Can you do a push-up like this?
The most common coaching cue I repeatedly hear with regards to performing dips and push-ups is “keep your shoulders down and back.”
Is this really the correct set-up?
Go ahead and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
What automatically happened when you did that?
Most likely, you also hyperextended your lower back! This is its own problem as you are organizing your body in a terrible position. Lets focus specifically on the shoulder joint as this will help the rest of your alignment.
The overemphasis on pinching the shoulder blades together creates a false sense of stability, as opposed to actually using the muscles that surround the shoulder. This pinching of the shoulder blades also puts a tremendous amount of stress on the anterior shoulder as opposed to equally loading the arms.
Do you know what happens when we continue to overload the anterior shoulder joint in these pushing exercises?
The most common injury is likely going to be shoulder impingement. In more extreme loading parameters we could also see speculate pec tears (where have we seen this before?).
How then, do we balance out the load between the arms and shoulders?
Actually by cueing the exact opposite of what everyone is cueing (Yes you read that correctly)
While everyone is cueing for the shoulders to be down and back, which is essentially shoulder blade retraction, we need to be cueing shoulder blade protraction.
I have found this to correct the overemphasis on the anterior shoulder joint and force an athlete to equally use their arms. Also remember this is just a cue and at a certain point throughout the range of motion it is no longer possible to maintain full shoulder blade protraction.
Where do we start?
What you have most likely discovered is that you aren’t strong enough to even perform a single rep of this push-up correctly. The next logical question is, where do we begin? Below is just one example of how to begin programming this correction. I always like super-setting pushing exercises with pulling exercises, as well as finishing a push/pull session with some structural balance shoulder work.
A1. Eccentric pseudo planche push-up: 1.1.1 x 5 sets; rest 90 seconds
A2. Ring rows @30x1: 5 x 5 sets; rest 90 seconds
B. Dumbbell Cuban rotations @4020: 6-8 x 3 sets; rest 60 seconds
SPOILER ALERT! Next week we are going to go deeper into shoulder positioning on push-ups vs dips vs HSPU and how they are exactly the same, but rarely performed exactly the same!