Workout of the Week: Making Moves Work for You — Part 2

How to fine-tune classic moves for your body
September 6, 2014 Updated: September 5, 2014

Here are alternatives to three more classic exercises so you can experiment to find what works for your body.

Quadruped Press for Push-Ups

The push-up is not just to strengthen the arms and shoulders. The core must be engaged to maintain a safe, proper position. The quadruped is great for learning how to maintain the core during a push-up.

In order to descend and reascend, there needs to be a constant pressure away from the floor with the arms. When one presses away from the floor, the shoulder blades should automatically be placed wide on the back, and the muscles needed to stabilize the scapula will engage.

  1. Begin kneeling on all fours. Stack your joints, so that your wrists are under the shoulders and your knees under the hips.
  2. Fire up your arm muscles and press away from the floor, so that you feel the shoulder blades are wide on the back and you are not sinking into your joints.
  3. Keep the torso stable as you bend just your elbows to lower your body toward the floor. Maintain the sternum right between the hands. The further you go the harder the exercise, so be conservative at first and then challenge yourself once more comfortable.
  4. Push straight up (not backward) to extend the elbows into the starting position.

Reverse Scoop for Crunches

Unfortunately, crunches are often performed improperly, and people end up overworking their necks rather than their abdominal muscles, which can lead to injury. Also, since we spend the majority of our days in flexion (for example, sitting in front of a computer), we may be doing more harm than good by bringing our bodies into more flexion with the crunch.

The reverse scoop is a great way to strengthen abdominal muscles without causing extra strain on the neck and furthering poor posture.

  1. Begin by lying on your back with palms down and arms pressed down into the floor. Keep the chest open. Legs should be raised with knees bent at 90 degrees, so that your shins are parallel to the ground, forming a “table top” position.
  2. Engage your abdominal muscles to lift and scoop the hips off the floor with control and then slowly lower them back down to the starting position. Do not lower the legs further down past the starting position, as this may cause strain on the back if done incorrectly.

Cobra Press-Ups for Dips

The dip can be a nice way to work the triceps. However, it takes time for the body to learn to maintain the proper position to keep the shoulders safe. It is common for people to collapse in the posture or shift their weight too far forward.

A great way to develop proper shoulder, back, and arm strength is to perform cobra press-ups.

  1. Lie on your stomach with your navel pulled in to lengthen the lower back. Place your hands directly at the sides of your shoulders and keep elbows in and flush against the rib cage.
  2. Pull the shoulder blades down the back toward the tailbone and lengthen the neck as you press the hands down to lift the head, neck, and shoulders off the mat. Make sure you maintain a long lumbar spine (lower back) and cervical spine (neck). You should only be extending the upper back right under the shoulder blades.
  3. Lower down with control to the starting position and repeat.

Ashley Whitson is an ACE-certified personal trainer, Pilates certified instructor, pre/postnatal exercise specialist, Functional Movement Systems professional, Neurokinetic Therapy practitioner, and professional dancer in New York. Shen can be found at