The Key to Push Ups - Strengthen Your Wrists with an Old School Device

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Meet the Beanbag

The Pilates Beanbag

Can sand or beans make your upper body stronger? Absolutely.

They say necessity is the mother of invention and Joseph Pilates was certainly familiar with that feeling.  Tales abound of Joe's "back room" at his original 8th avenue studio in New York City where he would not only work with clients who had special needs but also tinker away at new equipment.  One of the smaller and perhaps less often used devices to come out of Joe's shop is the bean bag.  If you want to build arm and wrist strength as well as wrist and finger mobility, the bean bag is extremely effective.

Fashioned from a simple dowel, some string and a bag filled with beans or sand, you can purchase a Pilates bean bag from several manufacturers. Alternatively you can make your own using one to two bags of dried beans or sand as the filler and a simple canvas sack.

In the digital age our hands and fingers and wrists lose articulation.  We use our hands primarily for typing now which places both the fingers and the wrists in a limited range of motion. For many, the ability to do weight bearing upper body exercises is negatively impacted. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do about it and it doesn't have to be complicated.

Use this simple standing exercise and a Pilates beanbag to restore and improve function, mobility and strength in your fingers, wrists and forearms. With consistent practice your planks and push ups will be completely reborn.

Read on for Step One.

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Workout with The Beanbag - Step One

Pilates Beanbag Step One

INSTRUCTIONS: Take hold of the beanbag holding the dowel with both hands. the beanbag should be face out, meaning the rope and the bag fall on the side of your fingers as opposed to the inside of the dowel or on the side of your wrists. Begin with the beanbag wound tightly up as close to the dowel as possible.

Standing up with your arms fully extended at shoulder height. Hold your lower body strong, firming the gluteal muscles and pressing your heels together and toes slightly apart in Pilates stance. Keep a strong focus and even pacing throughout for the best results.

Read on for Step Two.

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Workout with the Beanbag - Step Two

Beanbag Step Two

Keep the dowel level and start rolling it forward, one hand at a time lowering the bag as you go. Open the fingers of each hand wide with each roll of the dowel working your wrists and hands in an exaggerated fan-like motion. Lower the bag as far as possible, ideally to just above the floor before reversing direction. 

On the way up, continue to work your wrists and fingers in an articulate way, working through each joint to the fullest range of motion. Allow your wrists to bend upward and roll forward with each repetition. Bring the bag up directly to your starting position before completing the exercise.

Is it working? In order to gauge your progress, I recommend you test your maximum repetitions.  Your goal is 3 full cycles of raising and lowering the beanbag.  When you are able to complete three full revolutions you should notice a significant improvement in your ability to do push ups.

To track your progress you can also perform this exercise every day for two weeks.  Test your push ups or planks at day one, day seven and day fourteen.  You should see a tremendous improvement in just two weeks. You'll probably see all your other classic mat exercises getting better as well.

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