Tuesday Tips - Push Ups Are Awesome

Shoulders are always a hot topic whether it be rehab or performance. For rehab we have patients dealing with limited function and reduced activity participation due to shoulder deficits. For performance we have clients and athletes looking to maximize their strength and resilience needed for their tasks. This last week I was asked a lot about the topic of upper body strengthening and scapular robustness - which sparked today’s blog.

Image Credit - https://t00.deviantart.net/HTcOR0OdtROB36u6G-a8Kf1ChBw=/500x250/filters:fixed_height(100,100):origin()/pre00/3d19/th/pre/i/2017/267/e/4/anatomy___shoulder_and_bicep_muscles_by_yacek7812-dboev2f.jpg

When it comes to upper body strengthening, we see that there are some big movements that generally come to mind for most people - bench press, pull ups, strict press, and bent over rows. However, I want to argue that we are neglecting a very beneficial movement.

Image Link - https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2016/02/16/19/28/burpee-1203906_960_720.jpg

Push Ups are a fantastic form of upper body training, challenging the trunk to maintain positioning, and teaching control of the body. As well, push ups are very scaleable - we can easily adjust incline/decline based on needs within the same variation. Push ups also fill a gap in upper body training movements by allowing the shoulder blades to move concentrically into protraction.

Most of the time when performing upper body horizontal movements we emphasize scapular retraction. In rowing we retract the scapula as we finish the pull, whereas in bench press variations we retract the scapula and keep them pulled back through the lift. This is not inherently a bad thing; in the case of rowing we get strengthening the upper body with concentric/eccentric scapular retraction, and in the case of bench pressing we create a stable foundation to focus on pressing mechanics and reduced stability demand.

On the flip side, push ups present a way to work on horizontal pressing while also working concentric/eccentric scapular protraction - working the serratus anterior.

If you start to dig into the research on shoulder mechanics - which is a hot topic over the last few years - we are seeing a new concept emerge - scapular robustness. In the past it was viewed that the scapula should move in a very specific manner with very specific timing, if it didn’t your shoulder would derange, break down, and cause pain. This concept has been challenged and shown not to be accurate and quite flawed. A great investigation into is this paper from McQuade, Borstad, and de Oliverira.

Push Up, Get Strong, Be Resilient,


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