Here are some exercises to help you progress towards the perfect pushup
The push up is one of the most common bodyweight exercises out there. It doesn’t get anymore simple than dropping down to the floor and pressing yourself up and down repeatedly.
The push up is most commonly known as a chest exercise but as with any bodyweight movement, multiple muscle groups are incorporated.
Stabilization of the torso and core musculature is crucial for proper execution of the push up by ensuring to isolate the proper muscles to execute the movement.
Poor stability during a push up results in compensation that is often seen with excessive lumbar extension, contact of the pelvis to the floor before the chest, flared elbows, neck flexion and winged out shoulder blades.
There are movement progressions that can be implemented and practiced to ensure that each component of the push up is executed with the proper muscle groups.
One important muscle that functions for executing pushing movements is the serratus anterior. Known as “goose feathers” or the “ superhero muscle” it works to stabilize the scapula and protract, or move the scapula forward.
It received the nicknames due to its appearance as it runs along the rib cage and also because super heroes were known for having developed serratus muscles due to all the punching they do.
In this article we will discuss progressions that can help to ensure proper sequencing of muscles such as the serratus anterior to ensure key components such shoulder stability during the push up.
There are a few variations of the stepping-stone movements used to build up to a proper push up. Many of the positions require a proper plank position, as being able to hold the body in that position is important for the push up. This was discussed in the previous articles covering core progressions.
Lying on your back, hold your arms straight up in front of you.
Add a resistance band to the serratus punch now. You can use exercise tubing, assisted pull up bands or a theraband.
Start in a modified plank position on your knees and elbows.
Progress the modified plank by straightening one leg. This will promote more core control due to increased effort of maintaining a neutral torso position. It will also put more weight bearing through the arms.
The quadruped position will reduce the focus on the core but emphasize scapula positioning to begin progressing into push up form.
The top plank position will require more core stability.
The wall push up will allow for a beginning execution of the push up with minimal load onto the shoulders and torso. The more vertical your body is, the easier the push will be. To increase the challenge, move your feet further behind you to increase the pitch of the angle. The more the pitch, the more on your toes you will be.
Progressing the angle of the push up will require eventually coming off of the wall and progressing to the floor. Starting in a modified position on your knees and using a bench, chair or couch will act as a good progression towards the regular push up. A couch or cushion may be less stable which can challenge your stability slightly more.
Assume the same positioning as the modified incline push up except with the legs straight and on your toes.
The shoulder tap is an excellent way to train core stability and prepare for proper control required during a push up.
This is basically the push up with training wheels. The same concept as an assisted pull up with a band, it will act to help assist you back to start position while also unloading your body weight for the way down.
Once push-ups become easy with the band and proper form is maintained, progress to regular push-ups in sets of 3-5.
Avoid reps that result in lower back arching, elbow flaring or inability to contact the ground with the chest and hips at the same time.
Quality reps for lower count will ensure a greater benefit then poor reps for higher count.
While maintaining the hips in line with the shoulders, avoiding lumbar extension and pelvis rotation, draw the belly button in, squeeze the gluteals together and tap one hand to the opposite shoulder. Repeat 5 taps to each shoulder.
About The Author:
Michael St. George PT, DPT has been practicing for 10 years primarily in the outpatient and orthopedic setting. He works for a physical therapist owned private practice based in the greater Philadelphia area and surrounding suburbs. Mike is certified through Functional Movement Systems for FMS, SFMA and FCS which consist of screens and testing used to measure movement quality and performance. Mike also has experience with working with numerous surgeons and physicians from the Rothman institute. Currently he works primarily with ACL, meniscus and post surgical recovery and sports injuries, return to sport testing and performance, running evaluation and re training and hand and upper extremity conditions.