Upper Body Push/Press and Core Progressions

Previous blog posts have included the double leg squat, double leg hinge, lunge, and vertical/horizontal push progressions. Proper progression will optimize gain, prevent boredom and reduce the stress that can lead to overtraining (Haff & Triplett, 2016). In this blog post, I will discuss the push/press and core progressions that I generally use when progressing an athlete or client for each movement. First, lets dive into the upper body push progression. An upper body push involves horizontal movements where the movement occurs as one flexes and extends the arms. Some examples of upper body push movements includes: push-up, bench press, and incline bench press.


In the video, you will be able to analyze the movements (in order) based on the movement of easier to harder levels of difficulty. The first movement is the incline push-up. During the incline push-up, one positions the hands on a bench about shoulder width apart. When one performs a motion in the downward phase of the incline push-up, the elbows flexes and the back remains flat. During the upward phase of the movement, the back remains flat and the arms extend. Next, the standard push-up is implemented. However, modifications can be included if one finds the traditional push-up to be difficult (i.e. kneeling push-up). The motion of the push-up is similar to that of the incline push-up, but the standard push-up is performed on the floor rather than on a bench. The next movement is the decline push-up. The decline push-up is performed on the bench, but the feet are located on the bench and hands on the floor. Similar to the push-up and incline push-up, the decline push-up is performed with a a similar upper body push motion. The difference is based on the degree of angle. The next two progressive movements involve the addition of a load or external resistance (i.e. barbell, dumbbell). The first progressive movement with load is the dumbbell bench press. In a lying supine position on a bench, one pushes up against resistance during the dumbbell bench press. For beginners, the dumbbell bench press should be light and performed with proper movement. The proper execution of the dumbbell bench press includes starting the weight at the side of the chest and fully extending the arms vertically. Lastly, the final progression is the barbell bench press. The barbell bench press is similar to the dumbbell bench press. The difference is the addition of the barbell as opposed to the dumbbell.


The three movements that are featured in this upper body press progression video are the 1) wall angel, 2) dumbbell shoulder press and 3) barbell shoulder press. The wall angel is a body weight movement that is preferably performed against the wall. The proper execution of this movement should involve full contact of the upper limbs and back on the wall throughout the full range of motion. Next, the dumbbell shoulder press is performed with a neutral grip position and weight starting slightly above the shoulders. When performing the dumbbell shoulder press, the person executing the movement fully extends the arm above the head. The last progression included in the upper body press progression video is the barbell shoulder press. The hand grip on the press should be a bit wider than shoulder width. As the bar crosses the face, the individual who performs the movement should tilt the head back slightly. Once the bar crosses the face, the person performing the movement should bring their head forward to neutral position.


In the core progression video, I have broken down the video into three core subdivisions: 1) the anterior core, 2) the lateral core, and 3) the posterior core. The first progression exercise in the anterior core video includes the kneeling plank. The kneeling plank is performed with the knees on the ground, but with a flat back and elbows directly underneath the shoulders. The plank is performed with the knees off the ground, but the back is flat and elbows are directly underneath the shoulder. The plank in & out involves the addition of a medicine or stability ball. The key is to stabilize the core while slightly moving the arms up and down in a plank position. The first lateral core progression includes the side kneeling plank. Similar to the kneeling plank, the side keeling plank involves the knees on the ground. However, the difference occurs with the side of the knee is on the ground. The side plank is core stabilization exercise that involves the knees off the ground, one arm on the ground with the elbow directly underneath the shoulder, and the top hand on the hip. The last lateral core progression includes the advanced side plank. The advanced side plank involves the side plank with the addition of the top leg raised and arm fully extended above the shoulder. The first posterior core progression exercise includes the hip bridge (iso). The hip bridge (iso) movement starts with the knees flexed, hips extended off the ground and upper back on the floor. The key for this exercise involves maintaining core stabilization for a set duration. The next exercise includes the single leg hip bridge (iso). This exercise is similar to the hip bride (iso), but one leg is on the floor and the other is lifted from the ground. The last movement is called the single leg hip bridge. This exercise requires movement of hip hinging with one leg on the ground and the other off the ground.

The series of exercise progressions discussed in this blog are just a few examples of how individuals can properly enhance performance and strength. It is important to note that everybody is different and a series of progressions may differ between individuals. In addition, one may have to regress or modify movements based on current fitness status or experience. Please comment below or send a message if you need any advice on progression.


Haff, G.G., & Tiplett, N.H. (2016). Essentials of strength training and conditioning. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

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