The Push-Up is a foundational movement pattern for any athlete. But Push-Ups are often overshadowed by Bench Press variations, which take precedence in many strength and conditioning programs. The Bench Press and its variations, including the Barbell and Dumbbell Press, are great ways to develop strength, but traditional Push-Ups have definite advantages over these and other loaded movements.
Freedom of Shoulder Blade Movement
First and foremost, the Push-Up is considered a closed kinematic chain movement. This type of movement requires the extremities (in this case, the two hands) to be in contact with the ground and in a fixed position throughout the exercise. This is important when athletes focus on developing proper movement patterns at the scapula and shoulder joints, working in unison to create force, and solid positions to reduce the chance of injuries.
Bench Press variations involve an open kinematic chain. Both hands move freely in space, depending on the load being used. This can be advantageous at times; but when an athlete is trying to enhance mobility and dynamic stability of the shoulder blade working together with the shoulder joints, the Push-Up is the superior option. Having your shoulder blades in contact with the bench limits the natural movement patterns of the shoulder blade, altering the movement pattern as a whole.
Loading the Traditional Push-Up with Accommodating Resistance
One of the biggest knocks on the Push-Up is the inability to progress in loading, adding weight to the movement as you get stronger. Loading the Push-Up by wearing a weighted vest or placing a weight plate on your back can be appropriate, but one of the best options to develop strength and progress over time is to add accommodating resistance to the push-up movement pattern.
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Using bands or chains, Push-Ups can be loaded to facilitate progression. The benefit of this comes in the deloading at the bottom of the movement, where resistance is at a minimum due to more chains being on the ground, or less stretch through a band. The bottom position is often the most stressful portion of the exercise, which is why deloading it is conducive to shoulder health. The strongest portion of the movement is the top, accommodating the most resistance. This makes using bands a great option for athletes.
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