Do this exercise to get ready for your life and build your superstar underarms 

Here’s an exercise that really pulls its weight.

Shoulder mobility. Shoulder strength. Core strength. Hip mobility. Hip strength. Hand mobility. Forearm mobility.

And it’s an amazing prep for a hanging practice. And because it does all the great shoulder stuff, it’s good for breast health and circulation and lymphatic flow. That’s a lot of benefits for one simple shape!

Your underarms are partly created by the shape of your pecs at the front of your chest and your lats where they attach to the back of your arms. This exercise wakes up that combo for strong, well-defined underarms.


You can follow the directions below, or you can watch the video here!

Version 1:

Come down onto your hands and knees, neck relaxed, keeping your knees further back than your hips.

Press your hands down onto the floor, widen your shoulder blades and lift your chest WITHOUT tucking your butt. Without actually moving your hands, pull your superstar underarms back towards your knees. You may feel your core turn on!

Now slowly ease your hips back towards your heels, still without rounding your back.

(Not sure if your back is rounding? Go all the way until your butt touches your heels or as far as your knees are ok. Feel for the moment when your back changed shape. That’s your hip limit). Try and create some internal resistance by pulling your chest, underarms and hips up and back  while you keep your arms firmly planted on the floor.

This is more about strength and control than it is about a big stretch!

Hold the resisted position for 1 minute, or as long as makes sense for you.

Version 2:

This time put your forearms on the floor so they are shoulder distance apart and parallel. Everything else is the same: knees back, lower back relaxed and drapey, butt untucked. Now press your arms into the floor and press back, just like you did the first time!

Version 3:

Everything is the same again, except you flip your forearms over so your palms face the ceiling. See if you can get the backs of your hands and thumbs to touch the floor. It’s WAY harder to do than it sounds like it should be, in my humble opinion… Now as you ease back, see how far you can go before your hands start to turn away from the ground. That’s your stopping spot! Hang out here for another minute.

Version 4 (not on the video):

Add a bolster under your forearms. Just for variety!

If you take this shape and flip it 45 degrees, it looks kind of like a squat with raised arms, doesn’t it? That’s because this is not just a hanging prep, but also a squat prep. Here’s a video that shows you how to change the focus to the squat prep version. Yay for multi-tasking! Not good in many other contexts, but awesome in movement. : ))

This is a terrific exercise to prepare your hips for loaded flexion (folding like you do in a squat), your shoulders for loaded extension (like you do in hanging) and your core for responding to a variety of shapes and positions. Ready for more? Here’s another blog post that gives you more steps to prepare you for a healthy, robust hanging practice! And here’s another one!

Want more tips and cues to help with exercises like this?

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Alison Crouch

I’m the owner of Boomerang Pilates and creator of the Move SMART program. I teach teachers how to incorporate sustainable movement and authentic teaching in their classes.

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