Can you please give me an analysis on 3 different exercises that I’m having trouble with? These exercises include the dumbbell step up, upright row and the pec dec. I’m trying to add some new movements into my overall workout program and I’m a little confused on how to perform these exercises and exactly what muscles groups each one targets.
In every training program there are exercises that people might be able to figure out on their own and muddle through without too much difficulty. There is however something to be said for mastering a set of movements, and in some cases a small adjustment to the posture and form of the exercise will give the muscles a much better result.
Dumbbell Step-Up (muscles targeted: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes)
When performing the dumbbell step-up exercise, you should make a concerted effort to consider the size of dumbbells that would be appropriate for your strength level and the goals that you are trying to achieve. As with any weightlifting endeavor, choosing a light warm up weight (dumbbell) to start is always a good idea! Most gyms and fitness centers provide a single step up platform that is utilized for this exact purpose, so try to resist utilizing a makeshift homemade platform that could come apart or flip over when you step up onto it. Examine the dumbbells and the platform prior to beginning your workout.
Grasp the dumbbells in each hand with a firm grip. Your palms should be pointed towards the outside of either leg with your arms hanging naturally at your sides. Stand in front of the step and ensure that you have a good upright posture. Lift your left leg and foot and step up onto the platform, as your foot lands continue the movement by lifting your right leg and foot up onto the platform as though you are climbing the shortest staircase in the world. Come to a full stop on the platform and ensure that your posture has not changed as you position each foot. Now step down with your left foot first and then right foot. This is considered to be a count of one repetition for the step up. Repeat the process again, but this time step up with your right foot first followed by the left leg and foot. And once again step back down off the platform with the right foot first followed by the left.
Ensure that you do not rush the process and begin swinging the weight and avoid getting lazy with your posture. The most important thing in this exercise is the effort to maintain proper posture and complete control of the movement! Repeat the cycle of the warm-up by doing ten to fifteen step-ups in total, then give yourself a rest period by putting the weights back on the rack and resting before your next set. Sit on the edge of the bench for a minute or two or walk around and stretch your hamstrings and calves out between sets.
Upright Row (muscles targeted: deltoids, trapezius)
The upright row is a much more stationary exercise wherein your predetermined barbell is on the floor in front of you. Ensure that it is a weight that you can easily handle. Bend down in a half squat and place your hands in a close grip position with 6-8 inches between both hands. Grasp the bar and lift it back up to a standing position with the weight at your thighs. Relax your shoulders for a few seconds and take a couple easy breaths. Many people forget to breathe when they lift weights, and then wonder why they feel so dizzy after a set. Remember to always keep breathing!
Some people prefer to practice this exercise in front of a mirror to make certain that their technique and form is correct. While gripping the weight tightly, lift the barbell to your chin so that the back of your hands almost touch your chin. Pause at the top for a one count and watch to make sure your elbows are at a parallel position to the floor. Let the weight return to your waist in a slow and controlled manner. This is one full repetition. Continue your warm-up set and don’t forget to take a break by putting the barbell down on the floor utilizing proper and safe squatting technique. Breaks between sets should be at least 1-2 minutes.
Pec Dec (muscles targeted: Pectoralis major “chest”)
The Pec Dec is a seated exercise performed on an upright rowing style machine designed to incorporate a set of pulleys and cables that lift a series of plates or else it can be designed to permit the addition of standard Olympic free plates the same as you might utilize on an Olympic lifting bar for bench press. Either style of machine is equally effective; however the plate loaded design can usually be loaded to accommodate a much more serious amount of weight.
Begin by pre-gathering the required weight plates if that’s the style of machine that your gym has. Examine the cables and pulleys for cracks and other issues. Report any such poor conditions to the gym staff and do not use the machine unless it is in good working order. People get hurt on these style machines all the time. Don’t be one of them.
Load your machine with the weight plates or by inserting the locking pin into the desired amount that you want to lift. Sit with your back flat against the backrest on the seat, and grasp the handles in front of you while positioning your elbows on the pads in a 90 degree angle.
Lift the pulleys by pressing the two handles together in front of you. As the weight is taken up in your hands you will notice it gets heavier as your hands approach each other. You should feel all of the tension in your chest muscles as you squeeze your arms together. A slight pause at the center point of your hands will tell you if the weight is a manageable one or if it is too heavy for you. Allow the weight to descend back down in a controlled manner by returning your hands and arms to the starting position. The weight should not “drop” in a slamming manner. If the weight can’t be controlled then go down to a lower weight for this exercise!
There is no shame in asking for help from the gym staff before you begin. If you take the time to learn how to use the different equipment in your gym properly your exercise program will be more effective. Don’t forget to wipe down the grips, pads and the seat when you’re all finished!