Why push-ups are the best pressing exercise

It’s important to balance the ratio of pressing and pulling you do in the gym to ensure balanced development, help correct postural issues and keep the shoulder joint healthy.

StrongerGolf-Rhomboids-and-Serratus-Anterior-ScapulaHowever both those bench presses and pulling movements such as                                                              rows and chin-ups you’ve been doing thinking you have a nice balanced training program train the rhomboids. The rhomboids are a downward rotator of the scapular, so we now have two movements encouraging downward rotation of the scapular and none encouraging upward rotation…doesn’t sound to balanced after all does it? (Incidentally, this can often be the cause of shoulder impingement).

The push-up is so good as its a fantastic way to activate and strengthen the serratus anterior, the muscle responsible for upward rotation of the scapular. It also serves to help flatten the scapular against the ribcage, fighting the anterior tilt that tight pecs exert on the scapular.

Now for a little know fact about me: I can read minds! And I know what what you thinking right now… ‘Nick I can see why push-ups are great, but aren’t they a bit wussy really, after all the world record for continuous push-ups is 10,507!’
Ok I hear you, so lets talk progressions:

  • One and a half reps or 3 – 6 second eccentrics are a nice progression to build strength and muscle.
  • Ring or TRX push-ups are a great way to increase the stability demands.
  • Single leg or even single arm variations amp the push-up as a core stability exercise.
  • Elevating the feet is probably our most used progression as it is great for serratus anterior activation and strength.
  • You can also add resistance to all push-up variations by throwing a resistance band over your back and/or putting on chains or a weighted vest.

Oh and if you still think push-ups are easy give this a try (with twice your bodyweight of course!) and get back to me…

Video Credit: Ben Bruno

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