The push-up is a key culprit that’s destroying shoulders.
This is unfortunate because the exercise is awesome! It targets the arms, chest, back, and core, all with zero equipment needed. No one should ever head to the beach without a few sets.
But the problem with the push-up is that it gets no respect! Form is too often neglected for the sake of more reps. Or it’s assumed that basic bodyweight exercises are a god-given right—and don’t need modifications or any amount of prerequisite strength.
But this mindset hinders results and sets the shoulder up for injury.
It’s time to “Make push-ups done right.”
The head, back, hips, and heels should align— don’t lift or sag the hips.
“Core strength” is not always the problem. While the core muscles do support the back alignment… Shoulder stability is more often a bigger part of the problem!
To create shoulder stability protract the scapula! This means driving the shoulder blades around the sides of your body or spread the blades apart.
A protracted scapula cleans up the alignment.
It’s key to performance and shoulder health that the elbows stay to sides either at 45 degrees or tucked-in during the move.
I will share a strength secret… press with vertical forearms. I learned this from yoga and doing chaturanga when doing a vinyasa.
That goes for bench press, shoulder press, and all variations between; with dumbbells, barbells, or any other weight.
Keep the weight stacked over the elbow, this optimizes mechanics for a stronger press.
This is the same for push-ups. Putting the hands too narrow or too wide, will impact strength and proper mechanics. So find a hand position in which the forearm stays almost completely vertical to the floor.
A perfect push-up should touch the chest to the floor. A half rep push-up not only limits training results, but it’s not great for shoulder health either.
I understand that everyone has to start somewhere! But doing only half reps never progresses to full reps (which I have a solution for you).
Better Push-Up Plan
Here is a plan to build better push-ups. This means doing better push-ups, even if that starts with 1 rep and using modifications.
1. Start by working on the plank position. On the hands and toes, shoulders protracted, with the glutes, core, and shoulders tight.
2. Inclined Push-up is the next step, modified push-up. Elevating the torso decreases the strength required to complete the rep. As strength progresses, lower the angle for more difficulty.
3. Or a 3-Part Push-up (without an incline), press up from the knees. But then lift to a full plank (on toes) and lower on the hands and toes.
4. Now it’s time for the real deal. Lower the chest all the way to the deck. Take a second, brace the abs, tighten the hips, and then drive the floor away to the perfect plank that started the movement