load. So we asked him more about how to do it right.

Why should you start monitoring your heart rate during group fitness workouts?

By becoming familiar with your heart rate during a specific workout you’ll see from session to session if you are improving and pushing yourself as hard as you should. You’ll learn when you can push harder, and when you need to recover during the workout. You´ll also be able to detect early warning signs if something is wrong with your health or your stress-levels. 

With a heart rate monitor it’s easy to learn, grow, and improve your understanding about how your body responds to exercise. It is great for reflection and comparison, so that you can monitor fluctuations and establish norms. It is also particularly valuable if you’re a fan of high-intensity interval training, as recent research highlights the importance of avoiding too much time in the 90 percent-plus max zone.

So how can you adjust your workout if you’re doing a structured group fitness workout?

In a group fitness workout everyone is doing the same thing and truly experiencing the “group high”, but that still leaves a lot of room for personal variation. Les Mills Instructors will always provide options so you can always adjust the intensity by choosing easier or harder options depending on your training objective.

What are the common misconceptions about heart rate training?

The idea that more is better – that your heart rate should be high throughout a workout – is definitely one misconception. Another is the concept of using heart rate as a “high score” where the only goal is to achieve a specific heart rate and not consider the overall picture; what the heart tells you together with how you’re feeling and your knowledge about your own body. You should use your heart rate as just one tool to train smarter, and not aim to “hit the jackpot” based on heart rate alone.

What’s the one thing to know about heart rate monitoring that most people don’t?

Maximum heart rates vary a lot, so setting training zones based on values determined by the rule of thumb – 220 minus your age – won’t always deliver the opportunity for accurate monitoring. That the main factor for controlling and adjusting workout intensity should be based on your individual threshold and daily capacity, not maximum heart rate. If you’re really serious, having your individual threshold determined in a lab will allow you to accurately monitor which training zone you are in.

What is the biggest mistake you can make when interpreting heart rate data?

Thinking that “more time in red is always better”, and not comparing it to what you’ve done before. The best proof that you are fitter than before is when you are able to maintain a higher heart rate for longer than you used to, or when your heart rate is lower while running or cycling at the same speed or output. So you need to look back to look forward, and determine how you are tracking.  

So, heart rate monitoring is clearly valuable, but also part of a bigger picture

Yes, it´s a truly great way to improve your understanding of your personal physiological response to exercise over time. Even if you’re not a tech geek who gets obsessed with the training diagrams and charts that are available, it’s a great, simple way to capture more feedback than simply how your workout “felt”. 

-Emma Hogan for Fit Planet

This piece originally appeared on

What is HIIT?

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High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is an effective way to burn fat and calories in a short period of time.  HIIT training involves periods of high intensity exercise followed by periods of rest to allow the body to recover enough to begin the next high intensity interval.  To be most effective, periods of exercise should be challenging and periods of rest only long enough to allow the body to recover to complete the next set.  Most interval training sessions last between 10 and 60 minutes. 

Now that we know what HIIT is, let’s talk about why it is so effective.  The intense exercise portion of interval training pushes the body to its peak for a period of time.  This is maximizing caloric burn.  You would not be able to maintain this intensity for longer than a few minutes (at most), so the short rest intervals allow the body to work at an intense interval for longer periods of total time than one would be able to complete in one long steady state session.  For example, let’s say you burn 15 calories per minute on the rower doing your high intensity intervals for 10 intervals.  That’s 150 calories (15 x 10=150).  If you were to go all-out on the rower for 10 minutes straight, the first minute you’d burn 15 calories, but after that (without rest) your body will fatigue and you will burn fewer calories each minute. 

HIIT has also been show to increase excess post exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).  EPOC is the additional calories that you burn after your workout is over.  Have you ever finished a really intense exercise session and noticed that 5-10 minutes later you are still sweating? Or your heart rate is still elevated?  This is EPOC at work.  What make EPOC so cool is that you are burning calories WITHOUT even working out!  HIIT has been shown to increase this EPOC to higher levels than traditional steady state cardio.  Who doesn’t want to burn more calories without needing to do more working out?

Still not sure how to incorporate HIIT into your exercise program?  Check out Burn Zone and find out how easy it is to get HIIT!

Every BODY Is A Beach BODY

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Do you remember this fitness ad that made headlines a few years ago?
“Are You Beach Body Ready?”… What does that even mean? As far as we are concerned, if you have a swimsuit on… and you are at the beach (or the pool, or the lake)… YOU HAVE A BEACH BODY.

These types of ads have been fairly common in the fitness industry. They usually start popping up around spring break. Great looking people in swimsuits promoting the latest in weight loss supplements and gym memberships. Hopefully some people look at these ads and feel motivated. Looking at someone else and setting a positive realistic goal for yourself CAN be really good.

For other people though, these types of messages (which are everywhere now, not just on fitness billboards) serve as a detractor from their own personal body image. Looking at someone else and setting unrealistic expectations for yourself CAN be really unhealthy. You are reminded of what you don’t have, what you don’t look like, and you feel less because of it. 

Regardless of what any advertisement, music video, magazine cover, or instagram (this is 2018, definitely had to include that one) might be telling you, our hope is that you realize that who you are is already GREAT. You might not be at your goal weight. You might not have a six pack. And that is OKAY. Don’t let that stop you from having fun this summer. Put on that swimsuit. Go to the pool (or the beach #blessed). Enjoy and embrace who you are TODAY!

Then come see us in the gym and work hard to be an even better version of yourself TOMORROW!

Throughout the month of July, we are going to be sharing several different tips and workouts from a variety of people including other members, group exercise instructors, and personal trainers, that will help you tone and strengthen your core. Again, we are not saying you have to have a flat stomach or washboard abs to wear a swimsuit, but maybe that is one your goals this summer. Maybe we can help get you there. We are a gym. Chances are if you are reading this, you are a member of our gym. You have fitness goals and aspirations. We aren’t here to tell you what those should be, we are just trying to help you achieve them.

Never forget that fitness is for every BODY.

BONUS: Have a favorite core or ab move you’re using this summer? Show us on Instagram with the hashtag #SummerClub for a chance to featured on our social media!