The Pushup is the same motion as a bench press except you’re pushing your body away from your hands instead of your hands and the resistance away from your body. We call this Reverse Action. Pullup – Pulldown same thing. Another benefit to the Pushup, versus lying on a bench and slinging as much weight as you can stuff on the bar and bounce off the ribcage, is that the shoulder blades, (scapulae) have the option of moving freely. By that I mean lying on a bench can and does inhibit your shoulder blades from coming forward, (protracting), and upward (upward rotation) if you’re doing an incline. Continually limiting shoulder blade movement in favor of just shoulder joint movement can lead to a host of shoulder problems. And, the heavier the resistance the more limiting occurs. Pushups allow these innate and essential motions of the shoulder blades to occur and involve the Serratus Anterior, (those tiger claw marks on the sides of the ribs), and Upper Trapezius if inclining. These two muscles are the prime movers of the shoulder blade and are essential to involve in your workouts if you want to create and maintain a solid foundation, symmetry, balance, great posture, strength and fluid mobility. I am not saying there is never a reason to do bench with dumbbells, (I avoid the traditional bench press for a number of reasons), but adding in Pushups with a number of variations is essential.
DO IT RIGHT!
Issues With The Traditional Pushup
- Wrist in extended position with considerable resistance through it.
- Fixed hand position does not allow full range on the Pecs (if indeed Pec development is part of your goal)
- Performing with your feet just on the floor is limiting yourself to a slight decline
These issues can be rectified by using some type of handle as a grip to maintain a neutral position of the wrist, not limiting your pressing movements to pushups alone, being creative and employing a wide variety of variations to the exercise.
As mentioned above, placing your hands on the ground with wrists in the extended position is not a good idea. Excessive range on any joint with heavy resistance through it is an injury waiting to happen, and in this case it is carpal strain waiting to happen. I know---I know, Pushups have been done for years without handles, you're not hurt yet, but as time goes on we usually- hopefully, (but not always), try to eliminate inefficiency/risk and learn to do things better.
I use a variety of handles to get my wrists into the neutral position so force can enter my hands without pi**ing off any tendons and ligaments of my wrists. Dumbbells work, they make special pushup handles, and I have been known to use branches, logs, or park benches when working out in a park.
There are many myths surrounding the grip and/or hand placement on a Pushup: Diamond position under the chest for inner pecs, wide grip with hands turned inward for outer pecs, and the new ‘perfect pushup’ (although great for grip variation and use as a handle) making false claims with no Biomechanical foundation that rotating on the way up or down improves everything under the sun. The truth is these are old school claims with no science to back them up. It may look cool and different but lacks substance.
A grip change should follow suit with the elbows moving closer or further away from the body, which changes the amount of Pec involvement via the amount of horizontal adduction implemented. Wide or narrow hand placement affects not only the range of the exercise itself, but how much elbow muscleclature (Pec & Triceps) could be involved. At the end of the day, as a general rule, don’t go too wide or too narrow but rotate your tires often (change it up).
One word: PROGRESSION. Learn the exercise with proper mechanics and intensify it before moving forward.
1. Hands on a Smith Machine bar at various heights
2. Handles. aka perfect pushup
3. Feet elevated on step
4. Feet elevated on a stability ball
5. Hands on a stability ball
6. Feet up with hands on stability ball
7. Plus rollouts
8. Chains ...allowing adduction (hands can come together)