Push-Ups Gone Wrong?

Push-ups are one of the most popular exercises out there, especially in youth sports. When performed correctly, push-ups are a terrific exercise to promote core/shoulder stability, upper body strength, and a proper upper body pressing movement pattern. I was recently featured in Men’s Fitness for a segment on how to train to perform 100 push-ups consecutively.


As you can imagine, the first step in being able to perform 100 push-ups is being able to perform one, correctly. In reality, the push-up form I see most frequently is pretty far from optimal. This is the result of never being taught how to perform the movement correctly or having been taught incorrectly. In either case, the result is a continued development of an improper movement pattern, which will inevitably lead to a breakdown SOMEWHERE (front/top of the shoulder, back of the next, and lower back are the most likely culprits). Shortly after the Men’s Fitness article went live, I received an email from a reader that had to perform a push-up test for his work (police officer) and noted that his performance was limited by shoulder pain. My response to his email was:

If I understand your case correctly, it’s not uncommon. The reality is that most people have never been taught to do a push-up correctly, and MANY have been taught how to do them incorrectly. Assuming your shoulder pain is a result of a suboptimal movement pattern and not the result of another underlying issue (you should get that checked out by a doctor), you can improve your push-up ability immensely by following the guidelines I wrote about here: Shoulder Pain with Pressing Exercises

Rather than reinvent the wheel here with a new post on how to address shoulder pain with pressing exercises like push-ups, I’ll just direct you to a post I wrote a while back that covers the issue in-depth. Check it out here:

Click here >> Shoulder Pain with Pressing Exercises

One of the major take homes I try to reinforce with our athletes is that PROPER movement is more important (or at least equally as important) as strong, powerful, or quick movement. In general, athletes tend to overemphasize quantity and underemphasize quality, probably because it’s more easily observable and quantifiable. A perfect running stride resulting in a lost race doesn’t get much credit. On the other hand, a sloppy running stride that wins a race gets praise. Proper movement doesn’t only optimize long-term performance, it also SIGNIFICANTLY decreases the risk of non-contact injuries, which have become unacceptably overwhelming in youth sports. Optimization of all basic movement patterns (lower body push, lower body pull, upper body push, upper body pull, linear and transitional running mechanics, etc.) is a worth goal and should be the focus of early athletic development endeavors. This post will go into specific details on how to do this for upper body pushing patterns:

Click here >> Shoulder Pain with Pressing Exercises

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. My friend Mike Robertson has posted two great articles on the pros and cons of a very popular core exercise. The posts include thoughts from a couple of really bright guest contributors (including Stuart McGill). Check them out here: Should You Crunch: Part 1 , Should You Crunch: Part 2

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