Are push-ups really worth the effort? Short answer, YES! Push-ups are one of the most effective upper body and core strengthening exercises. Like many body-weight exercises, they can be easily modified and made more or less challenging. The functional ability to horizontally lift and lower one’s own body weight is one of the best measures of upper body strength and stability.
Here are some of the many benefits of push-ups:
Torso Stability: Push-ups (done with proper form) develop core stability that will help you avoid lower back pain and injuries. How? Because push-ups require you to activate your obliques more effectively than other traditional pushing exercises. This builds strength within the torso and core musculature, which is necessary to reduce pressure in the lower back.
Scapula Mobility: Push-ups move the scapula through a full range of motion while other pushing exercises, such as the bench press, limit the amount of movement the scapula performs. This exercise helps retract and depress the scapular stabilizing muscles to create a stable platform that can be used during other strengthening exercise.
Serratus Anterior Stability: Performing push-ups correctly will allow you to activate the serratus anterior. Those who regularly perform overhead motions need this muscle to be stable in order to prevent injury. An underactive serratus anterior may cause your scapula to “wing” which can jeopardize your stability and ability to rotate your arm upwards. In order to exercise this muscle during push-ups, make sure you are pushing yourself up off the floor as much as possible, until the arms fully extend and you do not see the scapula “wing” or the mid-section sag.
Tips: Unless you’re trying to break a record, do push-ups slowly and with control. More benefits come from fewer reps with good form than from cranking out as many as possible. Start with kneeling push-ups, if you can’t do them from your toes. Focus of full range of motion and maintaining a stable torso. Progress when you can perform 15 repetitions with good form. Refer to Technique Tuesday for more tips on form and variations.