There are times in life where we are called to ‘pull our weight’ in order to accomplish a task or meet requirements demanded of us. Other times it may be necessary to ‘push our weight’ around to command respect and be more on the assertive side. Psychologically these times come and go and are a part of the natural order of our external environment. Interestingly, what happens outside of ourselves is not always so far from the happenings of our very own internal environment. The same qualities of ‘pushing’ and ‘pulling’ are required of our physical body, and quite importantly so.
The act of pushing and pulling each require unique, and opposing sets of muscle groups that may not be active while performing one or the other. The completion of these two movements is vital in the balance of our physiological structure, but it is not uncommon that one set of motions are neglected more than the other. Life causes us to acclimate ourselves into rigid patterns and modes of operation that without a conscious and deliberate effort we may never remove ourselves from. Physically, mentally, at work and at home, we become so stuck in our patterns that any deviation can oftentimes create discomfort.
Our physical body needs variety in order to remain balanced, stable, and safe in our everyday functional movement. Pushing and pulling are two modalities that can offer a fresh take on providing a range of different movement types. The muscles that are activated while pushing are then the ‘supporters’ while performing a pulling motion. Both support and strengthen various muscle groups and activate dormant areas of the body that often become weak due to sedentary lifestyles, long periods of time sitting, as well as non-varied exercise.
Pushing and pulling are considered to be fundamental pieces of ‘functional’ movement; actions performed frequently in day-to-day living situations. Consider for a moment how frequently we may ‘pull’ an object towards us — picking up a box or opening a door — and on the contrary, how often we ‘push’ a shopping cart and even performing a squat. When we neglect one motion over the other, imbalance occurs, which leads to weakness and increases our risk of injury. It is important to remain balanced within these two systems. Try these movements to strengthen your ‘pulling’ and ‘pushing’ mechanics.
Exercise using body weight
Bodyweight PUSH ups. Stand facing a desk, table, or couch end with your palms on the edge of the desk at shoulder width apart and walk your feet back so that you are at an angle towards the desk (your heels can be lifted from the floor). Create an angle so that you have more bodyweight in your hands. With your arms straight, contract your abdominal muscles by slightly lifting the belly up and in. Inhale through the nose and begin to bend the elbows wide, lowering your chest to the desk, keeping your spine straight and abdomen engaged. On your exhale begin to push your bodyweight back up to the starting position. This is one repetition. Complete 10–15 repetitions two to three times, at the rate of one breath per movement.
Single arm bodyweight PULL. Stand facing the edge of an open door to one side. Grip the edge of the door with the same side hand and walk your feet forward slightly so that you are at an inverted angle to the door with your arm stretched out long. Inhale through the nose and begin to pull your body forward towards the door, keeping your elbow bent close to the side of your body. Exhale and slowly re-lengthen out the same arm. Maintain squared shoulders and hips throughout the movement. Complete eight to 10 repetitions on each side for two to three sets between the push ups.
Want to learn more about exercising with diabetes? Read “Add Movement to Your Life,” “The Health Benefits of Walking,” and “Picking the Right Activity to Meet Your Fitness Goals.”