Category Archives: Exercise

15 Minute Workout

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stopwatch

This is obviously a busy time of the year. With all the holiday activities, you may find exercise dropping farther down the priority list due to lack of time.

But, how much time must you commit to exercise for it to be effective? This is obviously dependent on your goals, but studies show health benefits in as little as 5 minutes a day. Now, I’m not suggesting you cut all your workouts down to 5 minutes, but if you constantly talk yourself out of exercise because you’re short on time, it seems anything is better than nothing.

Our workouts at Push Fitness are between 30 and 45 minutes, but much of the exercise homework we prescribe to our clients is typically 30 minutes or less. The following is a sample workout we’ve prescribed that should only take you 15-20 minutes and uses minimal equipment for increased proficiency.

Warm-up. Begin your workout with a 5 minute warm-up protocol. This could be anything from walking to jumping rope. Steadily increase your heart rate to prep your body for the upcoming workload.

Perform the following 4 exercises circuit style – complete all 4 in a row and then repeat for 3 total rounds. For the first round you’ll perform each exercise for 20 seconds, the second round for 30 seconds, and the third round for 40 seconds. Rest when needed but push yourself to keep moving.

Squat to Dumbbell Press. Hold of a set of dumbbells at shoulder height with palms facing together. With feet shoulder width apart, squat down to a comfortable depth while making sure your heels stay planted on the floor. Stand up, exhale, and press the dumbbells overhead. As your arms near extension, pull your shoulder blades back and together to stabilize. Bring the dumbbells back down to shoulder height as you drop back into your squat position. Repeat for the appropriate time.

Plank Hold. Assume a plank positon with elbows bent 90 degrees and positioned directly under your shoulders. You are looking to maintain a straight line from your ears, through your shoulders and hips to your ankles. Maintain a slight natural curve in the low back and keep your knees unlocked. Tense your abdominals inward towards your spine and continue to breathe as you hold the position for the desired time. If this basic plank is too easy, raise one leg or extend one arm out in front of you.

Lunge with Arms Overhead. Grab a set of dumbbells and press them overhead and lock out your arms. Step back into a staggered stance but keep about 60% of your weight on the front leg. Bend both knees equally as you inhale and let your hips drop straight down, pausing when you have a 90 degree bend at each knee. Tighten your legs and hips as you exhale and step back to your starting position. Repeat on the other leg and continue alternating legs for the desired time.

Pushup. Assume a pushup position with hands shoulder width apart. Tighten your core, and make sure you have a straight line from shoulder to ankle. As you inhale, slowly bend your elbows and let your body drop down until you have a 90 degree bend at each elbow. Exhale as you push back to your starting point. Repeat for the appropriate time. You can make the pushup easier by elevating yourself on a bench or pushing off from your knees rather than your toes.

After your third round, recover for a minute and then perform at least two minutes of cool-down stretching.

So if your schedule is tight and you’re short on time, even 15-20 minutes of exercise is time well spent.

Stay Injury Free

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Woman-Stretching-small

Injuries sustained during exercise are far too common and can discourage even the most focused athletes. Injury prevention is definitely time well spent and much more enjoyable than injury rehabilitation. Keep your body healthy by practicing the following tips and working to avoid injuries altogether.

Always get a proper warm-up. This starts by assessing how your body feels and noting any soreness or stiffness in your muscles and joints. If you feel residual soreness from your last workout, take some time to care for that area with myofascial release such as foam rolling, or maximizing range of motion in the surrounding joint with stretching or proper mobility exercises. If a joint feels tight, work on the surrounding muscles until you feel loose and mobile. This type of warm-up could take up to 30 minutes but may be necessary to allow healthy movement.

Train smart and know your limitations. Train smart by using proper form on all exercises and by learning how to fully engage your muscles. Proper form includes maintaining control of the weight at all times, even on ballistic movements. Use your muscles to decelerate movements rather than letting the weight push you around. If you’re working with heavy weights, make sure you understand exactly how to move and which muscle groups to engage and control. Never try lifting a weight that forces you into bad form.

Face your weaknesses. It’s natural to avoid exercises you struggle with, but most times that just means you need to spend more time performing them. For example, if you struggle with squats because you have tight hips and a weak core, it means you need to spend more time bringing these tight and weak areas up to speed. Having a functional body will pay off by not only minimizing your chance for injury, but by maximizing exercise output as well.

Run on the best fuels. Give your body what it needs to function at its best by maximizing nutrient uptake and staying hydrated. Quality proteins such as organic chicken and turkey, wild caught fish, and grass fed beef will support muscle mass while healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil, and coconut oil will help you control blood sugar while positively impacting hormone levels. Limit processed and starchy carbohydrates like bread and pastas, and focus on getting a variety of organic fruits and vegetables. Drinking pure water throughout the day will help to naturally detox the body and keep your muscles working properly.

Recover effectively. Most of the physical progress your body makes happens after your workout is completed. This is why it’s so important to focus on recovery with fuel, sleep, and continued mobility after you leave the gym. Make sure you get a snack or meal within 45 minutes of the completion of your workout. Don’t skimp on sleep as this is such an important time for your body to repair and recharge. Just as a warm-up is important before your workout, continued mobility is important after your workouts. If you start to feel tight or fatigued in certain muscle groups, take time to move those muscles and joints through their full range of motion with flexibility exercises and stretching. Using the foam roller to smash out and release muscle tension will speed up the recovery process as well.

So spend much of your time and focus on preventing injuries so you can continually progress and move in a positive direction.

How To Keep Your Brain Active

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Brain Image

Brain health is an often overlooked aspect of wellness but has a major impact on your body’s well-being. Many times brain health is only addressed once there are known issues. Fortunately, many of the healthy steps we recommend for the body will also support healthy brain function.

The following tips will support brain health while improving overall wellness.

Never stop learning. Keep your brain sharp by challenging it on a daily basis. Simple things like brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand, or trying a new activity that makes you think on your feet like a dance class, or simply reading a book on an unfamiliar topic are all great tools for keeping the brain active. These types of activities should make you think, learn, and use the brain while embracing the new challenges.

Exercise. We all know that consistent exercise is recommended to keep your body going strong, but these benefits will support brain health as well. High-intensity cardio and strength training will help produce a beneficial form of nitric oxide that promotes brain function and vascular health while reducing inflammation. Short bouts of extra high-intensity exercise have the greatest impact on these nitric oxide levels, so think interval style training rather than steady state.

Improve your sleep quality. Of course we’d all like to get more sleep, but if you find it challenging to get seven to eight hours a night, start focusing on the quality of your sleep. Maintaining a consistent blood sugar throughout the night will help you sleep straight through or for longer periods before waking unintentionally. You can help maintain overnight blood sugar levels by avoiding high carbohydrate foods later in the day or before bedtime. Consuming fibrous carbs instead and getting a quality fat and protein source will help keep levels more stable throughout the night.

Eat clean and nourish. Systemic inflammation from poor dietary choices and food intolerances can deplete brain health as well. The brain communicates directly with the digestive system through the vagus nerve. Poor brain function can impair this communication and lead to digestive issues which will in turn lead to continued brain impairment from lack of nutrient absorption. By limiting inflammatory foods and controlling insulin levels, you are improving your brain’s ability to communicate with the rest of the body.

Support brain oxygenation. If the brain is not getting an ample supply of oxygen, it may be struggling and performing poorly. Stress can cause shallow breathing and overstimulate the sympathetic nervous system and suppress the parasympathetic nervous system. This means that the “fight or flight” response is turned up and the “rest and digest” response is turned down and it becomes a vicious cycle. Proper diaphragmatic breathing will help balance out this issue while keeping your brain cells oxygenated.

So treat your brain well and you’ll notice an improvement in your overall health!

Make Better Exercise Choices

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Any exercise is better than no exercise, but if you’re taking the time to work out, make sure you’re choosing exercises that will truly improve your health and fitness.

The following exercises are too commonly performed in hopes of measurable results but often lead to injuries or disappointment.

The crunch with hands behind the head. The crunch is a staple exercise in many people’s abdominal routine, but there are just so many better options out there. Lying on the floor and pulling the head forward while rounding the torso a few degrees may create quite a muscle burn if done long enough, but it does not strengthen the core as many may think. Crunches performed incorrectly can actually strain the neck and accentuate poor posture.

Plank

Instead of the crunch, try any version of the plank. The plank is a great exercise as it strengthens many layers of the abdominal wall along with the stabilizing muscles of the back and hips while helping to improve posture. Set up in a plank as pictured. Keep your body in a straight line and be sure to squeeze your abs while continuing to breathe. Hold for as long as possible and record your time. Now, add 15-30 seconds to this time at your next workout and continue to increase this time at each workout over the next several weeks. With consistent practice, you should be able to hold the plank for several minutes.

Lying or seated chest press machine. This is the machine where you lie on your back and push a weight away from your chest. This is great if you want to add size to your chest, but lying on your back and moving a weight doesn’t involve much functionality. There are many more practical toning exercises out there for the typical person trying to tone up, lose weight, and get healthy. Using a fixed machine can actually limit your body’s natural range of motion and lead to tight joints and muscle imbalances.

TRX-Pushup

Rather than performing a chest press on a machine, try any version of the pushup. With a pushup, you are moving your body through space and requiring more total body recruitment. To perform a quality pushup, you must engage your core and stabilizing muscles – you’re in charge of how your body moves rather than the machine allowing you to move a certain way. If a traditional pushup is too difficult for you to perform, elevate the surface you are pushing from or try a pushup from your knees. If a traditional pushup is too easy, there are numerous options for progression, such as using a TRX strap.

Seated hip adduction/abduction machine. This is the machine you sit on with knees bent 90 degrees and either push your knees outward against resistance or pull them inward against resistance. This machine can target specific muscles of the hip, but it’s awkward at best. Trying to tone these areas won’t necessarily tighten and shrink the hips as many may think. These machines often lead to tight hips and imbalanced muscles.

Lateral-Lunge

Ditch these hip machines and try a lateral lunge instead. This lateral movement will work the muscles of the hips and upper leg while improving balance and range of motion. Stand with feet wider than shoulder width apart and toes turned slightly outward. Shift your weight sideways as you bend one leg and lunge down. The opposite leg should remain straight. As you near the bottom, make sure your heal stays planted on the floor and push your hips back. Return to your starting point and repeat on the other side.

So, encourage proper movement and overall results by avoiding exercises that are likely to hold you back.

7 Essentials for you Gym Bag

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Gym_Bag

The quickest way to spoil a workout is getting to the gym and realizing you forgot something important. We’ve probably all forgotten a t-shirt or our gym shoes at some point, but what are some other items worth having with you for your next workout?

After many years of gym-going, here is a list of seven things that you should always have in your gym bag.

1) Exercise Journal. No matter how great technology is, sometimes it’s nice to just have a notebook where you can write down your workouts and track your progress. Taking a look back to see what you’ve accomplished while progressing and planning for future goals is the foundation for seeing continuous results.

2) Workout Gloves. We don’t recommend wearing gloves all the time, but some exercises are much more enjoyable with a bit of padding and added grip for your hands. Wearing gloves for heavy lifts may actually increase your output.

3) Lacrosse Ball. This dense ball is not just for playing lacrosse. It’s the perfect density and size for isolated self-myofascial release, which is basically massaging out knots or adhesions in your muscles. If you’re going into a workout and something feels tight, lie on the floor on top of the lacrosse ball and let it sink into the tight muscle. After a few minutes the muscle should relax and allow better range of motion while hopefully alleviated pain and tension.

4) Water Bottle. Okay, this should be no surprise, but we had to mention it. Having a water bottle next to you at all times ensures that you’ll drink more water. A good quality water bottle makes drinking water more of a habit while making it more enjoyable.

5) Music Source and Earbuds. Music has an extremely powerful effect on your mood, which in turn affects your workout. If you’re constantly complaining about the music played at the gym, bring your own music with you. Personalize your list to get the most out of your workout. And remember, it’s worth having an extra pair of earbuds in your gym bag just in case.

6) Personal Items. Some basic things to keep spares of are hair ties, sweat bands or bandanna, a spare towel, and of course – deodorant. We’ve all had days where our deodorant has worn out before the end of the day or we forgot to apply it altogether. Re-apply as needed so you and the other gym members can stay focused on the workout.

7) A Spare Change of Clothes. It’s easy to forget to toss a clean shirt or pair of socks in your bag, so having a complete spare set in there is always good – shirt, pants or shorts, underwear, socks, and a lightweight pair of shoes. Remember to rotate them out every week so they don’t start smelling like a ‘gym bag.’

So keep your gym bag well stocked to get the most out of your workouts!

High Intensity Interval Training HIIT

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sprintersmall

Cardiovascular exercise is certainly an important component of a well-rounded fitness routine. Just like any other type of exercise, it’s important to add variety to your cardio routine to maximize progress and overall results.

A great way to energize your cardio routine is to practice HIIT (high intensity interval training). With HIIT, you are focusing on short bursts of intense exercise versus a long drawn-out exercise session. HIIT can be used with any type of activity, including running, biking, elliptical, swimming, rowing, boxing, and even certain types of strength training. It simply requires a short all-out effort followed by an adequate recovery period. Your heart rate will climb and peak during the work phase and slowly drop and stabilize during the recovery phase.

Below are 5 reasons you should add HIIT to your current fitness routine.

Train smarter. HIIT training elicits a similar hormonal response to strength training and therefore has a lasting effect on the body. Rather than just burning a certain number of calories during your exercise session, the high intensity stokes your metabolism for several hours after your workout is over. During this post-workout period, there is an increased fat and caloric burn. So you get the effect of the actual workout, as well as the bonus of extended fat burn for several hours after.

Preserve muscle. Extended steady state cardio can increase stress hormones and cause the body to become catabolic and actually break down precious muscle mass. Less muscle equals a slower metabolism and less daily caloric burn. HIIT training, on the other hand, increases natural human growth hormone which supports muscle mass and overall well-being.

No fancy equipment needed. Don’t worry if you don’t have a gym membership. HIIT training can be done anywhere and with limited or absolutely no equipment. Get outside and sprint for one block and walk for the next. Or, if you have access to a hill or incline grade, run up the hill at your fastest pace and then walk back down. Repeat as many times as you prefer.

Save time. A typical HIIT workout may last anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes depending on the intensity you put into it. If you have access to a track or a treadmill try running 100 meters as fast as you can and then jog or walk 300 meters. Repeat this for a total of 6 rounds and you’re done. You will have covered 1.5 miles, your heart rate will have gone through a variety of intensities, and you’ll be done with your workout in 30 minutes or less.

Improve fitness and performance. Pushing yourself up into your anaerobic zone with HIIT will have measureable benefits in cardiac output and therefore allow you to do more during your strength training and other cardio workouts. Many athletes, including marathon runners and triathletes, incorporate HIIT into their training routines to improve performance and cut down on the wear and tear of long distance training.

So keep things fun and exciting by adding HIIT to your weekly routine to elicit new results and improve overall performance.

Keep Changing Your Workout Routine

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Changing up your workout routine is great for progressing the body as well as keeping your head in the game. Boring workouts get boring results. We’ve taken three common exercises and modified them to make them more challenging and more interesting – the squat, the lunge, and the pushup.

The Overhead Squat. Begin with feet shoulder width apart while holding a barbell overhead. To stabilize the bar in the overhead position, you must extend the arms while engaging the muscles of the upper back and shoulders. Once the bar is stabilized overhead, you can move into the squatting portion. Slowly squat down as you inhale, ensuring that your heels stay heavy, while pushing your hips back and maintaining the natural curve in your low back. Drop down to a comfortable and stable depth. Exhale as you stand back to the top, but don’t lock your knees all the way out. Repeat. With the bar overhead, it becomes a total-body exercise and requires much more balance, stability, and flexibility than a typical squat.

Common Mistakes: Never let your knees travel forward of your toes and don’t allow your elbows to bend.

Regression: If a weighted overhead squat is too challenging, grab a lightweight bar or stick and perform the same motion without the load.

Overhead-Squat

The Lateral Lunge. Place feet wider than shoulder width and turn feet outward at a slight angle. With a dumbbell resting on each shoulder, shift your weight laterally and sit back on the heel of your bent leg while you allow your other leg to straighten. At this point, your bent leg should have a 90 degree bend as your opposite leg should be fully extended. Return to your starting position and repeat on the other leg. This lateral movement adds a new dynamic that will stress muscles differently than a traditional lunge.

Common Mistakes: Never let either heel pop off the floor – you must push your hips back and keep your posture upright.

Regression: If your flexibility doesn’t allow you to drop into the lateral lunge, hold on to a stationary object so you can support yourself as you push your hips down and back until you can perform the lunge with the desired range of motion.

Lateral-Lunge

The Hand Release Pushup. Take a traditional pushup position with hands shoulder width apart, feet together, and maintain a straight line from shoulder to ankle. Slowly drop down into the pushup until you feel your chest touch the floor. At this point, raise your hands off the floor so your weight is resting on your chest and torso. Push your hands hard into the floor as you return to the top of the pushup. Repeat. The hand release pushup requires strength and control throughout the pushup’s entire range of motion.

Common Mistakes: Don’t let your hips sag as you drop to the floor or push back up to the top position. Keeping your core engaged will help you maintain a rigid and safe posture.

Regression: If you can’t maintain proper form with the traditional hand release pushup, modify so your knees are resting on the floor rather than your toes. This position takes more weight off the upper body and also lessons the strain on the core. It should allow you to move through the entire range of motion while maintaining safe and effective form.

HR-Pushup

So switch up a few common exercises and take on the new challenge.

Boost Your Immunity

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Immunity

Coming down with the flu or a cold is pretty common this time of year. Wouldn’t it be great to have the upper hand on seasonal illnesses? Although you might not be able to totally avoid getting sick, maintaining a resilient immune system may lessen the severity, duration, and frequency of illness.

The following tips are natural ways to boost your immune system and overall health:

Cut out offensive foods. Inflammation is a natural response to getting sick or injured. Your immune system sends inflammatory cells to the region they’re needed to attack and repair the compromised area. But, if you’re eating foods you’re intolerant to, your immune system may go on the attack every time you consume these foods. Besides causing added stress in the body, your immune system stays compromised for longer periods of time which decreases the effectiveness of daily maintenance.

Add more nutrients. Micronutrients such as magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin D all have immunity boosting powers. Foods such as ginger, bee pollen, and many fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which all aid in supporting a healthy immune system. Even adding lemon juice to your water can help alkalize the pH of your body and support healthy bacteria while making it difficult for acid-loving pathogens to thrive.

Improve your sleep. We all know how important sleep is to our mental health, but our body uses this time to repair and recover from daily wear and tear. A lack of sleep can lead to immune system suppression by increasing inflammation and decreasing the amount of disease fighting cells in our bodies.

Ensure proper detox. If your body isn’t eliminating everyday toxins from the food you eat or the air you breathe, you’ll have a hard time fighting off a cold. Proper detox begins with a healthy digestive system and adequate hydration sets the stage for efficient elimination. If you eat non-organic meats or if you had a recent dose of antibiotics, it’s a good idea to supplement with a quality probiotic to restore gut flora. This will aid in efficient digestion and keep things moving along properly.

Take advantage of strength training. Exercise has numerous benefits, but one that is often overlooked is the ability of muscle contractions to help drain the lymphatic system. The lymph system is a channel for toxins to be excreted from the body and a pathway for immune cells to travel where they are needed. Consistent muscle contractions drive the healthy flow of the lymph system.

Laugh and enjoy life. Obviously laughter seems to reduce stress in our lives, but it may also boost immune function. Studies have shown that laughter boosts natural killer cells that attack anything from infectious cells to tumor cells. Laughter will boost your body’s ability to destroy toxic cells and therefore lesson your chance for disease.

So take a few simple steps each day to give your immune system a fighting chance.

Train Your Core Without Situps

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How strong is your core? If you’re looking to tighten and tone your mid-section, it’s going to take more than crunches and sit-ups. Read on to learn more about the core and how to properly train it.

The core musculature attaches to the spine and pelvis, including muscles of the abdominal area, mid and low back, and hips. Specifically it includes muscles such as the rectus abdominis, erector spinae, external and internal obliques, transversus abdominis, and glutes.

Your core protects your spine from excessive flexion, extension, rotation, and lateral bending and works to stabilize the spine and hips during specific movements. Your core plays a major role in balanced posture and everyday mobility. If you’ve ever injured a core muscle, you’ll quickly realize how often you use these muscles – you’ll feel the injury every time you move.

Since the core works constantly to keep us functioning at our best, it makes sense to keep it working properly. Is your core weak? Try the plank test to determine if you have adequate core strength. Assume a traditional pushup position. Now drop from your hands down onto your forearms and hold your body rigid. How long can you hold before your hips begin to sag or your low back starts to strain? If you planked less than 60 seconds, your core could use some work.

So what’s the best way to strengthen the core? We like to incorporate functional exercises, so multiple muscles are working together as a unit to stabilize or carry out a specific movement. We recommend the following exercises to build overall core strength.

The Plank. This exercise is great for beginners because its simplicity allows utilization of the core without much complication. Just get in the plank position and hold. Time your sets for the first workout and try to beat that time during the next workout. You can also progress by adding a weight to your hips or raising one leg off the floor.

Plank-Pat

Pushup to Dumbbell Row and Twist. This is a great intermediate core exercise because it involves both movement and stabilization. Assume a pushup position while holding a dumbbell in each hand. Perform a pushup and as your arms straighten at the top of the movement, row one of the dumbbells toward your chest, rotate, and then press the dumbbell towards the ceiling. Return to your starting point and repeat on the other side. Choose a weight that allows for 10-20 reps.

DB_Row_Twist

Walking Overhead Lunge. This is an advanced exercise and should only be attempted once the core is strong enough to perform efficiently. Grab a moderately weighted barbell and press it overhead. Lock your arms out and stabilize the weight in an overhead position. At this point, perform 10 walking lunges in a forward direction. Once complete, turn around and perform 10 more lunges as you return to your starting point. Be sure to keep your arms locked straight and the barbell directly above your head. This will work the core differently than the previous two exercises and requires overall body strength and stability to perform.

Walking_Ohead_Lunge

So find a new way to strengthen your core and teach your body to perform at its best.

Exercises for the Seated Lifestyle

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How do you choose the exercises that make up your workouts? Maybe you base it on exercises you like or exercises you’re familiar with. Or maybe you have certain areas of the body you’d like to see change, so you focus on those muscle groups.

Obviously everyone has different goals, body types, and lifestyles, but one common issue we see with many of our clients is a weakness pattern through the core and posterior chain. If you find yourself sitting most of the day, it makes sense to choose exercises that counter this shortened posture. The following exercises will help strengthen many of the muscles that become weak through a seated lifestyle.

The Deadlift. Step up to a weighted barbell with shins nearly touching the bar and feet hip to shoulder width apart. Squat down toward the bar as you keep your heels firmly planted while maintaining a natural curve through your back. Grasp the bar slightly wider than shoulder width and tense your body. As you lift the weight, push your feet into the floor while exhaling. Be sure to keep the bar close to the body as you lift. Maintain your posture throughout the lift, keeping tension through your shoulder blades as you rise to the top position. Control the weight back down to the floor and repeat.

deadlift

 

Bent-Over Row. Grab a set of dumbbells and hold them at your sides with palms facing inward. With feet hip width apart, bend the knees slightly as you lean forward to about a 45 degree angle. Be sure to keep your posture while maintaining a tight core. Your body will stay in this position for the duration of the exercise. As you exhale, pull the dumbbells up and back while you bring your shoulder blades together. Your elbows should slide right past the sides of your body as you pull. Inhale as you extend your arms back to the starting position.

db-row

Reverse Cable Woodchop. Slide the handle on a cable resistance machine down to a setting just a few inches off the floor. Position your body perpendicular to the machine and set feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Drop down into a deadlift position, and with abs engaged, rotate your upper body away from the machine while you rise up to a standing position. Keep your arms fully extended and allow your hips and shoulders to rotate with the movement. Once you’re fully rotated and extended, control back down to your starting position.

r-cable-woodchop

So add these exercises to your routine to help strengthen the muscles that most likely need it.

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