To pushup or not to pushup?
Another "But Why? Wednesday", another "But Why?" This week we cover why you'll never find a whole heap of pushups or presses in our workouts. Most gyms/ PTs you encounter will love pushups. They'll love bench presses too. Pushing mechanics are essential, practical and natural to us humans. Even though a lot of guys are just doing them to try to get bigger pecs and biceps, they're important all the same.
So, if pushing is essential, practical and natural (all boxes I keep telling people to tick), why don't I program more of it?
Essentially, it's because most people's shoulders are that poorly positioned that lots of pushing movements are just going to bring about injury and pain. What many of our clients have noticed is that we work heavily on posterior/pulling strength and shoulder mobility instead. If I had to quantify it I'd say it's about a 3:1 split - pulling to pushing. This is not accidental, this is very intentional.
If you think about the average person's day - driving, typing on a computer, texting and scrolling through Facebook on a phone, writing some stuff, making food, eating food, typing some more, driving some more, scrolling some more - how many of those activities and all of the smaller movements that surround them involve your arms being in front of you. Almost all, right? Now think about how many of your daily tasks require you to climb, pull, drag or lift objects? For most people the answer will be not many. Almost everything we do is anteriorly dominant. And because of this, the muscles at the front of the shoulder and arm (like your pecs and biceps) get shorter and pull the shoulder forward. Compound that with a lack of hanging and climbing (which shortens up your lats), and the shoulder gets pulled down. Shoulders down and forward? Hey presto! Here we have your classic rounded shoulders or "office posture".
This internal rotation of the shoulder joint, or “shlumping”, sees an awful lot of pressure being put on the front of the shoulder joint which in turn increases the wear and tear. Not the best position to be doing a whole lotta pushups and presses. This position can also lead to the onset of osteoarthritis, tendonopathy, bursitis and other inflammatory conditions. Not only that, but the forward drag of the shoulders over-stretches the weak muscles in the back of your shoulder which, (best case scenario), leads to muscle spasms and shoulder pain, and (worst case scenario), increases the risk of rotator cuff tears and chronic injury.
The sad truth is, most people have unhealthy shoulders and it's largely due to the fact that people are already doing way too much pushing, when they really need to be doing more pulling. Unless you're a 15 year old guy, in which case I'd say you're probably pulling about enough. That was a masturbation joke in case you missed it. Zing. So, that's why we shy away from overdoing it on the pushing and pressing movements. We're trying to bring back some normal function to people's shoulders and correct the positioning, rather than just putting more stress on a bad situation. If you want to take a quick test to see if you're internally rotated, just stand up and let your arms fall naturally by your side. Your thumbs should technically be facing forward or fairly close to it. If they're facing each other (or into your thighs), you're very internally rotated. If they're pointing less than 45Âº away from your body, you're still pretty internally rotated. If your thumbs aren't naturally facing fairly well forward, then maybe think about easing off on the old favourites like bench press and start hanging, climbing and working pretty seriously on shoulder mobility and stability. You'll thank us in the long run.