Project: Push – Pull


I don’t know if I’ve told you this before, but I used to teach 3rd grade.



I had the incredible good fortune to learn from and then work with some really amazing teachers in action, especially at Assumption-St. Bridget elementary school in Seattle, WA.



I say incredibly fortunate because the teachers at this school were so thoughtful, bright, creative and most of all student-centered. And when you’re a student-centered teacher you think differently about what and how you’re teaching. ‘My way or the highway’ isn’t in your wheelhouse.



One of the lessons I learned early on that has stuck with me for the past, well, 20 years now (how has it already been 20 years?!?!?) is the saying “It doesn’t matter how they get to Cincinnati, as long as they get to Cincinnati. “



Initially, this was in the context of a math problem, but the underlying message stuck: there is more than one way to solve a problem or create a desired outcome, and as long as that outcome is reached or that problem is solved, it kind of doesn’t matter by what means it happens.



It’s a really gorgeous and flexible way of thinking and living—AND I think it offers the possibility of success to a wider range of people.



It’s also an approach that has transferred over into my training and coaching: there isn’t just ONE way to lose weight, or get in shape, or heal an injury, or acquire a skill/get better at a complicated movement, or just plain get stronger, there are MANY.




And you know which one is the best one?

The one that makes sense and works for YOU.




To help my clients and class participants progress their pull ups and push ups, too, we’re starting Project: Push-Pull. 



**I’d love for you to take part, too!***



So what the heck is Project: Push-Pull?



Project: Push-Pull is an initiative to get more women doing full-on perfect push ups and bodyweight pull ups.



Through consistent daily efforts and using a strategic, incremental approach to strength training for the specific demands of these movements, we will be building the strength and skills needed to execute some badass, seriously impressive push ups and pull ups.



Every Friday, I’ll be sharing a training tip, giving out exercises to do for the week, and fielding any questions you might have about your specific needs.



We’ll be sharing pics and videos of our hard work and progress along the way, too, both on my fitness page (Real Life Fit by Kate) and all over social media.




==> Just make sure to use the hashtag ‪#‎ProjectPushPull when you post, and I’ll round up all the pics from the week and share them on Friday! <==



But feel free to post your progress and accomplishments on my page anytime 🙂 🙂 🙂




It’s going to be so amazing!



The ladies in my class are already seeing strength gains, are more stable in their cores, and are using better form–and we’ve only been at it for a week.



SO Exciting!!!



Let’s get started–at the beginning, of course.



First thing first: let’s dispel a little myth.

Push ups and pull ups are NOT ‘upper body exercises.’ They are total body exercises.




Honestly, there isn’t really any such thing as an ‘upper body’ and a ‘lower body.’



There is a trunk, and there are extremities—and they all work together to get any and everything done.



When you start to look at your body as a fully integrated creature, it changes how you think about exercises and how you’re training it.



Which is particularly helpful when you’re engaging in more complex movements that involve everything from your head to your toes. (Think your toes don’t matter? Have you ever had a broken big or middle toe? That’ll change the way you do EVERYTHING)



The real work of doing push ups and pull ups isn’t so much in making the arms, back or chest stronger as it is teaching them to work together effectively, which means creating a stronger core, as it is the bridge that links all our powerful movers (muscle groups) together.


Here’s an example from last week’s Workout Wednesday:  If my core is weak, I can’t do any of these exercises effectively.



So that’s where this series will start: Giving you lots of ideas to evaluate how well your total package is working, identify any ‘weak links’ and give you a few exercises and take-aways to start making your total package stronger and work better for you.



In the end, this will mean being better able to do push ups and pull ups, or at the very least get on the road to doing them effectively.



This week, let’s start with the basics and make sure to warm up the shoulders and start getting the muscles around the shoulder blades to move more freely.


For core strength: check how stable and strong your planks are.


–> Can you hold a tall (yoga) front plank—with good alignment—for 60 seconds at a time?



–>Can you hold a side plank pretty easily for 30 seconds?




–> Can you hold an elbow/’hover’ plank with good aligment for 60 seconds at a time?



If not, then putting daily effort into planking is where you need to start!

Shoot to do 3 sets of front planks and side planks each day (it’ll be about 5 minutes of work).


And if you find your core needs a lot of work and attention, check out this workout here:




For warming up the shoulder and working a little more on shoulder and shoulder blade mobility:


–> Try adding this band-assisted exercise series to your warm ups or use them as mobility maintenance each day.




–> Add Inchworms to your warm up or to get more movement in later in the day.





Try band-assisted ‘Cheerleaders’ to focus on strengthening some of the mid-back muscles and getting the muscles around your shoulder blades more active and help with your posture, too.




And for the actual push ups? Well, first we need to know what a perfect, human arrow push up looks like and feels like!




When set up correctly for a push up, the body should be:


— ‘planked up,’ stiff as a board with total body muscle tension and you should be able to draw a straight line from the shoulders through the hips, knees and into the ankles


— the glutes should be squeezed super tight


— the hands will be just slightly wider than the shoulders, and the index finger will be pointing directly forward


— feet will be hip width apart or narrower


— the abs will be braced tight—imagining pulling the ribs closer to the hips without rounding the spine at all


— the eyes will be looking forward on the floor, not straight down



When the body lowers into the push up:


— it should still be ‘planked up’


— as the elbows bend, they should point slightly away from the body at a 45 degree angle—which when you look at it from above form a ‘human arrow’


— the spine should remain in neutral position—no arching or swaying through the low back and hips; this is why squeezing the glutes super hard is so important!


— the eyes will still be looking forward on the floor, not straight down



When the body is pressing up to the start position:


— it should still be ‘planked up’


— shoulders should be pulled back and away from the ears


— spine should stay in a neutral position


— shoulders and hips should elevate at the exact same time and speed

the eyes will still be looking forward on the floor, not straight down


Your Big Take-Aways (because that’s a lot of detail to keep in mind all the time!):


  • Keep your eyes looking out in front of you slightly
  • Keep your butt squeezed super tight at all times
  • Make sure your elbows bend to that 45 degree angle as you lower your body
  • Pull your abs in tight (as if you were trying to move your ribs and hips closer together) at all times
  • Keep your shoulders away from your ears at all times



And remember consistency is key to success in push ups and pull ups—a little bit of effort every day will yield huge results over time. A big effort every once in a while only leaves us feeling sore and discouraged, so try to make your planking and pushing practice a daily event, if possible 🙂




The awesome thing about push up practice? You can do it anywhere!

Next week, we’ll talk about how to get your wrists more used to the pressure of doing push ups, add a few more mobility and strength exercises for you to try out, and start talking grip strength to get us on the road to doing pull ups!

I hope you join in on the fun and challenge of Project Push-Pull–you have nothing to lose and HUGE amounts of confidence and bragging rights to gain!!

Questions?  Need a little personalized advice or guidance?  

Shoot me a message at:  



I offer complementary 20-minute coaching calls and I LOVE helping people figure out how to make any training plan or nutrition plan work for them!


We can hop on the phone, Skype, FaceTime, GoogleHangouts, or whatever works best for you and get you started training and/or eating more effectively 🙂



Happy Pushing and Pulling!