Countless people have come in to see me with shoulder problems lately.
Some have injured themselves doing push ups or plank, so let’s look at the correct way to do those, as well as some exercises that can improve range of motion, strengthen shoulders, and release the tension that often causes those muscles to tighten up.
First, let’s cover correct form. Most people know by now that you can’t let your lower back sag down toward the floor without causing injury to your lower back. Keeping the body as straight as possible is the way to go. Unfortunately, there are many other incorrect ways to do a push up that are not so well known.
- Do your push ups in front of a mirror, or have someone watch you, to make sure your shoulders are level. This is the most common problem that I see with my clients (mainly women). We usually have one arm that is stronger than the other and when we lower towards the floor, the shoulder of the stronger arm goes lower than the other, causing an imbalance. The action of pushing back up from this imbalance can cause injury. I recommend doing knee push ups, with your lower legs up off the floor, to begin with. This position uses the same muscles but it’s a little easier to feel whether one arm is going lower than the other. Once you are stronger, and sure of your good form, you can go back to the military style.
- Also, When doing a push up, make sure that your elbows do not flare out from the body. That is most likely how we learned to do them as kids, but it’s really bad form as an adult when we are lifting over 100 lbs! This position puts a lot of stress on the rotator cuff, leading to injury. Keeping your elbows tucked closer into the body might make your push up a little more difficult, but it will most definitely help prevent rotator cuff injuries. One of the ways I teach people to remember to do that is through using a heavy hand barbell. Place the barbells on each side of the body so that when you grab the barbell your palms are facing each other. Complete all of your push ups with hands grabbing the barbells and this will make it easier to keep the elbows in while at the same time, saving your wrists from strain – A win-win solution.
- Another common bad habit is letting your body simply drop toward the floor. Don’t use gravity, use your muscles in a controlled movement both down and up. Ignore all those TV shows where you see guys doing push-ups so fast, you can’t even count them. For proper form, you need to go slow and concentrate on using all of your back, shoulder, abdominal and arm muscles. Keep those abs tight so that they can protect your lower back.
Now, let’s talk stress. Everyone has stress in their lives. It’s where you send that stress that can cause you some real headaches. I see so many people automatically tensing their shoulders when they are concentrating on something or when they get a stressful phone call, etc. When those shoulder muscles remain tensed for long periods, it cuts off the circulation in the muscles, and sets you up for injury and pain. Here is a simple technique that you can do several times every day to keep from causing that “stress back pack.”
Lastly, one of my favorite exercises improves flexibilty and range of motion in the shoulders very quickly. I have given this exercise to many who have used it to avoid surgery on their shoulder. Some clients have called it a “miracle exercise.” Truly, it’s just a great exercise to keep in your daily routine to prevent injury.
Best of Health,