Your workouts are the time when you become a better athlete. Every exercise you do is designed specifically to help you achieve a goal, like more strength or bigger size. So when you actually do the exercises on your workout chart, you want to get the most of every rep. At the same time you’re pushing your body, you don’t want to hurt yourself.
Tim DiFrancesco, head strength and conditioning coach for the Los Angeles Lakers and president of TD Athletes Edge, has his athletes focus on the basics during their workouts, which sets them up for perfect form, safer reps and better results (Check out DiFrancesco’s pro training tips). When working with pro athletes who have million-dollar contracts, anything less is unacceptable.
Below, DiFrancesco covers three upper-body workout tips to help you train like a pro.
Click here for more Train Like a Pro tips and workout plans.
1. Get Into a Good Posture
The shoulder girdle is the home base for all upper-body movements. If the positioning and posture of the shoulder and shoulder blades is off, you’re missing some of the benefits of upper-body exercises, such as moving through a full range of motion. Or worse, you might be setting yourself up for injury.
Most often we see the shoulders sitting too high and forward. The traps are overactive causing you to constantly shrug. Also, sitting hunched forward and an over focus on building chest strength pulls the shoulders forward, further taking them out of their optimal posture.
The Fix: Separate Your Shoulders and Ears
Avoid a forward rounding of the shoulders with the shoulder blades creeping up and around toward the front of your body. But don’t overcorrect by pulling your shoulder blades too far down and back, causing your lower back to arch. A happy medium is achieved where your shoulder blades sit flat on your back.
The best way to achieve this position is to keep distance between the tops of your shoulders and your ears. Actively seek this position without sticking out your chest.
2. Row to Your Body
Don’t row too far when performing upper-body pulling exercises, such as a Row. Finishing a row too forcefully with your elbows winging far behind your back can cause impingement in the front side of your shoulder. It’s an aggravating pain that can take its toll over time and limit the exercises and movements you can perform.
The Fix: Stay Within Your Range of Motion
We always talk about how greater range of motion of exercises is better. That’s true, but you need to stay within a safe range of motion. For back exercises, your elbows shouldn’t finish beyond the plane of your back. If you look in a mirror and see your elbows sticking up like wings, you went too far. They might stick up a little, but not too much.
3. Pack Your Wrist
I often see people performing upper-body push work with their wrist cocked all the way back into extension. When your hand drops toward the back of your forearm, you are cranking the wrist into hyperextension under a load—not a good thing for the wrist’s small bones, ligaments and tendons. This is particularly problematic for athletes who play sports requiring precise movement or dynamic action at this wrist, such as a basketball player.
The Fix: Neutral Wrist Position
When performing barbell, dumbbell or kettlebell exercises, keep your hands straight up and down. Maintaining a neutral wrist position in these situations takes some practice, but it will save your wrists from breaking down. If you’ve had wrist injuries or issues in the past, you may want to grip dumbbells during Push-Ups to alleviate some stress on your joints.
RELATED: 3 Lower-Body Pro Training Hacks