When most people think of upper body pushing during a workout, they think “push ups”. And that’s absolutely correct! Push ups are arguably the most recognizable pushing pattern, but it’s important to note that it’s not the only upper body pushing movement we utilize: bench press, overhead press, sleds, and inchworms are all examples of pushing movements.
In previous articles, we’ve talked about how the squat and hinge are functional movement patterns, meaning these movements are utilized often both in and out of the gym. The push is no different; it’s considered a foundational functional movement and one whose uses in “real life” can be replicated in the gym. Pushing someone away, getting up from a prone (laying on the stomach) position, or putting away dishes on a top cupboard all require a pushing movement with the upper body.
Though upper body pushes are programmed throughout the week at RF, the two most common ones we utilize are push ups and presses. While everyone knows what a push up is, it can prove to be a challenging movement to master. Push ups require not only shoulder and pec strength, but trunk stability, motor control and coordination, and body alignment. Push ups recruit a variety of muscles in the chest, shoulders, upper and mid-back, and arms. However, it also requires coordination from the lower back, abdominals, glute, and leg muscles to maintain rigidity during the movement. The same goes for presses; there is a lot of muscle activation required not only to complete the movement but to stabilize the body during the movement.
Though the push up appears simple, a well executed push up is anything but. This is where the pain-free performance philosophy comes into play; more important than “just” gaining strength is gaining strength safely and correctly to ensure pain-free movement. This ensures maximum longevity in both the movement and how the body responds to it over time.
In other words, by ensuring clients truly understand the body mechanics of a pushing movement, they can stay strong in their upper body for life!