Who doesn’t love a good hug? Hopefully you’ve been hugged since you were a wee lad or lass, and you’re still receiving them to this day. The hug has always been my preferred greeting because it conveys a warmth that hand shakes and high fives can’t translate. Hugs can be appreciated by people of all abilities, but like all art forms, it’s something that can be improved through practice and training. After all, nobody wants to be this awkward:
I shudder at the idea of such an awkward hug. My hugs put Voldy’s to shame, and if there is ever an Olympic event, I’m playing for Team USA. Let me share with you some tips and exercises that can help take your hug to the next level.
First of all, practice your hug. In EliteFTS’s So You Think You Can Squat series, Matt Wenning discusses the importance of addressing technical failure, finding and strengthening weak spots, and improving performance. The same strategies can be applied to the hug. Let’s discuss several exercises that can improve weak points in your hug. If you’re not a hugger, and/or have split your soul, then just pretend this article is a list of cool exercises you can try in the gym.
When we break down the lift, hugs come down to three things: Lower body strength, core stability, and a strong chest, shoulders, and arms. We’ll start with the upper body, because nothing good can come from having the upper body strength of a mosquito. I have two exercises that will help you begin the embrace and ensure you don’t lose your grip too soon.
The combination push-up and fly allows you to develop unilateral stress that can help you pull someone in with one hand, and can be considered chaos training for a poorly allignd hug. I’ve found that the TRX variation is slightly easier on the pec than the towel version, but either can be appropriate when trained correctly. You’ll see both of those below:
Now that the person is in your arms, you want to ensure that they stay there. This requires strong pecs, shoulders, and biceps. Isolating these muscles is foolish, but it’s possible to target this movement with the TRX Hug. In this variation, we can develop strength close to the ‘end range’ hugging position. Consider it the rack-pull of hugging:
The best of hugs involve some air time; If you want it to be awesome, you ought to pick the person up. This requires strength through the trunk, hips, and legs. Tofunctionally train the hug, squat with the bar in your arms: Use the Zercher Squat. Here, you’ll see me demonstrating a Zercher Squat, which would be most applicable to hugging somebody who’s 225lbs and about 2 feet tall:
We’ve addressed the leg drive required for a hug that will literally sweet someone off of their feet. After incorporating Zercher Squats into your training for a while, you should have no issues pulling those you hug off the floor. Hopefully you’ve trained your upper body so that you can maintain a firm embrace during your hug. The exercises already mentioned address static hugs though; what happens when you’re on the move? These final two core exercises allow you to focus on bracing the core with a dynamic load. The first one is the marvelous Stir the Pot, which is the coolest plank variation ever. The second is a Ribbon Chop done using a Swiss ball with sand inside: Sandbags, slosh pipes, and other devices are equally as challenging:
If you’re adamant about taking your hug to the next level, you’re going to have to practice. Hug your parents and grandparents, hug your friends. Giving out free hugs can be a good idea as well:
Even with practice though, your hug might need some work. Incorporate the 5 exercises I’ve shared with you above, and focus on getting strong. Hopefully, this improves your hugability, and see how these can enhance your ability to give an “awesome hug.”
Hopefully you’ve realized I’m not serious about “functionally” training the hug. These exercises are great variations that you can incorporate into your training as progressions of the basics, or as variations when necessary. Sure, they’ll help you hug like a hero, but more importantly, they should help get you strong as hell.
Now go hug someone.