Teresa Tapp shares fitness, exercise and more: How to get a better back, perky pecs and shapely shoulders without weights


It’s June and many of us are thinking the three S’s -- summer, swimming and sleeveless clothing! Recently I taught the WTSP TV anchor Michael Clayton, a former NFL football player, how to do Above the Head Lat Pulls and Lateral Lat Pulls without weights. He was amazed at how much his back muscles activated, especially his lats and traps, while doing these exercises. He was surprised at how much the position of his hands could change how much more his muscles would activate (Jazz Hands vs. Donut Hands).

Below are some additional tips to help you maximize the multiple benefits woven within these two exercises that work for both men and women!


Lower Body Set Up: Even though I didn't have time during this segment to break down the lower body stance that is always done during T-Tapp exercises, it is important to establish this stance and maintain it so your body can receive better results even when doing exercises that focus on your upper body.

The T-Tapp Stance with knees bent, tailbone tucked, ribs up and knees out helps your body establish optimal neuro-kinetic communication from head-to-toe. In addition to having your ankles aligned with your hip joints and your knees bent with weight shifted into your heels, it is important to focus on keeping your knees out with your weight shifted off the ball joint of your big toe at all times (you should feel the arch of your foot lift up). Then when I say tuck your butt, use your abs and lower back muscles, not your glutes, to curl your lower back and tailbone under. Then tighten your glutes to stabilize your hips and press your hand against your lower back to stretch your upper body up without shifting forward. Remember, it is important to keep your butt tucked, your weight in heels, your shoulders back and your knees BENT and out at ALL times. Teresa Tapp

Above the Head Lat Pulls: When reaching your arms up into a "V" position, make sure that your "V" is wide enough to equally activate your traps and lats and that your hands are back to best ability to create optimal activation of your pecs, traps and lats.

I suggest doing this exercise while facing sideways to a mirror so you can see and feel the alignment at the same time, as well as practice it against a wall so you can achieve better kinetic awareness while touching the wall with your hands and lower back. Additionally, when pulling your arms down from a "V" to a "W" you should not only focus on lifting your ribs higher, but also focus on bringing your hands back throughout the entire movement. However, when reaching back up to a "V", it is ok to let your hands come in front of your ears, but always make sure to keep pulling your hands back and your elbows forward while pulling back down into the "W" position. Form tip: your elbows should be aligned with your shoulders, not in front of your shoulders.

Lateral Lat Pulls: When reaching your arms out to your sides make sure that your hands are aligned with your shoulders from both front and side view.

Try doing this exercise in front of a mirror while facing sideways so you can see the alignment, as well as practice it against a wall so you can feel your hands and lower back touch the wall during each repetition. Also, when pulling your arms down to a "W", your ribs should lift higher and your hands should continue to pull back to best ability to assist greater lat activation. Please note: keeping your lower back pressing with shoulders back aligned with your hips (aka touching the wall) is not easy. It takes strength and flexibility! Just do your best.

Jazz Hand Tips: In addition to spreading your fingers wide to create jazz hands, focus on "stretching" the distance between your thumb and little finger as far as possible, as well as "push" your palm forward and "pull" the tips of your fingers back.

Donut Hand Tips: In addition to "pressing" all of your fingertips against your thumb to create a donut hole, increase the intensity of this pressure whenever pulling down into the "W" position.

Both of these hand positions assist your body's ability to maximize muscle activation. Even though I consider the Donut Hand position to be a bit more advanced than the Jazz Hand position, do both with 4 repetitions of each.

In the beginning try doing one set of 4 repetitions of Above the Head Lat Pulls followed by one set of 4 repetitions of Lateral Lat Pulls. Then progressively increase until you can do one set of 8 repetitions of each.

As your strength and flexibility improves, try doing both of these exercises against a wall to maximize muscle activation with body alignment. Stand a few inches away from the wall so you can tuck your tailbone under and press your lower back into the wall. Then lift your ribs and press your shoulders into the wall with your arms extended at shoulder height and your hands touching the wall. I suggest starting with one set of 4 repetitions of Lateral Lat Pulls with Jazz Hand position combined with one set of 2 repetitions of Over the Head Lat Pulls then increase as desired. Remember, it is better to do fewer repetitions with good form! Furthermore, these exercises may look easy but they are very comprehensive and effective. Just do your personal best and you will see that Yes You Can build a better back, improve your posture and perk your pecks with just one set of 8 repetitions per day.

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