In most gyms and training circles, people are performing bench press or push-up exercises.  There is no doubt in my mind that repetitive heavy full range bench press causes many of the labral and cuff injuries among males I have seen over the years These injuries are often the attritional type – developing over many months and years.

What about push-ups?  Is the force development pattern the same?  Are they safer?  Honestly, I believe in keeping the elbow at a point at which it does not drop below the plane of the body (bench press) or move above the body (push-up).  Essentially that means keeping to a 90 degree angle or less.  Why?  Well, regardless of load, I feel the real risk is not so much in the motion itself but the very repetitive manner in which it occurs with external loads, often lending itself to acquired anterior shoulder laxity, strain on the proximal biceps anchor (think SLAP lesions) and secondary shoulder impingement.  The picture below hurts my shoulders just looking at it, and over time this technique will hurt your shoulders too.


But, I say all that to set up today’s post.  In a recent article in the February edition of the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, David Suprak et al. looked at the effect of position on the % of body mass supported during traditional and modified push-ups.

The study looked at 4 static positions in 28 males (about 34 years old) who were highly trained and members of the special forces or SWAT team (the up and down position for regular and modified push-ups) to determine the change in body mass (BM) supported by the upper body in different ranges of motion.  The down positions studied were at approximately 90 degrees (the lowest depth I safely recommend) and all holds were performed for 6 seconds.

modified-push-up push-ups1

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