Sick of Slouching? It’s Time to Build Your Back

Sick of Slouching? It’s Time to Build Your Back

Sick of Slouching? It’s Time to Build Your Back

Perfect Your Posture with These Movements 

UpFit Training Academy

Jacob O’Connor, Brian Santanelli


Personal training and small group programs are often designed with the goal of improving muscular strength. As important as muscular strength is, maintaining a balance is perhaps just as essential. One of the most common strength imbalances we see is within the chest, shoulders, and upper back. It’s likely you or somebody you know suffers from this imbalance, associated with a rounding of the upper back and a slouching posture. This is likely caused by a tight chest and shoulders accompanied by a weak upper back comparatively speaking. This imbalance can lead to poor posture, decreases in sleep quality, and joint pain. Achieving proper muscular balance and posture can help us to feel more confident and comfortable, both on the inside and out. The best way to combat this imbalance is to stretch the muscles in the chest and front of the shoulders and to build a STRONG upper back!

You can find some of our favorite upper back strengthening exercises in our bilateral pull progression. We’ve incorporated some common technical errors along with the proper mechanics of the movements, we hope you enjoy and find this helpful!


The TRX row is a great movement used to increase upper back strength, hence why it’s used in so many personal training programs. This movement is easily progressed as the closer your feet are to the anchor the harder the movement becomes. It’s important to take the slack out of the straps before getting set into your first rep. Participants will lower the body away from the straps, before pulling the handles back towards the upper abs. A fist widths distance should be maintained between the body and the elbows. One of the most common errors seen with TRX movements is slouching of the hips, it’s important to keep the core engaged in order to maintain a rock solid posture throughout the movement!


The TRX face pull is a staple movement for improving posture in the upper back. Similar to the TRX row, the slack should be taken out of the straps before initiating the first rep. The elbows and shoulders should both be at a 90 degree angle at the top of the movement. Although the primary movers are in the upper back, it’s important to emphasize core activation to prevent those hips from slouching! There should be a command and control of the pace throughout the face pull. 


The seated row can be done with bands or cables. The bands should be pulled towards the upper abs maintaining a fist width distance between the elbows and the body. The band should have tension throughout the entire movement, if you feel slack in the band you need to back it up! 


The chest supported row is a simple movement that is easy to do wrong. The chest should be kept tall off the bench emphasizing extension of the upper back. Squeeze the mid back and bring dumbbells to the hip during the row. Like our other rows, elbows should be maintained at a fist widths distance from the body.  


The bent over row is the most complex movement in our bilateral pull progression. This movement should only be done once proficiency of the hinge is obtained. The hinge position should be maintained throughout the movement while bracing the core and engaging the upper back. The bar should be pulled to the upper abs before lowering back to the starting position. Use the lats in order to control the bar and keep it from drifting away from the body. The bar should be going where you command it to, not the other way around!

Implementation of simple upper back strengthening exercises can go a long way to improving one’s muscular balance, posture, and standard of living. Whether your goal is to improve your health or achieve a kickass aesthetic, prioritizing the upper back is essential. Some may benefit from incorporating a few of these into a warm up period in order to prime the upper back. Others may be better off designating sessions that priorities upper back strength. We hope our progression improves your personal training and helps you live your best life! 

The Importance of Upper Body Strength

The Importance of Upper Body Strength

The Importance of Upper Body Strength

UpFit Training Academy

Jacob O’Connor, Brian Santanelli

 For many people upper body strength is not among their top priorities or goals in regards to their personal training. While this aspect of fitness may not be as focused on as others such as weight loss, it’s importance should not be overlooked. Upper body strength plays an intricate role in everyday activities, the ability to perform exercises, and posture. Improving posture can go a long way in increasing our comfort and standard of living. This specifically applies for many of us in NYC who are stuck sitting and typing for long blocks of the day. Improving upper body strength can even improve one’s self confidence and reduce chances of injury. Our horizontal push progression can be found below.

High and Low Incline Pushup

The incline pushup is a great introduction to upper body strength training. The movement can be made harder by elevating the bar or bringing the feet closer together. The incline pushup should be performed on the balls of the feet and hands should be placed just outside shoulder width. The lower part of the chest should be lowered to the barbell or bench before pushing back up to the starting position. Common mistakes include slouching or arching at the hips and flaring at the elbows. The movement should be performed with shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles in line and with the elbows about 45 degrees from the body. 

Negative Pushup

The negative push up consists only of the lowering portion of the movement. Hands should be placed just outside shoulder width while keeping elbows at 45 degrees or a fists width away from the body. The shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles should be kept in a nice straight line. Participants should slowly lower to the bottom of the pushup for an allotted amount of time. Upon reaching the bottom of the pushup reset and return to the top of the movement to continue the set. Negatives are a great way to build strength while working towards doing the full movement.  


The pushup is a staple in many personal training and small group fitness programs. This movement is also performed with the hands just outside of shoulder width and elbows should be maintained at 45 degrees from the body. The hips and shoulders should move together while keeping the core engaged. Unlike the negative pushup, the participant pushes up back to the starting position. 

Incline Bench and Flat Bench

The dumbbell bench (incline/flat) should be performed with the feet creating a stable foundation on the ground. The hips can be used in order to move the dumbbells into the starting position. Once in the starting position the wrist should be stacked over elbows with conscious effort to keep elbows 45 degrees from the body. Dumbbells should be pressed over the chest to form a “V” like shape before controlling them down to the starting position. The incline variation will target the upper chest more while the flat bench will demand more from the middle of the chest. 

When developing upper body strength it’s important that your personal training or group fitness program has a sense of balance. Too much work in any one area can create imbalances leading to poor posture and discomfort. It’s also an important reminder that throughout these exercises it’s essential to maintain awareness of core activation. Though the chest and triceps are the primary movers in these movements, there is also a key demand of core stability to achieve proper execution. We hope that you find our progression to be useful and helpful in becoming a better stronger you! 


Stop Eating LESS

Stop Eating LESS

There’s a reason most people regain the weight lost after a successful dieting period. Diets are not sustainable. Our body is smart enough to revert back to our previous heavier selves.
There’s got to be a better way; a long term, lifestyle approach that can keep weight “yo-yo” ing at bay.
In comes the idea of Energy Flux.
A higher Energy Flux, or eating more to fuel a higher energy expenditure, could be a healthier more sustainable lifestyle approach than the cliche and outdated “eat less and move more” one. (1)
It can lead to more fat loss, muscle gain, better recovery, more energy, and keep weight from regaining after a dieting period. (2)
Your body was designed to move, a lot, and to use plenty of high quality food as energy to fuel it.
We use the Thriving Factory analogy to explain this concept to our clients. Think of a thriving factory, tons of raw materials (calories) coming in, with busy workers (our metabolism) hustling to use up materials and produce lots of quality goods (movement). There are tons of jobs, the factory is lively, bustling, and making plenty of high quality products delivered with quality and efficiency.
The Eat Less and Move More model is telling us to have less raw materials, and still produce a ton of goods. After a while, our workers burn out, some quit on us, and the remaining start to demand more materials, causing us to take in more goods (calories) eventually.
No, we want a Thriving Factory that produces a ton of jobs, uses up a boat load of raw materials, and sends out many shipments of awesome goodies. Everyone’s happy, the workers, the bosses, the customers, and the wholesalers; it’s an everyday party in a Thriving Factory.
The key is to live a physically active lifestyle by upping your overall physical activity, and not depriving your body of nourishing, healthy, and nutrient dense foods . Those already moving around a bunch can push the intensity of your workouts a bit higher than you are used to.
If you’re trying to lose weight, you still need to be at a slight deficit, but having that overall deficit come from your increased and/or more intense activity levels can allow for more of the weight coming off as body fat rather than muscle.
A higher energy flux is also effective coming off a successful dieting period; practice living a higher energy flux lifestyle to make your weight loss gains more permanent and keep weight “yo-yo” ing at bay. Make your body into that Thriving Factory, your waistline, sanity, muscles, and overall health will thank you!
(1) David John Hume, Sonja Yokum, Eric Stice, Low energy intake plus low energy expenditure (low energy flux), not energy surfeit, predicts future body fat gain, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 103, Issue 6, June 2016, Pages 1389–1396, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.115.127753
(2) Melby, C. L., Paris, H. L., Drew Sayer, R., Bell, C., & Hill, J. O. (2019). Increasing energy flux to maintain diet-induced weight loss. Nutrients, 11(10). https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11102533

The Importance of Proper Hip Hinge Mechanics

The Importance of Proper Hip Hinge Mechanics

The Importance of Proper Hip Hinge Mechanics

Combating Back Pain with Strength

Upfit Training Academy

-Jacob O’Connor, Brian Santanelli-

The vast majority of us have experienced back pain at some point in our lives. The individuals who haven’t yet experienced back pain are lucky outliers among a sea of people who at some degree share this experience. There are a great deal of reasons as to why one may be experiencing back pain. For some of us we may have suffered an acute injury, others may have chronic pain caused by prolonged sitting and/or poor movement patterns. My guess is that the majority of back pain is caused by the latter. This is why it is essential for personal training and small group fitness programs to prioritize proper technique. Think about how much of each day you spend seated… Most of us are at a desk the majority of the day, at stressful jobs (especially in NYC), moving poorly if at all.

     All of this time sitting takes a toll on your hips, back, neck, and shoulders, leading to stiffness and discomfort. Back pain can be incredibly debilitating for some, bleeding into aspects of life such as sleep, recreation, and simple household tasks. Do you or someone you know commonly experience back pain? What are you doing to combat your pain? Improving the strength, stability, and mobility of your hips and back is a strategy on the forefront of treating and preventing back issues.

     The hip hinge is a fundamental movement for the vast majority of personal training and small group training programs. It is necessary to master the hip hinge in order to perform many hip/back strengthening exercises. The hinge looks simple, but it can be a deceivingly difficult movement to conquer. You can find our progressions of the hip hinge below. 

Medicine Ball Goodmorning

     A great introduction to the hip hinge, a heavy emphasis is placed on technique execution to properly develop this movement pattern. The front loaded weight gives a trainee an idea how to use the front muscles of the core. The feet will be hip width apart while engaging the core and lats. From there, drive the hips back with a slight bend in the knees. Once you’re at the bottom of a rep (you will feel a stretch in the hamstrings) bring the hips forward and shoulders upright while squeezing the glutes through the move.

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

     This is a progression from the medicine ball good morning. The set-up is very similar here, but now the weights should be held at the side of the hips. The weight placement forces the trainee to use and strengthen the lats, as well as the upper back. Movement execution will be just like the med ball good morning. 

Kettlebell Deadlift

     Now that we’re pulling from the floor, our set-up will change. Standing over the kettlebell, hip hinge backward then bend the knees more than you typically would for a good morning. Grab the kettlebell by the horns and make sure the lats are engaged with a “squeeze the armpit” cue, creating pre-tension. Then drive your feet into the ground with your hips and shoulders moving at the same speed.

Trap Bar Deadlift

     Set up with the feet hip width apart inside of the trap bar. Hinge back, bend the knees and grab the bar. Center your hands and the weight, create pre-tension by squeezing the lats like the kettlebell deadlift, and fire up the core (take the slack out of the bar). Drive the feet into the ground and stand up.

Conventional Deadlift

    Set-up with the barbell over your midfoot and feet hip width apart. Hinge back and bend the knees, grab the bar with your hands just outside your legs. Create pre-tension to take the slack out of the bar and drive feet into the ground. Make sure to stand up tall and straight, not hyperextending at the low back.

     In a world full of back pain it’s important to identify exercises to strengthen these areas. As someone who has been through a few stints of back pain myself, I have a great appreciation for practical movements that go a long way. It can’t be understated how important it is to perform these movements correctly. Poor execution will not yield the same results and can be counterproductive, causing more discomfort. We hope that this progression can be of use to you and help you continue living a healthier, happier, and more physically active lifestyle. 


We’re all the same, except that we’re all different. 

We’re all the same, except that we’re all different. 

Different backgrounds, experiences, strengths, weaknesses, and stories.

Leg lengths, hand sizes, past injuries, fears, motivations, and dreams. 


Fitting square pieces into round holes will rub squares the wrong way. Can we mold our plan of fitness and health to collaborate and work with our multi shaped clients? This doesn’t mean straying away from the core principles of training, exercise science, and fitness, but instead catering the delivery, the ingredients, and communication. 


A single leg squat instead of a double leg squat for those who have back discomfort, or giving a celebratory high five (pre-covid) to the apprehensive beginner vs a simple positive nod and smile of acknowledgement to the veteran trainee. 

A remarkable, human approach. A people focused program. We like our stories being heard, and with consistency being the predominant determining factor for success in health and fitness, more stories need to be listened to.

“If you think the solution is more rules, and less humanity, I fear you will be disappointed by the results. Those that can bring humanity and flexibility to their interactions with other human beings will thrive.” – Seth Godin, Linchpin.

UpFit Training Academy - Squat Progression

UpFit Training Academy – Squat Progression

Building a Strong Foundation for Fundamental Movement

UpFit Training Academy – Squat Progression

Jacob O’Connor

      Unfortunately, the word basic is commonly interpreted as easy or unchallenging. Too often we are influenced by snippets of physical feats performed for social media. Impressive as they are, most of this content is made for views rather than results and is not a model for how we reach our fitness goals. Any structure built upon a poor foundation is doomed to break down, our bodies are no exception to this. Building a strong foundation is the key to success, safety, and results when it comes to any movement. This is a concept that should always be taken into account in personal training and small group fitness programs. 

       At UpFit Training Academy we emphasize the importance of mastering the basics before progressing to more complex movement. Keep in mind, although some movements may be less complex, by no means does this put a limit on the results and progress one can yield. By manipulating variables such as frequency, intensity, and volume impressive gains can be seen before moving to more complex variations. One example of perfecting your foundation can be seen in our progression of the squat. Our progression of the squat from least to most complex can be seen below. Note that each variation is nuanced, for example, using a box is a great way to establish depth and can be used in most squat variations. 

Medicine Ball Squat Press Out

     The med ball squat press out is a great introduction to the fundamental movement of the squat, fantastic for people who may be new to personal training or small group training. This variation utilizes a medicine ball as a counterweight, encouraging an upright posture and improving squatting mechanics. This movement is done by extending the ball forward as you descend into your squat. Returning the ball to its original position as you return to the starting position. 

Kettlebell Goblet Squat

     The goblet squat is a common variation suitable for most people. The movement is performed with a kettlebell or dumbbell held near the chest. The goblet squat puts an increased demand on your upper body and the core as it is more difficult to maintain an upright posture. 

Double Kettlebell Front Rack Squat

     The double kettlebell front squat is a progression of the goblet squat. As you can tell by the name this variation includes squatting with two kettlebells, thus requiring the load to be carried in the front rack supported by the trunk This variation allows for more weight to be used and adds significant demands on core stability. 

Barbell Front Squat

     The front squat is performed with a barbell in the front rack which displaces the load further from the body. This variation  has a high demand of mobility, specifically thoracic extension and external rotation of the shoulders. There are a number of front rack variations that can be used for those that find it difficult to achieve the classic front rack position. Using the barbell allows for essentially unlimited load to be used during the squat. It’s very important to develop a stable front rack to facilitate sound squatting mechanics. 

     At UpFit Training Academy we believe in mastering the basics in our personal training and small group fitness programs. Building a strong foundation in movements such as the squat is essential to achieving longevity and health in your pursuit of fitness. Simple movements, proper execution, increase in demands, further adaptation … RESULTS. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, although more complex movements can be aesthetically pleasing to the social media viewee,  it’s a mistake to rush into them by sacrificing the most important step; the basics. 

Do you need protein to lose weight?

Do you need protein to lose weight?

What does protein have to do with it?

At first apprehensive about showing her picture, Jill decided that her story was worth sharing!


Jill and Wes

This is Jill with Wes, and this is what she said to me when I asked her how she dropped 40 lbs since training with us…

“Well coming here to workout, but

a Sh%T load of chicken,
and not eating junk 70% of the time.”

Words from one of our most successful female clients down 40 lbs since training with us from 205 lbs.

As simple as it can get from someone who had about 150 questions before starting her fitness journey.

“You think lifting weights is better or cardio?”
“What about HIIT? I heard that works great.”
“What about going vegan, I just saw the game changers movie.”
“Won’t lifting weights get me bigger?”

And all questions you can expect from a beginning, inquisitive fitness hopeful overwhelmed with the black hole of internet information. And then realizing as she went on that consistency with the basics would carry her forward.

Protein, less crap, move more.

Might be important for weight loss

“Higher-protein energy-restriction diets lead to greater weight loss, fat mass loss, and preservation of lean mass along with greater improvements in select cardiometabolic health outcomes, over the shorter term, compared with lower-protein diets” (Leidy et al. 2015).

Simple but not easy.

“Although greater satiety, weight loss, fat mass loss, and/or the preservation of lean mass are often observed with increased protein consumption in controlled feeding studies, the lack of dietary compliance with prescribed diets in free-living adults makes it challenging to confirm a sustained protein effect over the long term” (Leidy et al 2015).

Not easy, but probably better than the Vegan and ab blaster program from your favorite Instagram fitness influencer.


Fit shaming, ever heard of it?

Fit shaming, ever heard of it?

Obesity is killing us! Stop the fat shaming!

How about Fit Shaming?

You ever heard of it?

“Jeez you’re so skinny, you have to eat more. ”

“Just have a cookie man.”

Yeah these are things that have been said to me, as I sit at a normal (albeit a lower than average body fat percentage #shredlife), a normal BMI (body mass index or height to weight ratio), and probably taking in more calories than said shamer.


Shred Life


“That girl looks so silly.”
As an overweight girl tries to figure out how to follow along with a youtube dance video.

“What the hell is that guy doin?”
As the baby boomer gentlemen who has never exercised is attempting to do kettlebell swings for the first time.

Things I’ve heard in commercial gym settings.




The biggest reason we might die as per the newest research is not that we’re fat, its that we don’t MOVE.

“Findings from a recent meta-analysis suggest that poor cardiorespiratory fitness is an independent and a better predictor of mortality than obesity, and that the risk for all-cause and cardiovascular mortality is higher in individuals with normal body mass index (BMI) and poor physical fitness, compared with individuals with high BMI and good physical fitness (Silverman and Duester, 2014).”

Fit shaming, ever heard of it?

– Your Fitness Liason

Paul W. Park Co-founder/Owner

UpFit Training Academy

When Exercise Is NOT Good For You

When Exercise Is NOT Good For You


The ability to bounce back.

To learn from our mistakes.

Our bodies ability to build bone density with weight lifting.

Our immune system’s natural way of vaccinating us against diseases.

It’s what makes the human being so resilient.

More specifically anti-fragile.

As Nassim Taleb explains in his book “Antifragile”, antifragility is better than resiliency, because it allows for gain from stressful events.

We have the awesome ability to get better and stronger, physically and emotionally after recovering from stressful events.

Our hardships develop our character. As does exercise for our physical bodies. As does going outside playing and rolling around in the dirt as a kid fortifying our immune systems as adults.

We have that ability, but we’re not bulletproof, there’s a Goldilocks zone. Where the soup is not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

Are we getting enough SLEEP? Are we eating nutrient dense foods? Hydrated? Are we over-stressed from our demanding bosses, bills, relationships? People forget that stress is not just a mood but a physiological response.

Stress is not a mental thing that can be wished away but a physical part of your being at any given moment.

That’s why we ask these questions to new clients during our initial UpFit Assessment. Because we might need to dial back the first week.

There’s been more times than I can count as a young ambitious coach when I put new clients through hard workouts their first day. No matter how much sleep they got, no matter their fitness level, never asking how they were feeling.

2 days later they would text me saying they’re sick, and can’t make the next workout.

80% of the time I would never see them again.

We forget exercise is inherently a stress as well. And to an unfit, over-stressed, and under-slept trainee it can put them into the too hot “goldilocks” zone where you end up burning your tongue.

Bring out those anti fragile capabilities of our body. As we become more fit, our physical anti fragile abilities will fortify. Just make sure you’re hydrating, prioritizing your sleep, and telling your boss to shove it.

-Coach Paul is a master trainer and co-owner of Upfit Academy – Small Group Fitness and Personal Training Specialists proximal to Midtown NYC.