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Rest Day

Push-Up fault demos.
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Push-Up 101
Christian Fox

          The Push-Up is a classic bodyweight exercise, and likely one of the first “non-play” physical activities many of us encountered in grade school PE. The benefits of the push up are many. Obviously, upper body pushing strength is one. There’s also…
- Shoulder girdle strength – a well-performed push-up requires a stable scapula for the “mover” muscles of the shoulder to work off of. The rotator cuff and scapular muscles create force couples to control the scapula and create a stable base, and rotate the scapula to allow the correct amount of room for the humeral head to move. You can think of your shoulder girdle as another “core” in this way. A bench press or any machine press has a very different vibe. The bench or seat is providing an artificial platform for your pressing muscles to work from instead of in tandem with scapular muscles. This makes the push-up is a fantastic exercise for rehabbing a bum shoulder (depending on the issue) because it re-trains the muscles of the shoulder girdle to work together with the bigger “mover” muscles of the shoulder (pecs, lats, delts, biceps, and triceps). My high school PE teacher wouldn’t let anybody touch a weight unless they could perform 10 strict push-ups with good form. I’ve often used this principle with clients.
- Mid-line stability – A well-performed push up has the skeleton in good neutral alignment. The joints at the shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle all line up like ducks, with the spine staying rigid from head to hip. Yes, your abs ARE at work in the push up. Think of it as a moving plank.
There are lots of variations; from the toes, from the knees, hands elevated, feet elevated, handstand, band-resisted, with chains, with plates or small humans on your back, clapping, traveling…the list can go on. There are however a few universals that apply to any well performed push up. Here’s what to keep in mind.
+ Keep your chest and collar bone buoyant in the movement. Don’t cave in and let them drop between your shoulders. Let your elbows start the movement, and think of keeping your shoulder blades glued to the ribs.
+ Keep an arm angle at the shoulder that has your elbows pointing somewhat back and out, not straight out to the sides or straight back toward your feet.
+ Keep the back of your head up and chin slightly tucked. Don’t drop your chin out and make like a goose’s neck.
+ Keep your abdominal muscles and glutes on. The chest should be the first and only thing to touch the floor. No sagging hips or belly.
+ Keep your knees back. One of your quadriceps works at the hip also (see above tip). Activating the quads in tandem with your glutes will help keep your mid-line stable. Think of pulling the kneecap into the thigh.
If you’re strong enough for push-ups from the toes but your belly gets in the way (thanks, GOMAD) consider elevating the whole thing. Feet on a small box and hands on parallettes or some plates. Come on, tough guy.

Reader Comments (9)

Anyone working on a deeper squat, check out Eric Cressey's site today.
September 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJim
So, sadly, I can't make it to the Warrior Dash this weekend. I have no idea if it's sold out or not, but if anyone is interested in my ticket, let me know.
September 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoe
I'm in the same sad boat as Joe-family obligations have us in Boston this weekend. So one more Warrior Dash ticket is up for grabs. It's for Sat at 1:00 I believe, and I think Sat is sold out.
September 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Mak
Great article, Fox!

7am class. Such a good way to wake up.

warm-up:-tabata run, :20 on, :10 off x8 (I hate running but I liked this!)-held squat at bottom for 3:00. just a lil shin burning twd the end-hamstring stretch

DL: (65x3, 95x3, 115x3, 145x3) - 155x2x3heavy. mid-back was rounding a bit, so will work form more at a slightly lower weight.

Farmer's Carry: 2 attempts @ 400m1. 25 lbs, no penalties2. 25 lbs. with 1 penalty

accessory handstand work for about 5 minutes

September 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWhit
Deadlift 5/3/1> day305x5335x3365x6

Farmer's Carry 400 meters45lbs - 2 fouls53 lbs - 1 foul

Weight is holding steady at 185ish, damn. I feel so full.
September 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFox
squat275x5x3 PRbench235x5x3db shrugs75sx8x3
September 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commentergabrus
getting sick --> self-pity --> ice cream.

September 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichele
Finally made it to an Active Recovery class - thanks for the painful goodness Fox. It was great! Hope to make back in next week.
September 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAriel
Mobility WOD Post--This is my first MWOD post. I'm going to try to post on a consistent basis as some folks seem to be interested in the process. I'll preface each post as above so all are forewarned and can skip over if need be as these may get a little lengthy.Day 11 of MWOD challenge. As there was no new post today I revisited Monday's shoulder opener. Shoulders are tops on my goat list so they need all the love they can get. This was very tough and painful for me, especially in the ext/IR. I also went back and did the hip openers from Saturday again. I'm on day 45 of a 365 day yoga challenge and about day 20 or so, I developed a new love of "pigeon". This was the first time, really!, that I have found that sweet spot of a deep stretch with out feeling pain. I decided to spend a total of 6 minutes in pigeon on each side. Minutes 2-4 were kind of tough and I had to really concentrate on relaxing and releasing into the stretch. And breathing...so important.Observations: It's very important to relax into a stretch, especially the long hold ones. Incorporating micro movements in a stretch brings to light whole new worlds of tight to explore. Constant stretching...during a break from work, while I'm standing talking to someone, during a boring ass meeting...you'd be surprised how quickly people get used to seeing you put your body in a funny position.

Fox - Great mobility post last Friday. Mobility work is hard, painful, no one yelling great job while you're doing it and cheering you on and it's very hard to quantify the results as the results come in such small increments. It is now my number one priority.
September 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Mak

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