You'd be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't like working their chest. This is great and all, but it leads too many people to overwork their chest. The result is often chronic shoulder pain that can impair performance and limit your workouts. Not ideal.
However, it's possible to press without angering your shoulder, as long as you prepare properly. My favorite way to do this is with the unique Push-Up progression detailed below.
Whether you're in the Army, a fitness boot camp class, powerlifting, gymnastics, CrossFit or are simply trying to get up off the floor, you've performed some form of Push-Up. The variations below are based on the traditional Push-Up, but add improved range of motion to give you the opportunity to build strong and resilient chest, shoulders and arms.
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Alternating Straight-Arm Plank
Start off with an Alternating Plank with Reach to engage your core and scapular muscles, and to prepare your shoulders for action. If you rush right into the next variation without challenging the muscles required to maintain a stable top position, it will be difficult to add clean and controlled movement. Rushing will start a quarrel between your shoulders and chest, which might lead to an appointment with a therapist.
Sets/Reps: 1-2x5 each arm
Next up is the scapular version, which adds movement to the stability exercise above. In this video, I demonstrate the movement using a close hand position for increased tricep activation. I also place my hands on a PVC pipe, which takes some tension off my wrists, challenges my grip strength and provides instability to ensure my rotator cuff muscles are firing. My chest is contacting the PVC pipe, and then I'm pushing my shoulders away from me at the top of the exercise through a full range of motion. Who cares? From a movement standpoint, your shoulders care! Healthier shoulders mean a bigger Bench Press without pain.
Gliding Scapular Push-Up
This variation trains your end ranges of motion and challenges and strengthens your joints at the bottom position. For those of you who find the bodyweight version fairly easy and require load to challenge the movement, this is another strategy to strengthen the joints and the muscles and tissue surrounding the shoulder in different positions. At times, your joints will be pushed in a new direction, like when bumping into something while carrying an object or getting hit in a sporting event.
Scapular Push-Up With Feet Elevated
Finally, you can perform the Scapular Push-Up withFeet Elevated, which increases the load on the chest, shoulders and arms. In addition, your core will be placed in a position where you will feel it working a bit more. And when I say a bit, I really mean a lot!
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock