Built To Last: Push Up, The Plank and Wall Angels

In Part 1 of Built to last, we talked with Brogan from the Concept about how to create a strong foundation. Here, specifically we were talking about your body’s own foundation from the feet up and through your pelvis. The ideas here are essential because even a 2% error at the foundation or base level could have catastrophic effects further along the chain. We included a basic video and some written advice on a few single leg stability exercises and I hope that you have found them useful. If you have any further questions please let me know as I would love to help you. In Part 2 we talk about how to engage your core strength.

Today we are going to continue using the house analogy however, today we are going to build on our foundation and into the 1st and 2nd stories of your house. Today we are talking about how to engage your core and your shoulders at the same time as your legs and pelvis so that you can move easily and efficiently. Carrying and lifting kids without irritating your hips and shoulders, moving the couch, cycling and running all involve transmitting as much speed and power from your legs up through your body and we want you to be able to do this effortlessly.

So in today’s part two of Built to Last, we have 3 videos shot on site at the Concept where we really delve into proper body positioning and core strength. These videos are the Push Up, the Plank and the ultimate for any desk Jockey, Wall Angels.

Push Up Position – Building and Engaging Your Core Strength

When it comes to the Push up position, by definition it is a basic archetypal position that we should all be able to get into.  Even just getting in the position is a great way to strengthen your body and create more stability for building your house. Your shoulders, trunk and pelvis all have to be switched on while you maintain core support and structure in the push up position.

To do this place your hands underneath your shoulders, look slightly forward and using your stomach muscles pull your belly button towards your spine. To optimise the plank position you can also pretend you have a taught piece of licorice connecting the front of your pelvis to the bottom of your rib cage- you want to keep this piece taught so keep the abs switched on to increase that core strength. As for your shoulders squeeze between the tips of your shoulder blades- think of them as wings and try to touch the bottom most tip of these wings together.  Another thing for those really adventurous- in the same position now contract your gluts. This may sound weird however, this practice engages your gluts and your diaphragm- to do so may involve a bit of pretend- pretending you are holding a coin between your cheeks is the easiest way to keep these muscles switched on.

In the words of Pavel Tastsouline “first move well, then move often” focus on this basic and primitive position first.  Now while keeping your abs and lower back engaged, start bending your elbows to get into a nice push up shape, keeping your muscles engaged and the lowering controlled, have your elbow going out at 45 degrees. Once about a fist width from the ground, pause and start to come back up.  If your arms are straight out to the side it is too much force on the elbow likewise, if tucked in too tight it becomes more of a tricep exercise and less of a whole body workout.

If you want to make it easier, do it in a slightly elevated position, on a bar, bench or box. If the exercise is very new or foreign to you, starting against a wall is a completely legitimate starting step. Another alternative for those with bad wrists is to do the push up on your fists. This minimises movement at the wrist and can help to strengthen your forearms while minimising the pressure on your wrist.

Being a body weight exercise you should really have the ability to focus during this; shifting your focus to your chest, shoulders or your core can really help you stay engaged. If you are unsure how many repetitions to do, start small- nail the technique first and then build on it. An alternate in the same position is to do the movement “Super Slow”. Try to count to 15 seconds on the way down, hold for 15 seconds and then 15 seconds on the way up. After 3-4 reps of the super slow method I am always cooked! We can also have a great play around with hand positions for different mobility and strengthening purposes, but for today please focus on the alignment: a nice flat spine, head looking forward but not up, hands evenly spaced apart, elbows out in a comfortable position, core engaged and shoulder blades engaged.

The Plank – Improving Your Stability and Core Strength

The second video, the Plank is a very primitive move. It isn’t the fun craze of planking that resulted in kids falling off balconies a few years ago, but it is really beneficial. It is basically the push up position without the movement. What Brogan does here is maintain a strong hold of his abs, shoulders and lower back muscles all at the same time. He is using his true core muscles while doing these core exercises. Ideally we want our core to provide a strong protective barrel of support around our midsection, this is a great way to teach the core to help you. Doing some deep breathing exercises in this position can also bring your diaphragm into use which is a massive muscle and a huge contributor to your core strength and your foundation.

Wall Angels – A Perfect Way to Unwind from the Desk Jockey Position

As for the third video today, here Brogan and I have continued our lessons from the kids seen either at the beach or in the snow practicing their sand or snow angels respectively. This is a great exercise for any of us desk jockeys as it genuinely forces you to unlock your shoulders. Many of us get so used to being hunched forwards that our chest muscles literally shorten.

As Brogan has demonstrated with the Wall Angels, lean your back against a wall, bring your feet about a foot away from the wall and keep your head in contact with the wall. Then while trying to keep your entire spine flat against the wall, bring your hands up in an almost “W” position so they too are against the wall. From here, as Brogan illustrates, it can be very hard to keep your back flat. Arching your spine is a great indicator of being over tight through your chest. Another sign of things not necessarily going according to plan is your head being unable to maintain contact with the wall. If just keeping the back flat and the head and arms all in contact with the wall is hard, stay there and don’t worry about doing your arms until this position gets comfortable first.

There are two more stretches below that can help you find a comfortable position first. If you can get in a great position the next step is the movement. The goal is to bring your elbows closer and closer in towards your spine by pulling through your shoulder blades and trunk muscles. Try to avoid just using your upper shoulders and focus on squeezing through the shoulder blades. In a perfect situation it would be your little finger flush against the wall the entire time, this maximises shoulder rotation but this may be quite hard.

Two steps back and alternatives to this is my basic meditation posture. Now I admit I have been very slack on this lately however, lying on your back flat with arms out in a T position is a great way to unwind natural shoulder tension. Likewise, this extension stretch is still part of my weekly ritual to open my shoulders and decrease unnecessary and overused tension.

Our Transitions Chiropractic Family are Living Their Life Without Limits!

The past few weeks has been huge watching people truely live their lives without limits. Whether it was the clinical dominance of the Melbourne Storm or ending the 36yr drought of the Richmond Tigers, both displays were truely impressive. However, closer to home we have had an abundance of local runners take on and succeed in the Sydney Running Festival, notably those aboard the Brain Train raising money for the Mark Hughes Foundation as well as a particular rider who took part in the 1000K’s for kids raising money for Camp Quality. I feel privileged to watch and be a part of the journey of so many of these amazing individuals, likewise I can’t wait to hear about the future successes at the Ultimate Triathlon in Forster, Melbourne Marathon and the Fernleigh 15 to name a few of the amazing upcoming events that our Transitions Family are competing in.

If you are looking for a challenge closer to home coming to one of your local park runs is a great place to start. Alternatively come and give a triathlon a go. I’ve recently become president of Newcastle Tri Club and if you or the kids are ever keen on trying something different we will always have a race for you. We race the 3rd Sunday of each month over on the Stockton Foreshore and we would always welcome you with open arms.
So there you have it, hopefully some very useful and practical videos to help you take care of your most important investment, your house and your health. You should be able to do these pretty well anywhere, no equipment or gyms are even required. Any questions by all means please let me know below. Just like a series of adjustments, designed at maximising your spinal balance and function, I know that a series of these exercises will only increase your core strength and help you build the foundation of your life. Thank you for inviting me to help create and sculpt your masterpeice….

For some more of our favourite videos on core strength and stability, see below: