Case Study^Strength Training With a Twist

January 29, 2015
By Marc Lebert

As trainers I am sure you have had many young athletes who want to bench 225lbs but they can't do 10 perfect push-ups. Ah, the exuberance of youth! When it comes to strength training I like pumping iron as much as the next guy but I also like to use bodyweight to challenge the entire body as a unit, build core strength, balance, extend sets (working every muscle fibre), challenge the nervous system, enhance body awareness and ligament and tendon strengthening.

When performing push-ups the chest muscles basically pull the arms towards centre so even though we call it a push-up, in terms of the muscle action, it is really a chest pull. The body or the barbell is being pressed up by the pulling action of the chest muscles on the humerus. The fibers originate from the clavicle, sternum and upper ribs and insert on the humerus and when contracted they cause flexion, extension and adduction of the shoulder joint. The Pectorals are the prime movers in most pushing movements and I always find it beneficial to explain this to my young athletes for a better understanding of the muscle action so that they visualize what is happening and get a better mind to muscle connection and activate the prime mover first.

One of the ways I do this is to take one Lebert EQUALIZER(TM) (EQ) bar and hold it out in front of them and ask them to squeeze the bars towards center as hard as they can and ask them what muscles they feel working. Of course they feel the chest muscles isometrically contracting. From there we go into a slow and controlled pushup and stop at the bottom for a full second, then quickly squeeze the EQ's towards center again and the muscle action pops them right up. For some, this is the first time they could consciously feel the prime mover and know what it is doing. At the top I make sure they keep the squeeze on for a full second and then lower slowly for a pause at the bottom and the next rep.

When they get highly proficient at this then we can add a twist to make it more challenging. Some of my favorites are hands on the EQ grips (both bars) and your partner hold one leg (so that when they are at muscle failure they can just lower the other leg to the ground easily). This involves a lot of core stability and you have to be strong in more than just the chest. From here you could do a drop set and go immediately into EQ incline push-ups (different line of pull and not full bodyweight) to failure. This extended set is sure to really work every area and muscle fibre of the chest.

Another favorite of mine is to use the bar lying down (as in the picture), the wrists are in neutral alignment, you can get a deep stretch and you can add a twist at the top or bottom of the push-up to really work the core. For back training I love pull-ups, all the basic lifts, dumbbell rows and EQ vertical rows. Why vertical rows? They are great for building back strength but also grip strength and are a great starting out point for young athletes working up to full bodyweight pull-ups.

According to top strength coach Michael Boyle (Men's Health), "it's the most underrated, underused movement there is--and it's also one of the simplest. Besides being a great pure muscle-builder, the inverted row is valuable because it strengthens your rear shoulders and upper back. These often neglected muscles directly complement the muscles used in the bench press--a benefit that can help prevent a slumped posture."

Like the EQ pushups for vertical rows I also like to add a twist with one partner holding the legs (they are holding an isometric squat and bicep curl) which changes the line of pull and the amount of weight being lifted. No fancy machines, just the basics with lots of effort and sweat and best of all, it gets tangible results quickly.

Marc Lebert is the owner of Lebert Fitness Inc and is also a Fitness Club Owner, a Taekwondo Black Belt who has competed at the National level, a Certified NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) Practitioner and International Presenter. Marc was the Silver Lining Entrepreneur of the Year 2010, named Top 100 Fitness Entrepreneurs in the Industry and a finalist for canfitpro Fitness Professional of the Year 2012. Marc Lebert developed the Lebert EQUALIZER™, BUDDY SYSTEM(TM) and STRETCH STRAP(TM). Marc is very committed to giving back having raised a considerable amount of money for worthy causes. To see more please visit
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