I love push-ups. Dropping and doing 20 makes me feel strong and tough. But as Lauren my Equinox trainer reminded me, it's important to offset all the pushing with some pulling. Although the glorious push-up feels like a full body exercise (it certainly works your core), it primarily works your chest and arms. When the pecs get too tight, they pull your shoulders forward, which is not only unattractive but puts the shoulder joint in a compromised position and can lead to injury. Ouch. To maintain balance in your upper body, be sure to mix it up. Here are a few push-to-pull workout combinations to add to your fitness life:
- Push-ups followed with sprints on a rowing machine. Be sure to read up on proper rowing technique if you're unfamiliar with the machine.
- Chest press with bent over rows, or go more full body with a tipping row to challenge your balance and work your lower body too.
- The versatility of the cable pulley machine means you can combine pushing and pulling into one fluid move. Start facing the machine, and begin with a standing row. When you have pulled your hand to your chest, rotate away from the machine and push your arm out. It feels a bit like you're drawing a sword (pull) and then thrusting it out (push).
In my experience the muscles on the front of the body, the ones that pull you into the fetal position, are much stronger than the muscles on your back. Be sure to work that pulling motion to strengthen your upper back, especially the rhomboids. Remember, if it's an exercise you tend to avoid, it's probably one your body needs the most.