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Human Movement Series (Part 4) Push, Pull, Carry-By Michael Hansen, PT, DPT

by ksumner, October 16, 2020

Human Movement Series (Part 4)

Push, Pull, Carry



  1. Hip Hinge
  2. Squat
  3. Lunge (Single Leg)
  4. Push (Upper Body)
  5. Pull (Upper Body)
  6. Loaded Carry


In part 4 of our human movement blog series we will be discussed pushing, pulling and carrying. Again these are motions that we perform routinely during our daily activities and we must know how to perform them correctly in order to avoid injury.


Pushing is one of the most complex movements and one of the easiest to cheat at which can lead to injury and pain. Pushups are a very common movement that people use as part of a home workout routine. It is a body weight exercise that requires engagement of several anterior chain muscles including pectorals, abdominals and posterior chain muscles including triceps and glutes. There are several things that must happen to perform a proper push up.


  1. Contract abdominals and glutes to make sure pelvis is in a neutral position.
  2. Keep head and neck in proper alignment by keeping eyes fixated on floor instead of looking up.
  3. “Set the Scapula” by rotating them down and back. This will help to prevent stress on the front of your shoulder and engage proper shoulder stabilizing muscles.


Pulling is defined by exerting a force on someone or something in order to move it closer to yourself. We do this daily when we open doors, reach for the milk out of the fridge, while walking the dog, etc. It is also done in an exercise setting including pull-ups, seated rowing machines, and biceps curls. These are examples of both vertical and horizontal pulling motions that required strength and stability of several regions in the body to be successful. Any time we exert a force on another object there is an equal force in the opposite direction (PHYSICS!) Therefor it is important that we create a stable and strong base to pull from. This includes our strength and stability in our legs, core and shoulder girdle.

Horizontal pulling motions should be used before progressing to vertical pulling. This is because horizontal pulling places the shoulder in a better starting and ending position as well as is key in developing stability through the shoulder joint before progressing to overhead pulls.


Examples of horizontal pulling include:


Bent over row:

Seated row machine:


TRX assisted row:

Inverted row:


Examples of vertical pulling include:


Lat pulldown machine:


Pull-up (assisted or unassisted):



Carrying is one of the most common functional tasks we perform daily. It is composed of holding an object in 1 or 2 arms and moving it from one place to another. We carry things with our arms down by our sides, close to our chest and even overhead. It can be a unilateral or bilateral activity which increases or decreases the demand of our core muscles. The heavier the weight the more active our local and global stabilizing muscles have to be in order to prevent extraneous movement. It is a movement that challenges core strength, leg strength, shoulder/arm strength and grip strength. It really is a full body workout. Here are a few tips to ensure you remain injury free while you carry things:


  1. Keep your shoulders down and back– “set” the scapula. The more our shoulders round forward the more stress we place on them and the less efficient our posture is overall.
  2. Keep your shoulders and back muscles engaged but let you arms hang directly at sides- when people start to fatigue they tend to shrug their shoulders up towards their ears. By focusing on retracting your shoulder blades and keeping your hands by your sides this will help prevent shoulder/neck strain.
  3. Start reasonably– begin with weight that is appropriate for you. Too many times people try to progress their weights before they are ready. Focus on posture and form at the beginning and only when you feel ready should you progress the weight.