Push Ups are Not a Chest Exercise!

People of the internet! Haaapppppy Monday. Last weekend about a dozen of our triathletes here at Combine Training competed in Eagleman Triathlon this past weekend in Maryland. For those that are unfamiliar this consisted of 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run. What made this weekend extra tough was the 100% humidity in 90 degree heat with virtually no shade to speak of. It was not uncommon for participants to receive an IV after the race.

I got inspired.

I came in this morning and talked 2 other coaches into doing a half triathlon at the end of the summer. Before this grand idea my endurance training amounted to super sets of bicep curls riiiight into tricep extensions. No break in between, pretty grueling I know. Now I am not doing a half tri right out of the gate, there’s a catch. We decided to register as a relay team meaning I will be responsible only for the 56 mile bike portion. Ha, only.

So today, I did my 5-3-1 squat day earlier today with lunges, front squats, and sit ups as supplemental exercises. About an hour ago I left the gym to go out and back for about 2 miles and told the other coach to call 911 if I don’t make it back within the hour. I made it! Stay tuned for posts on this triathlon experiment.

Okay onto today’s discussion. Push ups. What are these things reallllly about? Some cop out for those that don’t want to bench press? Smack yourself twice if you think that. Are you too advanced for push ups? No you just need progression. Load up this fantastic, full body, closed chain, exercise with chains, bands, puppies, and whatever else you can find! And yes, I would certainly consider an exercise that requires anti-extension core stability, demands hip flexor and glute strength for pelvis stability, and requires deltoid, rotator cuff, and alllll the scapula stabilizers to maintain the arch in the upper back a full body exercise the way this is a full body sentence.

Although push ups are a great upper body exercise 90% of the people I see, 90% of the time, do not max out their chest first during push ups.

Let me say that again. The limiting factor keeping people from doing more push ups is NOT the chest. Something else fails first. Either the midsection crumbles when it can no longer maintain a neutral spine or the shoulders rise up towards the ears revealing poor scapula control.

Ever started to do a push up and felt a bunch of pressure in your low back?  Or you may have noticed your shoulders getting stuck, preventing you from getting to proper depth. This is why! Check out the videos below and try to get a glimpse of yourself on the mirror next time you do push ups.

In this first video I start off with decent form. My hips move right along with my upper body, my shoulders don’t rise up, and my torso is rigid.

Here my hips lag behind my upper body on the way up. I don’t work on keeping my shoulders down, instead you can see my shoulders sort of elevate towards my ears and you lose sight of my neck. My scapula stabilizers have just failed, no more push ups, end of set.

Farmer’s walks, planks, and elevated push ups are 3 great exercises to help with your push ups.


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