Strength training is essential for people as we age to maintain muscle mass, bone density, and overall health. And what better exercise to prioritize than the humble pushup? Pushups are a bodyweight exercise that requires no equipment, making them a convenient and affordable addition to any workout routine. But pushups are more than just a convenient exercise, they are also highly effective for improving upper body strength and, more importantly, shoulder stability.
Holding Position is the Weak Link
When it comes to any exercise, the ability to hold a stable position is almost always the weak link in the movement. The more stable a joint, the more force the muscles that surround a joint can produce.
If you are standing on a stable surface, you can easily squat up and down and cand do so even when load is applied. Now, if you are standing on a balance ball and trying to squat, your entire focus will be on not falling and hurting yourself. If the surface is unstable, your ability to produce force goes down and your risk of injury goes up. Without the ability to stabilize the shoulder, the chest and arm muscles are unable to generate optimal force, resulting in reduced performance and increased risk of injury.
Rotator Cuff Muscles and Holding the Shoulder Stable
The rotator cuff muscles are a group of four muscles that attach to the shoulder blade and wrap around the shoulder joint. They are responsible for holding the ball of the shoulder joint in place and preventing it from sliding out of the socket. Without strong and stable rotator cuff muscles, the shoulder is prone to injury and instability, which can significantly impact performance on upper body exercises.
The rotator cuff muscles attach to the shoulder blade which isn’t attached to anything. It’s simply held to our body with muscle. This design feature contributes to the impressive range of motion of the shoulder, but it comes at a cost. In the body there is a trade off between mobility and stability.
The Importance of Shoulder Stability
While the shoulder has the greatest range of motion of all the joints in the body, it is also the most dislocated joint in the body. Recalling back to earlier in the article, the more stability you can create in the shoulder, the more force the muscles that surround the shoulder will be able to produce.
Pushups are a great exercise for building shoulder stability. When performing a bench press exercise, the shoulder blades are pinched between the body and the bench, contributing to stability. When doing pushups, the only thing holding your shoulder stable are muscles.
Incorporating Pushups into a Workout Routine
To incorporate pushups into your workout routine, start with basic pushups and gradually work your way up to more challenging variations. Here are some tips for proper form and targeting different muscle groups:
- Keep your core engaged and your body in a straight line from head to toe.
- Lower your body until your chest is an inch or two off the ground, then push back up to the starting position.
- As you lower, squeeze tight in your armpits to contribute to a stable shoulder
- Grip at the ground with your hands to activate the muscles in your hands, helping to protect your wrist.
- ‘Screw’ your arms into the ground so the pressure on your hands in at your thumbs and not on the outside edge of your hands.
In conclusion, pushups are a highly effective exercise for building upper body strength and improving shoulder stability, making them an essential addition to any strength training routine. So next time you hit the gym or workout at home, don’t forget to include pushups in your routine and reap the benefits of this simple yet powerful exercise!