“My dad had a fall the other day. He was walking down the street and suddenly felt weak. His legs failed underneath him and he found himself on the ground. It was really scary.” This was a story one of our TruFit clients was telling me the other day. Luckily he did not hurt himself badly and he’s getting checked out by doctors. Being a super amazing daughter, our client accompanied him and her mom to her father’s rehab doctor appointment. “Doctor," she said, "do you have any suggestions for my parents about how to get back up from the ground if they fall?”
One of the biggest fears of people who have a lot of life experience is that of falling. When we were young we were always on the ground! Obviously we were much shorter and the ground wasn’t that far away. Still, as we age and spend most of our time in a chair, car seat, couch or laying in a bed, there is suddenly no reason for us to get all the way down to the ground.
Most of the clients at TruFit Evanston are over the age of 50. To be incredibly clear: 50 is by far not what we consider “old” but it does seems to be that number when goals go from, “I want to train to lose weight and look better,” to, “I want to make sure I can play with my grandkids, travel, not be in pain and not need a hip replacement”.
There’s this notion that aging equals more aches, pains and falls; more things “breaking down”; brittle bones and loss of balance. Fears begin to develop: Of falling, tripping, lifting things the wrong way. That fear can keep us from moving and training for life and then we create stories about how weak we feel and we believe the stories. We might have seen our parents and grandparents age this way and accept that this is our future, too. It doesn't have to be that way.
Wear and tear happens. Falls happen. The worst thing we can do is stop moving for fear of moving WRONG and not getting up when we fall.
I asked our awesome trainers at TruFit what the most important ingredients to training are to thrive over 50 and here’s what we came up with:
Getting to be friends with the floor
At TruFit, you're likely to see most people crawling, rocking and rolling around on the floor; lunging using the TRX suspension equipment or the aid of a bench to hold onto. Evanston is filled with a very active population that loves adventure and each one of us programs exercises to help our clients feel more fearless.
The following exercises will help get you feeling strong and confident to go down to the ground and back up. It might be easy for some and challenging for others.
No matter where you are on the continuum, it is ALWAYS a good idea to just move.
The more you move the more confidence you cultivate. The more confidence you gain, the more confident your gait. The better your movement, the more easily you will get back up after falling down.
Each of these exercises combines at least two of the aforementioned ingredients: balance, strength, mobility and getting friendly with the floor.
This exercise -- which can be done any number of ways -- looks simple but the benefits you can reap are plentiful. Whenever you cross one part of your body past the mid-line of your body, both hemispheres of your brain get to work together. Since we live mainly in a back and forth world, imagine how much your brain lights up with new patterns! Thanks, neuroplasticity!
Why we do this:
If you are someone who struggles with balance or if your nervous system is compromised for any reason, this exercise can do wonders. Anecdotally, people who live with Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis or have suffered from a stroke have felt improvement with walking, for example. We do this to strengthen the way our brains and body communicate and if you want to build up to better movement, start here.
How to do this:
Start wherever you can -- in bed, in a chair, standing, wherever -- and touch your hand to your opposite leg or knee (or foot or shin!). Alternate sides and do this 10-15 times on each side!
As babies, we rocked as a precursor to crawling, which helped us develop our gait pattern (the way we walk)! Rocking also helped our spines develop their S curve! AND: Rocking gets our shoulders and hip work and move together. Rocking is, essentially, the best.
Why we do this:
Beyond the above, rocking also provides us with nice, gentle strength training. It works core stability, lats, triceps; it mimics doing a deep squat while putting your body in a position your nervous system translates as safe. It's also incredibly soothing. For those with arthritis in their knees, it can be really good to gently move the knee joint into deeper flexion, too, as long as you're not going into pain!
How to do this:
Get onto your hands and knees, with hands right under shoulders and knees right under hips. You can do this on the floor if you're comfortable or on your bed. Keeping your eyes looking forward, shift your weight back towards your heels keeping your spine as neutral and quiet as possible. Rock back and forth (or even side to side or circularly!) and breathe!
If you can't get on all fours, try out the rockback the way Nicole demonstrates it in the video, with hands up on a chair and knees off the ground.
Babies learn to crawl before they walk because it helped them establish their gait pattern (the way they walk). Now, we underestimate the great feats of strength babies do all the time. Their heads are 1/4 their size and up to 33% of their body weight! And they CRAWL with that huge head!
Why we do this:
Rocking is strength training so it's no surprise crawling is, too. It can even be gentle cardio! Also, should you find yourself on the ground from a fall, knowing how to crawl to an object that will help you pull yourself up is paramount.
How to do this:
Get onto your hands and knees, with hands right under shoulders and knees right under hips. Point your feet so the tops of your feet are on the ground; you'll be dragging them behind you. Now, take a step forward with your arm and opposite leg; try to pick them up and put them down at the same time. Then switch sides. Keep crawling forwards as long as you'd like and then try going backwards! Things to remember: Look straight ahead and breathe! It's surprising how easy it is to hold your breath on this one.
Assisted Reverse Lunges:
When we talk about getting up and down from the ground, the lunge tends to be the most efficient way to do this with control.
Why we do this:
Not only is the lunge a really great strengthener for the thighs and glutes but it also lets you practice your balance. And for those with bad backs, the lunge allows you to get down to the ground and back up without bending forward into flexion.
How we do this:
If you're new to lunges, start doing these using a sturdy chair or back of a couch and work up to getting your back knee to the floor. You can also use a small pillow to place your knee as you lunge down. We like this method because it just makes you pick up your feet higher which, side note, is critical to avoid tripping and falling.
Step back with your leg and actively pull yourself down toward the ground. Then, push through your whole front foot and your back toes to step back up to a standing position.
The more you practice this exercise, the less assistance you may need to get back up.
Get Down, Get Up!
Here's where we practice getting down to the floor and standing back up! The best part: There is no "right" or "wrong" way to do this.
Why we do this:
Here we get to combine all of the important ingredients to training over 50: Balance, strength, mobility and being friends with the floor. Kids have so much fun rolling around on the ground; maybe we can remember how fun it is to move! More importantly, the longer we perceive the ground as a threat, the more fear our bodies will carry. When our nervous system feels fear, it will move differently and this can do more bad than good.
How we do this:
As we mentioned, there is not really a bad or wrong way to do this exercise. Just experiment! What are the myriad ways we can get up and down? Coach Nicole does have some tips to share:
1. When initially getting up, rotate to your side. We think we need to get up by flexing our torsos forward when that might not be the best idea for our backs. So have fun with a little rotation!
2. Play around with how to make this more challenging: Don't use your hands; do this with one hand in your back pocket or holding your knee.
3. Have fun!
Practice some or all of these every day and watch your movement quality get and feel better and better.
This was just a tiny introduction to some of the ways we get y'all strong. It's not your typical "squat and bench press" recipe (although we do a lot of those, too). But we're not your typical gym, either ;)
If you and/or a loved one have any questions or comments about the above, please leave them in the comments section below. And if you'd prefer to speak to any of us at TruFit, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org, click here or call 312-497-8999.
So you’ve joined a gym, become a member at a studio, hired a personal trainer (woohoo), or started training for your first 5k! You’ve got goals and you’ll exercise your way to reaching them!
Except that, after initially seeing some results, you’ve now hit a plateau of some sort. Maybe you lost some weight, stopped feeling as winded going up stairs, or cranked out your first proper pushup! But suddenly your progress (and the celebration) stalled.
Some TruFit Evanston personal trainers weigh in...
You’re working out harder than you have in a long time, and you are feeling great... and more peckish than usual. That’s normal. The more calories you expend the more your system is going to alert you that you feel hungry. The body does NOT like change and it will have no qualms telling you you’re messing up its equilibrium.
If your goal is weight loss, this more frequent desire for food can be tricky. Hunger means it’s time to eat, right? Well, yes, but trying to lose weight also means having to take in less calories, since exercise alone won't necessarily do it. This means hunger will need to be a more frequent sensation as your body adapts to less food and more movement.
“We can fall into the trap of thinking, ‘Well, I worked out today so these Oreos aren’t going to do much,’” says coach Izzy. “Remember: Weight loss will only happen with a calorie deficit, so your body won’t care if you’re eating only Oreos or an equal caloric amount of apples. The ‘I can burn this off with exercise’ game will end with you losing the game, not losing the weight.”
The fix: Be aware and honest about what you’re taking in. Exercise to build lean muscles and to move and feel better; eat properly to lose the body fat and excess weight.
When one person makes the awesome decision to live a healthier lifestyle, it can be challenging for those around that person to offer support. “I have one client whose family makes fun of how clean she now eats and actively tries to sabotage her diet,” says coach Sarah Laspas. Whether your friends and family are shaming your new habits and behavior, or simply do not want to participate or offer encouragement, the lack of support is just another barrier you have to overcome.
The fix: Having honest and open conversations with those around you about your new lifestyle is crucial. By communicating what your goals are, why you're making these choices, and how important this is to you, it might help bridge the understanding gap. Also, letting them know how they can help, even in small ways (e.g. "Please do not offer me any Oreos for dessert"), might be eye-opening for them. You’re not asking them to adopt your new habits; you’re asking them to respect your needs and wishes. And if they can’t do it, it might be time to evaluate some things (like whether joining this person for dinner next week will feel helpful or harmful).
Alternatively: “Be up front by telling them whatever food they (the unsupportive person or persons) are pushing on you just doesn’t make you feel good,” offers Sarah. “Whenever anyone gives me a hard time for ordering a salad or whatever when we’re out to eat--and won’t give it a rest--I just say that my body craves XYZ now, and when I don’t eat enough of it, I get constipated. It's likely the truth anyway, and it usually ends the annoying encounter immediately, because people hate talking about poop. 😝”
In the meantime, you can find support in a number of ways! Gyms and studios, like TruFit, have been focusing more and more on community-building because one of the cornerstones for success is surrounding yourself with people who have shared values. There are also countless groups on Facebook, Weight Watchers, and the like who offer support among members. You could also check out cooking classes, meetups, or special events where you might connect with people who share your goals and interests.
A lot of people talk about nutrition needs when trying to lose weight, but it’s not so common to talk about how difficult it can be to build bulk in the form of muscle.
Protein helps build bigger muscles and, in order to do that, the commonly-accepted calculation for how much protein you need is 1g of protein per pound of your body weight. Says trainer Marco Gonzalez, “Usually clients expect to bulk only with muscle, and get frustrated if they are gaining some fat too. But that is normal.”
The fix: Marco explains, “Finding the right macro ratios is the key to minimizing the amount of fat they can also gain.” This means finding out how many calories you should eat per day, and how much within that number should be allotted to protein, to fat, and to carbohydrates. Apps like MyFitnessPal, MyPlate, and Fitocracy Macros can help.
If you’re more of a beginner, or tracking calories and macros isn’t your thing, keep this in mind: The cleaner you eat, the leaner you’ll be. Yep, it’s kind of that simple. That being said, you can use a cheat sheet like this to see roughly how much you should be eating, and of what. (Seriously; this infographic is the absolute best at straightforwardly showing you what to do and correctly managing expectations.)
“The mentality of being on a vacation or work trip is that all ‘rules’ are out,” says trainer Mary Cox. So that means exercise goes out the door while lots of calorie-dense meals and drinks go in. If going out of town is a rarity, or if the trip is a once-in-a-lifetime event, thoroughly enjoying the culture of food and beverages at your destination is part of enjoying the trip, and as long as you come home and return to your regular habits, no major "damage" will have been done.
BUT, if travel is something that happens more than a handful of times per year, all of the above can easily accumulate into a few extra pounds of body fat per year. This can be why some of us are flabbergasted when we “suddenly” weigh 10 more pounds than we did five years ago: It creeps up over time, from treating out-of-town occasions like they’re the last time we’ll ever be able to eat and drink again.
The fix: “What if the ‘rules’ aren’t rules, but a way of life because you get to feel good doing it?” asks Mary. “What if you could enjoy the meals out AND ate less than the whole plate? What if you woke up a little earlier to get your exercise in because it’s just part of who you are or strive to be?”
Living a healthy lifestyle and reaching for those fitness goals we set for ourselves can be hard work. At the end of the day, though, that lifestyle should be led in a way that YOU identify with and enjoy. Setting that lifestyle up can take some honest conversations with yourself, with your family and loved ones, and, if you have one, with your personal trainer and fitness coach.
If you need a little bit of help along the way, please feel free to reach out to us and we can help you find the right trainer and coach to get you past that plateau!
Have you overcome some plateaus yourself? Tell us how in the comments below!
Friends! 2019 is SO close! While this is a time of reflection for a lot of people, to create goals and resolutions for the new year, my hope to y'all is that just as much time -- if not more -- is spent really celebrating the accomplishments and wins you accumulated in 2018. It's so easy to reflect on what we DIDN'T do or accomplish. But imagine what might happen if we start to add up all of the positive things that DID happen!
On that note, please let me indulge in some of TruFit's biggest highlights of 2018!
Let's take a moment to look at some of our favorite white boards of 2018, shall we?
I'll start back in 2012 when IzzyFit started training at the TruFit, back when the super-wonderful Meg Buckland owned the gym. What I loved the most about the space was how down-to-earth and friendly people were, from the trainers to clients, from our cleaning maestro Arturo to our towel dude Mike. It really did always feel like Cheers, where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came. But instead of beer we serve squats!
When I took over in December of 2016, my biggest concern was that this really special feeling might go away. 2016 saw a handful of trainers move on and, with them, some of their clients. We’ve had a lot of new awesome trainers start these last two years and with them, new clients! And through it all, especially as I write this, the biggest highlight for me looking back over these last twelve months has been this community we’ve been able to cultivate at the gym: Where everybody knows your name (for the most part, we really try!…), and we’re always glad you came. Where we ask each other how our kids, partners, pets and parents are and really do care about the answer. Some of our parents are even CLIENTS this gym!
I am grateful every single day for the TruFit trainers and all of the clients that walk through the door.
BUT THERE'S MORE! Here are other super awesome highlights from this past year:
We hosted three drives this year:
A clothing drive benefitting ESCCA, the YWCA and Family Focus!
A diaper drive benefitting the Bundled Blessings Diaper Pantry!
A sneaker drive for Reuse-a-Shoe!
We hosted a women’s self defense workshop for the YWCA! Thanks, IMPACT and our awesome instructors Michelle and Aaron!
We threw (and Symphony taught!) a dance party at Evanston SPACE to raise money for Evanston Scholars!
Marco hosted a boot camp and taco party (!!!) to raise money for St. Mary's Services!
We held a pushup challenge throughout October to benefit the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force!
In all, we raised $3336 and volunteered 75 hours. And while I know some believe it's tacky to talk about money raised and hours spent volunteering, I do this to demonstrate the power of community and that small steps taken collectively can make big changes. Health and strength have a greater purpose. Thank you to everyone who participated, planned and got their friends involved!
TruFit got to host a continuing education workshop for trainers and non-trainers alike with Original Strength. It was a HUGE honor for me to be Dani's assistant and a thrill to have 18 other people in the room who wanted to learn new ways to move and feel better. Fingers crossed that we host another workshop in 2019! Stay tuned :)
We trainers met quarterly this year so we could all get on the same page about TruFit opportunities and issues and take time to learn from each other. Even though I know no one likes meetings (grumble grumble), I’m adding them to MY list of highlights because, it’s only thanks to the trainers’ dedication and commitment to their own businesses and the space they train in that we can better serve our clients. Plus, it was fun having a winter and summer party and seeing each other outside the gym.
A LOT of TruFit babies we born this year! Trainer Frank and wife Rebel welcomed baby Kace. Client Maria and husband JC welcomed baby Matias. And client Mollie and husband Ricky welcomed baby Alex (our own Norm!) who often works out with mom!
Needless to say, there was a lot to celebrate in 2018 and you can trust that we'll work hard to create moments to cheer for in 2019. We hope you will be right along side us.
Cheers to a health-filled 2019!
It’s holiday gift-giving time again and, whether you’re looking for a holiday gift for the fitness lover in your life or you’re thinking ahead for that person’s birthday (since we CLEARLY missed Hanukkah this year, ack!), we’ve got some ideas for you!
Here are our Top 7 Fitness-Centric Gift Ideas!
This gift is perfect for the person who always wants to do something new and fun; the person who wants to work out on their own but doesn’t know what to do; the person that travels a lot; the person who has a trainer and the one who doesn't; heck, it’s great for the whole family!
ORIGINAL STRENGTH DVD!
If your loved one can’t work directly with someone certified by Original Strength at TruFit (Kathryn, Nicole, Sarah or Izzy) and needs to learn how to move and feel better due to injury or life, this DVD is a GREAT starting point. TruFit owner Izzy got this for her own mom!
Zappos Gift Card:
We should be changing our training shoes out more often than we think. Trainer Brian Kirshenbaum says, "The general rule of thumb for running shoes has always been 6 to 8 months depending upon how high your running mileage is. In my opinion, any shoes you train in regularly in any mode should never have a birthday." Training shoes should be helping your loved one move forwards, backwards and side-to-side without their foot sliding around in it or forcing their foot into pronation or supination. A gift certificate from zappos.com or your local athletic shoe store is the answer for anyone who trains!
Doing a pullup is on a lot of people’s wish list but the pullup (and the drills and exercises that help you get to your first one) is probably the exercise that needs the most practice to achieve. If your loved one can’t get to a pullup bar at the gym to get that practice in multiple times per week, this pullup bar might be the perfect answer! The best part: No drilling is required and it’s easy to take on and off of a door frame.
Do you have a loved one who is 1. busy, 2. wants to make nutritious food for themselves and 3. doesn’t already have an Instant Pot? Well, get them an Instant Pot! This multi-use cooker can help your loved one make myriad dishes, from chicken curry to quinoa to YOGURT in very little time!
Water Bottle with Fruit Infuser:
Water can be quite boring but we all need to drink it! Help your loved one spruce up their beverage with this super cool infuser water bottle! You can even share some of these super cool recipes!
We would be remiss if personal training wasn’t on this list! If you have a loved one who has expressed that they need help getting stronger, moving better, getting more fit and feeling more comfortable in their body and lives near Evanston, don’t hesitate to contact us at TruFit! We would be honored to match your loved one with the best trainer fit for them. You can email us here or call 312-497-8999.
November 7 is National Stress Awareness Day. Because, what? We need to be MORE aware of stress?! SERIOUSLY!?
Today is the Wednesday after the Midterms. We're approaching the holidays. No matter where you stand on these topics, whether you're happy or sad, we've been living in chaotic, hyper-busy, hyper-connected times. When we start to feel the stress seep in, we react to it in ways we see and don't see: By eating crap, drinking crap, shutting off emotionally, sleeping a lot or barely sleeping... The list goes on.
These are all things that do NOTHING good for us hormonally to help us get back into a lower-stress zone.
What if we could channel that stress differently? What if there were things to help stress stay at bay? Well, worry not, lovely friends!
Here are some tactics you can use to lower your stress and take a load off!
IN THE MOMENT WHEN YOU HAVE NO TIME
FOR WHEN YOU HAVE JUST A BIT OF TIME
FOR WHEN YOU HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO PLAN SOMETHING TO DO
We hope some of these ideas help you take a load off!
What are some ways YOU fight stress? Let us know in the comments!
TruFit dedicated the month of October to pushups to raise money for the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force. It was the very first time we’ve done a challenge like this and we're so happy and proud to report that it was a tremendous success.
The gist of this event was this:
TruFit would donate $0.50 per pushup performed up to $1000 and $0.10 thereafter for every pushup performed by a TruFit client, trainer or friend inside of the studio. We hit that $1000 mark by week 2!
We saw moms doing pushups with their babies; older clients doing elevated pushups when they thought they couldn’t; clients whose starting goal was to “do a real pushup one day” and DO THE PUSHUPS they dreamed of!! We proved:
That age isn’t anything but a number.
That if you practice, you improve.
That working out can be fun and strength can be used for good.
So, drum roll please. (But first, some fun pictures!!)
The men and women of TruFit did a total of 4463 pushups.
We raised a total of $1245.30, all to benefit an organization that gives women access to breast cancer screenings, treatment options, support and hope.
We love our community and hope we can make even the smallest difference for those around us.
Thank you to all of the trainers and clients and friends who participated. We're looking forward to the next challenge!
Need to add some spice to your fall workouts! We've got you covered! Grab yourself a pumpkin, get up on your feet and do this circuit of six exercises four to five times through WITHOUT smashing the pumpkin!
But first, if you want to know what you're getting into, check out our teaser trailer:
Ready now? Let's do this.
Pumpkin Squat to Shoulder and Triceps Press
Tips: Make sure you don't arch your back when you do the presses!
Pumpkin Plank Reaches
5x on each side in the pushup plank position
5x on each side in the low plank position
Tip: Keep your legs wide for minimal hip movement side to side.
Pumpkin Step Up to Press
10x on each leg
Tip: Kick your extended leg out 45 degrees for added booty burn.
Pumpkin Chop and Lift
6-8x on each side
Tip: Think about keeping the front of your rib cage laced up like a corset to work your anterior core.
Pumpkin Squat Jumps
Tip: As Brian would say, it should sound like a chipmunk peeing on a cotton ball when you land. In other words, land softly.
Pumpkin Partner Toss
10x each person
Tip: Don't have a partner? Feel free to toss the pumpkin in the air as long as you can catch it!
Have a spooktacular Halloween, friends! And thanks to Maureen, Izzy, Symphony, Matt, Iida and Marco for their help!
October is National Cookbook Month (yes, I know, there's a month for every occasion, isn't there?). We LOVE talking about food at TruFit so what better time than now to share with you some of the TruFit trainers' favorite cookbooks to recommend to clients who just don't know what to make for dinner (or lunch or breakfast)?
Everyday Food: Great Food Fast: 250 Recipes for Easy, Delicious Meals All Year Long
Izzy has loved this gem for YEARS thanks to its recipes being broken up by season, the simplicity of the instructions and the yumminess of the taste.
Izzy's favorite recipe: A mega tasty, VERY easy broccoli soup she blogged about here!
The Skinnytaste Cookbook: Light on Calories, Big on Flavor
Trainer Mary Cox likes this cookbook because it allows her to make dishes for guests that not only taste good but prove that you can have company over for dinner AND feed them healthy food!
Mary's go-to: Slow-Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup.
CookingLight Magazines and Cookbooks
Ok, so this isn't technically ONE cookbook (and we're including the magazines in here, too). Trainer Megan Davies likes the whole shebang for its nutrient-dense, lower-calorie food. (Another cool feature: If you don't love buying magazines monthly, CookingLight puts all of their recipes together at the end of the year!
The Seitanic Spellbook
Resident vegan trainer Matt Nelson loves the punnily-named Seitanic Spellbook for its easy recipes and sense of humor. Created and written by self-named Vegan Black Metal Chef, there's also a really popular YouTube channel if videos are more your speed! You can check that out here!
The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl and Spoon: Simple and Inspired Whole Foods Recipes to Savor and Share
Another go-to cookbook for Mary is this one, thanks to its use of veggies, whole grains, lean proteins and lots of flavor in ONE bowl. Who doesn't love the simplicity of having everything you need in one place?
Mary's favorite: The California Quinoa bowl.
Ready or Not!: 150+ Make-Ahead, Make-Over, and Make-Now Recipes by Nom Nom Paleo
Another Izzy fav is this popular blog Nom Nom Paleo's official cookbook. Izzy doesn't subscribe to the Paleo diet so why this book? Because of its focus on lots of veggies and protein along with a variety of punchy flavors from Italy to China and back again. Plus, it's step-by-step directions each have pictures so you feel like you're cooking out of a comic book!
Izzy's favorite recipe from the book: Pot Sticker Stir Fry.
The Mini Minimalist: Simple Recipes for Satisfying Meals
Mark Bittman is the master of minimalism and good food. Funny enough, for a minimalist, he has a LOT of cookbook options! Trainer Anthony Monley recommends any of his cookbooks to clients who want to know how to make healthy meals because they are simple, approachable and teach you the fundamentals!
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking
Trainer Nicole Dessoye has really been into this "metacookbook" because, "It teaches how to healthily create flavors," she explains. Why is that cool? Because regardless what foods you are or aren't eating, being able to create bold flavors will always leave you satisfied. In order to create these flavors, you have to know some basics and this book teaches you those!
Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, TruFit is paying homage with a pushup pledge challenge! You can find out more about that here but in the meantime, to make sure everyone stays healthy during this month of pushups, we wanted to focus on the good, the bad, and the ugly. We've got a video for you and more pushup explanations below.
Ready? Let's get pumped!
It’s really easy to think of body weight exercises as “easy” or “things beginners do”. The truth is, using your body as your own personal exercise equipment can be SUPER challenging if done the right way! One bodyweight exercise that can easily go from a gentle warmup to a total-body burn is the mighty pushup.
Pushups are typically done with one goal in mind: To get the chest, shoulders, and triceps more cut/more defined. Sadly, some people bust out set after set of pushups with form that makes us go:
Today we're talking about the three biggest mistakes we see with pushup execution and how to fix them. It would be really easy to end this blog post right here by saying, “Well, if you engage your core everything will fall into place.” But that doesn’t help if you don’t know how to engage your core, or what you might be doing wrong in the first place! So let’s start discussing.
First, let’s talk about what a GOOD pushup has*:
At the top (or "up" position):
*There are many ways to do a pushup but we're focusing on the "standard" pushup for this example.
At the bottom (or "down" position):
Now that you know what we're shooting for with proper pushup form, let's dive into the common pushup mistakes and how to fix them!
COMMON MISTAKE #1: BRINGING THE WRONG BODY PARTS TO THE FLOOR**
We know ultimately your straight line from your head to your heels stays intact throughout the pushup movement. Unfortunately, it’s common to see people’s faces reach for the floor, or their belly buttons or butts. If this is happening to you, acknowledge it and then change which body part you want pulled down toward the floor (hint: the chest)!
Think about actively PULLING your chest toward the floor (try grabbing the turf/floor lightly with your fingers) rather than FALLING downward. Be intentional in your movements.
This might be all that’s needed to fix the alignment issue, but if not here's an additional tip: Placing your tongue firmly on the roof of your mouth will help keep your head and cervical spine in alignment. Try it now! See how far forward your head goes when your tongue is NOT on the roof of your mouth. And, now, put your tongue on the roof of your mouth and try again. What did you experience?
**The "floor" here means whichever level or surface you’re going to. If you’re doing wall pushups the “floor” is the wall; if you’re doing a kitchen counter pushup, the “floor” is the kitchen counter, etc. These cues and tips transfer to whatever pushup modification you’re doing.
COMMON MISTAKE #2: FLARED OUT ELBOWS
At some point many of us learned to do pushups by bringing our elbows right out to the sides, creating a 90-degree angle at the armpit. Well, turns out that isn’t so friendly to our shoulders.
THE FIX: Bring the elbows in closer to your waist (so they're pointing back behind you) to create more of a 45-degree angle. This will likely feel more challenging but in the big picture will make you stronger and your shoulders much happier!
COMMON MISTAKE #3: DOING THE WORM
If you want to build a strong chest and core by doing pushups, then you won’t want to do your best frat party impression of the worm. The "up" part of the pushup should be initiated by your pecs, not by articulating each vertebra as your body hangs on the efforts of your shoulder joints.
THE FIX: Actively pushing the floor away. Just as we talked about being intentional on the downward portion -- pulling your chest toward the floor -- you’ll want to do the reverse here. With fingers still clutching the ground after pulling yourself down, squeeze your pecs and push the floor away.
If pushups on the floor are a challenge right now, there are many other variations to work with. Here are just a few:
PUSHUP VARIATION #1: TO A YOGA BLOCK
If you’re close to a full pushup on the ground, you can train your way down by using a yoga block. The sensory feedback you get with something to reach for underneath you keeps you accountable: You know you’re training to a specific depth consistently.
As you get stronger, you can change the position of the yoga block (e.g. placing it further downward, towards your belly and hips) to deepen your depth!
PUSHUP VARIATION #2: ASSISTED
Don't let these fool you! When done right, assisted or modified pushups will still be challenging.
And just like with the yoga block, you can train with this variation to get stronger and ultimately work your way to a floor pushup.
PUSHUP VARIATION #3: ELEVATED
Elevated pushups are another great way to groove the pushup pattern and train your central nervous system to have kickass form!
If elevated pushups on a low surface feel too challenging right now, you can start with hands on a wall, then work your way down to the kitchen counter, then to the bathroom counter or a hefty side table, then to a (really sturdy) coffee table, and eventually to the floor!
Let architecture be your gym. :)
Thanks for reading! If you're feeling fired up about pushups, please consider participating in our pushup challenge benefiting breast cancer research, awareness, and treatment (happening all October)!
And as always, feel free to contact us with any questions you might have!
Ah, summer: A time to frolic in the forest, to soak up the sun, to be happily on holiday… And also a time to get rocked off your regular regimen.
With Labor Day behind you, you may be thinking to yourself: “OK! I’m ready to get back into a regular schedule and get my self-care back on track! I’ll be able to go to the gym more consistently now and eat three square meals and be my best healthy self!” You, like many people, may also find yourself parked outside the gym saying, “Wait. I don’t actually know what I should do…” so you either go home or hop on the elliptical for 45 minutes.
Well, we’ve got you! We are here to help demystify what a well-rounded, effective workout looks like AND give you a ready-to-go program you can do at the gym!
5 Building Blocks For A Total-Body Workout:
1) BREATHING. Why start with breathing? Whether you're exercising first thing in the morning or later in the day, jumping right into a session can mean that your mind was ready but your body was not. Doing some deep, diaphragmatic breathing helps your body take in oxygen; it helps you use the proper muscles during movements.
2) WARM UP. Don’t worry about holding stretches for long periods of time here. That kind of stretching is better left at the end if you do it at all. You will want to move your joints around and get your heart rate up a little bit for 5-10 minutes, though, by doing some dynamic stretching (see the warmup sample below).
3) CORE EXERCISES (which includes the booty) to start. Just two or three exercises here can work wonders. You want your central nervous system to recognize what position your pelvis and rib cage should be in before starting to get into total-body/multi-joint movements. Think planks, glute bridges, dead bugs, bird dogs. Find some of our favorite core exercises below.
4) WHOLE BODY MOVEMENTS. For the body of your workout, I would rather you think of “movements” rather than “exercises”. Why? Because if you’re thinking of exercises, you may be more likely to do exercises you are the most comfortable with. In our experience it usually goes: Squats, pushups, bicep curls and hanging out on the elliptical. Don't get us wrong, those can be GREAT exercises in a well-rounded routine, but those particular examples only work the front of your body...which means your back side gets the cold shoulder.
This is where thinking of movements comes in handy. When programming, we like to think of six main movement patterns (keep reading for examples of each type!):
A. Knee dominant (such as a squat)
B. Hip dominant (such as a deadlift)
C. Vertical push (such as an overhead press)
D. Vertical pull (such as a pullup)
E. Horizontal push (such as a pushup)
F. Horizontal pull (such as a row)
5) CARDIO FINISHER. Have some gas left in the tank? Get a little cardio blast in before you leave! You can do pretty much anything at the end, regardless of how much time you have.
Now let's put it all together!
Putting The 5 Building Blocks Into Practice!
Here is what your total-body workout might look like*:
BUILDING BLOCK #1: BREATHING. Do this for about two minutes.
BUILDING BLOCK #2: WARM UP. Get your body moving gently for 5-10 minutes. See the entire warmup routine here.
BUILDING BLOCK #3: CORE WORK. Perform these two exercises back-to-back with 30 seconds of rest in between. Repeat for a total of two sets.
- Anti-Rotation Planks: Do 5-10 on each side.
- Pullovers: Do 6-8.
BUILDING BLOCK #4: WHOLE BODY CIRCUIT (A-F). Do the following exercises back-to-back with little to no rest in between. Take a minute after completing the circuit to get water and let your heart rate come down. Repeat for a total of three rounds.
A. 4-2-1 Squats (Knee dominant): Do 6-8.
B. Hamstring Curls with a Bridge (Hip dominant): Do 10-12.
Note: You can also do this with a stability ball under your feet.
C. Half Kneeling Chop and Lift (Vertical push): Do 6-8 on each side.
D. Band Lat Pulldown (Vertical pull): Do 12-15.
Note: If your gym has a lat pulldown machine, you can do these there, too!
E. Floor Press (Horizontal push): Do 8-12.
F. Standing Rows (Horizontal pull): Do 8-12.
Note: If your gym has a cable machine, you can do this same exercise using it!
BUILDING BLOCK #5: CARDIO FINISHER.
Let's say you have 5 minutes left in your workout time. Pick one of these exercises and do it 5-10 times at the top of every minute, OR aim to do 3-5 rounds of 1-2 of these with a little bit of rest (if you need it) in between.
Alright! Now you've got some tools in your tool box to go out and get back into the swing of things! Of course, if you need more information or want more professional guidance on the 5 Building Blocks or what makes a great total-body workout, please don't hesitate to reach out by emailing us here or calling 312-497-8999.
Did you do this workout? Leave us a comment below!
*Thanks to Izzy for the use of all of the videos!