Are Your Push Ups Putting You At Risk?

This moderately advanced exercise is great for improving shoulder stability, core strength, and strength in your chest and shoulder muscles. However, if you are performing this exercise with poor movement patterns you are putting your shoulders at risk for injury. I would recommend reading our plank article before this one as this will help improve your scapular mechanics for the push up. Once you have mastered the concepts in the plank article (Can You Plank Without Pain?) it will be easier for you to master the push up and keep your body injury free.

This exercise will help:

  • Increase shoulder stability
  • Improve core strength
  • Improve strength in chest and shoulders

If you are performing this exercise incorrectly you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Shoulder pain
  • Neck pain
  • Knee pain

How to Perform Correctly

If you are having trouble performing the push up correctly from the toes you can drop down to your knees; however, you still need to be able to activate your core from this position. It is very common for people to want to use their quads to perform this movement.  Reference the pictures below for proper placement of your knees to ensure that you are not making this mistake.

Top 3 cues:

  • Keep your shoulders directly over your hands
  • Don’t chicken wing your elbows out
  • Keep your belly button tucked to your spine

Push Up Drills

The following drills will help improve your mechanics and positional strength to help ensure that you are protecting your body from an injury. If you are already experiencing pain during this exercise, focus on these drills for a few days before attempting a full push up from the toes. You can also perform modified push ups while you continue to focus on these drills. This will help decrease some of the irritation you may be experiencing while you work on improving your movement patterns.

Anterior Deltoid Scrub

This mobilization will help decrease some inflammation and pain you may be experiencing in the anterior (front) portion of the shoulder.  This can be caused by poor movement patterns.

Banded External Rotation

This exercise will help increase activation of postural muscles that will help keep your shoulder girdle in proper position to decrease risk of injury.

Dying Bug

This exercise will help engage your deep abdominals muscles. When you are able to activate  your deeper abdominals you will be able to perform your push up with better form and less pressure through your shoulders.

In summary, the push up is a great exercise to build core, shoulder, and chest strength.  When the push up is performed with incorrect form it can cause some injuries.  Try these convenient and effective drills to help decrease your risk of injury. If you are still experiencing any of the symptoms listed above please feel to reach out to us for a free discovery consultation!

-Dr. Chelsea Schuman, PT

Motor Control in Adolescents

Last week we talked about the importance of getting your movement diagnosis along with your medical diagnosis. This week we wanted to touch upon this theory specifically for developing athletes. We are very passionate about ensuring that as athletes start to get into more demanding sports and strength programs they have proper movements patterns. This will help ensure they stay injury free now and in their future.

In this generation people are able to follow all of their favorite athletes on social media. On these accounts they can watch their favorite pro athlete perform more advanced and fun looking movements. However, what they aren’t seeing is the amount of time those athletes are spending building the foundation of proper movements BEFORE heavily loading their bodies. These professional athletes spend most of their workouts performing specific exercises to prime their body for the complex loaded movement they are about to perform. However, all we see as bystanders is them successfully accomplishing an impressive activity or lift.


Research shows that, similarly to adults, low back pain and other injuries can be caused by poor motor control of the available range of motion. This is even more important for developing athletes because of the amount of growth they experience. We find it is very beneficial to teach the athlete how to be strong in the range that they have available to them before they are taught how to perform more complex weight training movements.

Our goal is to keep you healthy and injury free in your sport of choice. To help ensure this we recommend getting assessed and receiving your movement diagnosis BEFORE you are experiencing pain. Once pain is present, it becomes much harder to get an individual out of that faulty movement pattern that caused the pain to begin with. Along with that, when you are experiencing pain activities and sports must be limited to help the body heal which isn’t always ideal.

In conclusion, it is very important that developing athletes are being taught proper movement patterns before they start loading their bodies with high level movements and activities. As a parent, be sure that these warm ups or movement primer exercises are being performed at your child’s practices and strength programs. If you are a developing athlete, or an athlete of any age for that matter, be sure you are seeking out what your body needs to stay healthy now and in the long term.

If you are interested in learning more about your movement diagnosis call us or message us to schedule an assessment. If you are experiencing pain and want more information on how your movement patterns are causing your pain, give us a call or message us to set up a free discovery consultation.

As always, if you have questions please reach out to us by calling 919-473-6165 or by clicking here!

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