Recently I have seen a lot of shoulder wear and tear in my practice, often directly related to the amount of push ups my clients have been doing. With today’s many Fitness Challenges going viral, one of the popular ones being +100 push ups a day for 30 days, I have also seen shoulder problems increasing.
Why is that? Shouldn’t more push ups just make you stronger? The answer is poor technique! Just because you can do a lot of repetitions does not automatically mean that you are doing it right.
Are your fingers pointed forward? Are your elbows locked out? Are your forearms staying straight at 90 degrees from the floor at all times during the movement? Is your shoulder moving forward first (not your elbow!)? Is your core braced so that your spine and upper body moves as one unit pivoting from the floor?
Did you nod your head in agreement while reading those questions? Or, are you not really sure what I mean by them? If so, you should take good look at your push up technique right away. Unless you did higher levels gymnastics as school, or just happened to have an amazing coach, most likely this is all new to you. That’s OK. Don’t feel bad about it – get smart instead, and learn to do it right.
Doing push ups with poor technique is like driving a car where the wheel base is off. You can still drive it, but it will always pull a bit to the side and the tires will wear out unevenly and quickly because of the uneven weight distribution. You can think of your shoulders as your upper wheelbase (your hips being the lower) and the same uneven wear and tear will happen there. However, it’s not so easy to “change out the damaged tires” in a human body.
So what’s your game plan? Are you going to blame it on the tires, or are you going to invest some time and energy making sure that your wheel base is solid? Think of it this way. A well functioning machine with good alignment might need some extra oil once in a while but it will not break down just because you increased the repetitions. If it does, something is wrong with the mechanics and you need to fix it.
Coach Carl Paoli is an excellent movement coach, whom I have tremendous respect for. I think it would be a smart move on your part to pay attention to his teachings in all things movement. Practical tip: When you are practicing this, it is a great idea to put a book, block, ball or something behind your forearm. This is to make sure that your forearm does not move backwards during the push up. If your forearm comes in contact with the object, you know it moved, and you can adjust accordingly.
If you are not able to do a complete push up yet, follow this push up scale video. Pay good attention and don’t worm yourself out of this one 😉
Ok, so you think that you already have great mechanics? Great, check yourself in the push up lie detector test by turning your hands the opposite way, having the fingers pointing toward your toes. Also, find out why doing push ups on your knees is not good for your shoulders, and why it will not lead you into a proper push up.
We all need to pay attention to good technique, especially when it comes to the basics as they lay the ground work for all other movement. When it comes to injury prevention there really is no substitute for a solid foundation with great mechanics.
Wishing you a great Push up into the weekend! 😉