The “show me” muscles of your anterior chain — biceps, pecs, and six pack abs — may get all the attention, but if you’re ignoring the back half of your body — your lats, traps, rhomboids, and erector spinae — to eke out yet another set of dumbbell chest presses, you’re setting yourself up for pain. “When you don’t train the back, that’s when postural distortions occur and you develop chronic pain, stiffness, and overuse injuries,” says Rui Li, the President of New York Personal Training. “Nature gave you every muscle for a purpose, so it’s important for you to train them all when you hit the gym.”
The key to training, as in life, is to balance your workout with an equal measure of pushing and pulling exercises that hit the posterior chain as much as your anterior one. “If you think about the different ways the upper body can move, you can break it down in four simple ways: vertical pushing, vertical pulling, horizontal pushing, and horizontal pulling,” Li says. “If you perform exercises that are literally opposite movements from each other, then you have the makings of a great push-pull workout.”
1 of 2
The Four Superset Workout
It doesn’t even take much guesswork — Li offers this straightforward routine that can be performed in a superset format, so each push exercise is immediately followed by its pulling counterpart. Perform three sets of each move, aiming for 10 to 12 reps of each set. And if you’re looking for a balanced approach to cardio, Li suggests trying an air bike with moveable handles, like the Assault Airbike. Because this style of bike uses wind to create resistance, you have to use your own power to push and pull the handles in either direction, effectively working both sides of your body at once.
- Superset 1: Push-up and TRX Inverted Row
- Superset 2: Bench Press and Bent-Over Row
- Superset 3: Lat Pull Down and Overhead Dumbbell Press
- Superset 4: Dumbbell Chest Press and Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
2 of 2
The Tabata Finisher Interval
Finish up your strength routine with an all-out, push-pull cardio interval set up in a Tabata format: eight, 20 second work periods, each followed by 10 seconds of rest. You’ll alternate between all-out rowing on a cardio rowing machine and strenuous sled pushing, commonly known as the prowler push. If a single Tabata isn’t enough to leave you toasted, go ahead and add another.
Credit: Hybrid Images