Reaching up to grab your best tea pot and pushing the lawn mower around the yard are two examples of upper body pushing movements. Resisted, upper body pushing movements should be a staple in any home exercise program. These movements promote the strength and endurance of muscles in the upper body and the ability to complete the aforementioned tasks with ease for as long as possible. The musculature recruited in an upper body pushing movement can help reduce the likelihood of upper body injuries and prevent possible fracture from falls. So how do we do these exercises at home?
Important cues and points to remember:
Upper body pushing exercises can be broken into two specific movements:
1. Horizontal pushing movements
· An example of this movement is a push up. It involves adduction of the arm (think giving yourself a hug) and extension of the elbow. The prime movers of these movements are the chest and triceps (back of the arm)
2. Vertical pushing movements
· An example of this movement is a shoulder press or pushing an object above your head. This movement requires a greater recruitment of the muscles on the front of the shoulder and scapula (shoulder blade) and less recruitment of the chest musculature.
Unlike upper body pulling movements we encourage a combination of both of these movements in a home exercise program as it is much easier to execute when equipment available is limited. Horizontal and vertical pushing movements share similarities, however they possess cueing differences.
There are two main cues we use when performing a horizontal pushing movement:
1. Shoulders away from ears
· When performing a horizontal push we want to keep our scapula depressed or down throughout the movement. This ensures we are recruiting the correct musculature, recruiting less of the muscles in our neck and avoiding any possible shoulder injury’s
What not to do:
2. Elbows at 45 degrees – not too high and not too low
· We want to ensure our elbow and upper arm position is correct throughout this movement. Too high and we may be at risk of injury or could aggravate an old injury, whilst recruiting a lot of our chest and less of the back of our arms. Elbows in, we may not be as strong and we will end up recruiting more of our arms and smaller musculature, decreasing the overall amount of energy we expend completing the exercise (less benefit for those with diabetes or trying to lose weight).
The main cue we use for vertical pushing movements:
1. Shoulder blades start down and back, and finish up
· Unlike the horizontal push when performing vertical push movements we require a lot more movement and involvement from our shoulder blades. Before lifting, our shoulders should be down and back. As we lift our hands above our head our shoulder blades should rotate upwards and elevate to allow room for our upper arms to lift upwards.