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Fitness for Body, Mind and Spirit

GreenNote Life

Fitness for the body, mind & spirit

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Thoughtful Thursday…The exercise for healthier and stronger shoulders...

Welcome to Thoughtful Thursday. This GreenNote Fitness newsletter mindfully gathers and distills useful information that is supportive to our journey. It is my mission to educate, inspire, and propel you into action that moves you towards your goals and life of purpose. Take control of your journey today.

Read any fitness magazine and you will find many sample exercises and discussion on doing an equal amount of “pushing” exercises like the bench press, and an equal amount of “pulling” exercises like pull-ups.

It’s optimal to have balance between different muscle groups. That helps to build strength, improve performance, and prevent injuries. This sounds great, but in our modern age of copious amounts of sitting and staring at devices with hunched shoulders, should we do more to correct our posture and improve shoulder health?

In a word, yes. In fact, Dr. John Rusin believes there are two key ratios for pushing and pulling exercises that are paramount to be strong and free of shoulder pain.

Recently I wrote about 7 functional movement patterns for your training…. Two of the seven important movement patterns are pushing as like a push-up for example. and pulling like a pull-up. Pushing and pulling movements apply to both the lower and upper body.

In today’s newsletter we will look at upper body pushing and pulling exercises and an important strategy for shoulder strength and health to have in your training routine. Let’s get right to Dr. Rusin’s two key strategies, ratios, and exercise we all should would be doing.

Pushing and Pulling Exercise Strategies:

#1. You should be doing more pulling than pushing exercises.

#2. Do more pulling exercises in the horizontal plane of motion than vertical plane of motion.

More pulling than pushing exercises:

We need to do more pulling than pushing exercises, specifically three times as many pulling motions as pulling. In exercise programming it is written as a 3:1 ratio. According to Dr. Rusin, 80 percent of the population will thrive in performance and shoulder injury resilience adhering to the 3:1 ratio.

Why do we need to do more pulling than pushing? It is necessary to incorporate a pull-to-push ratio that more accurately reflects the dire need to negate the postural stresses that our head, neck, thoracic spine, shoulder blades, and shoulder joints have undergone. Poor daily postures are typified by an internally rotated and protracted (shoulder blades spread) position. Some pushing exercises, like the bench press and overhead press can position the shoulder in a way where they train internal rotation.

More pulling exercises in horizontal plane than vertical plane

An example of a horizontal pulling exercise is the row. This type of pulling motion involves moving a weight or resistance towards your torso horizontally from straight out in front of you.

Horizontal Pulling

Horizontal Pulling

An example of a vertical pulling exercise is the lat pull-down. This type of pulling motion involves moving a weight down vertically in relation to your torso so that you are pulling down from over head.

Vertical Pulling

Vertical Pulling

We need to do twice as many horizontal pulling motions as vertical pulling motions due to angle it places the shoulder (glenohumeral) joint. The rowing motion has the ability to keep the shoulder joint in a strong, neutral position throughout the pull and can even move the shoulder into a more externally rotated position.

Pulling exercise for your training

The row is the exercise that we should be doing three times as much as a pushing exercise and twice as much as the vertical pulling exercises. As mentioned, the rowing motion places the shoulder in a good position. Most people can handle higher intensities, volumes, and workloads of rowing than vertical pulling.


  • Pulling and pushing are important movement patterns; both the lower and upper body should incorporate proper movement of these patterns

  • Shoulder issues (pain/injuries) are on the rise and can be addressed with pulling and pushing exercises

  • Due to our modern age we need to incorporate more pulling exercises than pushing

  • There should be a ratio of pulling to pushing of 3:1

  • With pulling exercises there is a difference between horizontal and vertical pulling

  • There should be a ratio of horizontal to vertical pulling of 2:1

  • One horizontal pulling exercise that should be in your tool-kit is the row

Here’s to pulling more than you push!

Enjoy your journey,

Lisa Schaffer

You wouldn’t happen to know just one person that would benefit from this information? Please forward it to them!

Did you miss last week’s newsletter on Celebrate our (physical) independence…?

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