Get stronger, faster, and look better at the beach, with these “gotta do ‘em” pushing exercises

Over the years I’ve made it clear I prefer posterior chain/pulling movements to pushing exercises. That, for the majority of the population, I feel the benefits of backside exercises far outweigh their anterior chain counterpart. Now, this doesn’t mean I don’t like pushing exercises. In fact, pressing and pushing are staple movements in all my programs, as I’m sure they are in yours, and are essential to a well-balanced routine. Which is why, whether a professional MMA athlete or a young professional, make sure you include effective, functional pushing exercises into your workouts. No, that isn’t a free pass to bench all day, but does mean to do the exercises below to see the results you’re working towards.

Push It Real Good from Doug Balzarini on Vimeo.

1. Chest Press
The chest press is the “go to” exercise for developing the pecs, anterior deltoids, and triceps muscles. A well-rounded routine will thus include some form of a chest pressing movement in it. In the video below is the ‘Dumbbell Floor Press.’ Compared to the traditional bench press, you’ll lose some leg drive with this variation, but I feel it’s a bit safer for the shoulder joint and still extremely effective for developing both strength and power in your upper body pushing muscles.

2. Pushup
I love bodyweight exercises and pushups have been a bodyweight staple for decades. A quick YouTube search will yield a treasure trove of variations. They’re popular because, when done properly, pushups force you to really engage your entire body, testing you from feet to fingertips. The version featured in the video will add an additional challenge to the shoulder joint, your obliques, and your hip mobility. Just make sure to keep your entire body “stiff” and engaged throughout the movement to protect your lower back and shoulders.

3. Get-Up Variations
Kettlebells and sandbags are my tools of choice when talking about the get-up. This exercise is a great full body movement in terms of both strength and mobility, especially for the glutes and hips. I included it with these “pushing” exercises because we’re pushing our bodies away from the ground and getting great anterior chain work done. It’s essentially a static press exercise for the shoulder and you’ll be hard-pressed (pun intended) to find a major muscle group not worked during this exercise.

My two get-ups of choice:

Sandbag ½ Get-Up
The closest “crunch exercise” you‘ll see in my routines. As long as you lead the movement with your chest and roll onto your elbow and post up onto your hand, you’ll limit the spinal flexion that occurs during the movement. Check it out in the accompanying video.

Full Kettlebell Get-Up
Love these for shoulder-health reasons. When performed correctly, you must keep your shoulder “packed”, which will ensure the scapula is stable on the thoracic spine, and the surrounding muscles are fully engaged. It helps keep the shoulder strong and safe. Include Get-Ups to ensure you are getting a true core workout.

4. The Prowler
The Prowler is the best tool for developing both pushing power/acceleration and metabolic conditioning at the same time. Throw in all its variations and it’s a lock to make my list for best equipment on the market today. The exercise featured is the most standard movement you can do with the Prowler. Simply load up the weights, grab the handles, get in a proper forward lean position, and get pushing. I like to incorporate these into circuits, as a stand along exercise, or as a finisher at the end of a workout. Just be careful not to get the “Prowler Flu”!

Closing Thoughts

“Everyday Population”
Proper pulling/posterior chain movements are a must if you fall into the “9-to-5 client” category. As long as your program is sensible, there’s no reason to not include pushing exercises into your weekly routine. Incorporate with proper flexibility exercises for the chest, hips, and ankles (another article in itself), and you’re on your way to reaching your goals.

“MMA Athlete”
We want to build both the strength and endurance in your front side. “Long strong” is a favorite term of mine in the industry. It refers to your ability to stay strong in the later rounds of a fight; to have the will and endurance to fight on. A lot of that is mental preparation, and a lot of it is proper strength training. Incorporate these movements into your routine and you’re more likely to stay “long strong.”