Let us ask you a question that you’ve probably haven’t asked yourself by now: Are you doing too much pushing exercises?
Over the course of a longer period, anything taken to extremes will backfire. When that happens, you’ll be scratching your head as to where you went wrong. Any exercise program that is too focused on pushing exercises (and this is most often the case) can create serious muscle imbalances that are both aesthetically unappealing and represent a gateway to overuse injuries.
This is the reason why you need more than a 1:1 ratio of pushing and pulling exercises. By creating the optimal balance between them you will prevent developing bad posture, muscle tightness issues, joint pain and injury.
The athletic caveman and how not to become one
Without any doubt, pushing movements are an important part of a complete training routine. But regardless of whether you’re addicted to push-ups or bench pressing, overdoing pushing exercises without performing an adequate amount of pulling movements can make you an imbalanced athlete in terms of both body shape and overall strength. Have you seen one of those guys with an overdeveloped chest and anterior shoulders, whose forward rolled shoulders and rigid upper body make them look like cavemen? Well, those guys are typically frequently complaining of shoulder pain, which is not surprising considering their visible overuse of the anterior shoulder muscles and unbalanced approach to training.
Simply put, the relationship between pulling and pushing exercises resembles the one of yin and yang. That would make one think that a 1:1 ratio of pull to push exercises will be enough to maintain postural and muscular balance, but this is not the case. Due to our lifestyles which have already taken their toll on our posture and muscle alignment, this ratio won’t suffice when it comes to promoting a balanced muscular development. In fact, most people need a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio of pull exercises to push exercises in order to ensure optimal development of the muscles responsible for both types of movement.
First PULL, then PUSH
To create and maintain scapular stability, you need an upper body training which emphasizes both front and back muscle groups. Furthermore, you need to make sure to perform your pulling exercises first, before moving onto the pushing moves. For example, by doing your rows before bench pressing, you can stabilize the joints and prepare your entire shoulder area for the upcoming exercises and minimize the risk of pain and injury. By first increasing the blood flow and activating the area with a few high-rep sets of pulling movements, you can prime your shoulders to bear the load of the pushing exercises. In the same manner, program your pull days before the major pressing days in your weekly training cycle.
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Training the muscles responsible for internal rotation will make these muscles bigger and stronger, but if you’re not training the external rotators to a similar extent, imbalances are guaranteed to happen and that’s really bad news for your shoulders. So train smart and make sure that your top priority is to build a well-balanced and completely developed healthy body.