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Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Time to antagonise you!

By Pete Ryan

I was watching a youtube video the other day.  The guy was going on about the importance of doing push-ups (press-ups) ever day.  Work up to 100-200 a day (over 36,000 reps a year).  Push-ups are relatively easy and not too taxing, you could do this and not overstretch your CNS recovery, and if you varied the form there wouldn’t be too much of an issue with overuse (change arm position, different angles, use handles, add weight etc)...but my mind went straight to the effect this would have on your muscular balance.  Your triceps (back of the arm) and anterior deltoids (front of the shoulder) would be receiving a massive volume, whereas your rear deltoids (back of the shoulder) and biceps (front of the arm) would not receive much activation at all.  Also your core (think of a very thick belt around your midsection between your hips and your ribs that stabilises the spine, that is the muscular region we are usually talking about when we talk about the ‘core’ ).  The front (ab) region would get loads of work, but the rear section (lower back), would get very little. I see this as a real problem.

Muscular balance

I believe that you should aim at muscular balance.  If you can bench press 100Kg, then you should be able to row 100Kg (approximately – this is raw, not bench pressing in equipment). If you can shoulder press your own bodyweight overhead, then you should be able to do pull-ups relatively easily (both for reps and with added weight). I’ve read various ideas about an ideal amount for each lift, but I believe these will vary depending on body type and your own, personal make-up.  The important thing is, if you push you should pull, if you twist one way, you should twist the other way, if you work the left side, then you should work the right side.
Let me use the example of the push-up I started with.  The push-up uses the back of the arm (triceps) and the front of the shoulder (anterior deltoid).  If these get really, really developed they will tend to set you up for imbalances.  Think of the shoulder, if the front is really strong and the back is very weak, the head of the humerus  (the arm bone) will get pulled forward, so it will be in slightly the wrong position when you do any movement. This will only be a tiny amount, you will not feel it, but over the years things like osteoarthritis can occur or you may develop nagging shoulder pain or impingement? So, is there a way to avoid these issues?

Balancing up

There is a simple way to balance out the muscularity, and you do not need to have a diploma in anatomy to do it. Simply work the body through the opposite movements.  If you bench press, then row, if you overhead press, then do a chin-up or pulldown.
You work the antagonist muscles, the muscles that work the opposite motion (or often can be used to stop that motion occurring).  The easiest example is the biceps and triceps in the arm.  The biceps curl the arm, while the triceps straighten the arm.  They do the opposite jobs.  If the biceps are fully flexed, you cannot straighten your arm, if the triceps are fully flexed you cannot bend your arm.If one is too powerful, or the other too weak, then issues with the arm can occur.
The easiest way to sort out the body when thinking about this is by using the push/pull for the upper body (the lower body has a slightly more complex interactions).
For the upper body think of it split like this:

  • ·         Horizontal push
  • ·         Horizontal pull
  • ·         Vertical push
  • ·         Vertical pull

So, let’s head back to the 100-200 push-ups per day.  In this case you are doing a horizonital push, so you would need a horizontal pull to balance that out. I would suggest you add another movement into this equation.  If you are doing 100-200 push-ups then why not add some inverted rows into the mix.  You may not easily get 100-200 inverted rows as they are somewhat more of a challenge than a push-up, however getting 40-50 should be easily doable, with many of you easily getting 80-100 reps with practice.  This would help maintain shoulder stability by building the rear deltoid, balancing arm development and also be added work on keeping the core stable and more in balance front to back, which is a nice bonus.

Summing up

So, I want you to consider as you workout that every time you pull, you push.  This does not have to be on the same day.  An old ‘bro-split’ was back and biceps one day and chest and triceps the next.  Just try to keep those movements balanced.  Many people end up with issues simply because they fail to balance the body as it develops.  Don’t be one of those people!
If you want more about building the body in a balanced way I am happy to talk about more advanced concepts, just reply on here and let me know.

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