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Don’t Just Jump Into Push-Ups, Wean Yourself Into It

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If you are trying push-ups for the first time, start gradually. Stand against a wall and move feet away from it until your arms, chest, and back muscles feel the resistance. Try it with a countertop or chair seat before you hit the floor. Start with knee push-ups, then move on to on-toes. Modify the load in case you feel pain. Build upper body and core strength, needed for pushups, through exercises like planks.

In general, exercise is good for everyone.

In fact, exercise seems to benefit every system of the body, and it’s one of the best ways to relieve stress.

Should I Do Push-Ups?

The short answer is yes … and no! To best answer this question, we must first assess what shape you’re in before jumping into any exercise, and push-ups are no exception.

Push-ups are likely one of the oldest forms of a strengthening exercise on record. The beauty of push-ups is that they can be done anywhere and don’t require any special equipment.

However, if an individual is not strong enough to perform a push-up, then injury to the shoulders, elbow, wrist, neck, and lower back can occur. So, how does one determine where and how to start?

One typically does not enter a gym and throw as many plates on a barbell as they can find and start doing bench presses!

Nor should one assume they can get on the floor and start doing traditional push-ups. You must “wean” into the exercise in order to determine your ability.

How To Go About It?

Start in a standing position and lean against a wall with your feet 1 to 2 feet (.3–.6 meters) away from the wall. Pretty easy, isn’t it?

In fact, it’s probably too easy, so move your feet farther away from the wall and try different distances until you feel a good resistance in your chest, arm, and back muscles.

Gradually increase the load by leaning against a countertop, chair seat, and, eventually, the floor.

Start with the knees bent and resting on the ground — the so-called “girl push-up” (no offense ladies)! Notice the increased load on your wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, and back?

Once you’re comfortable with your progress, move to the more traditional “on your toes” push-up. You can also increase the challenge by moving your hands inward and keeping your elbows more tucked into your sides.

This is now becoming quite challenging, isn’t it?

What If It Causes Pain?

Modify the push-up by reducing the load. You may find it necessary to not go all the way down to the floor with your chest but maybe halfway or three-quarters down if you have shoulder problems, for example.

What To Do For Added Strength?

A push-up also strengthens the core as it’s essentially a front plank. Side planks from the knees first and then feet can be added for additional core strengthening.

A “push-up with a plus” is another modification particularly good for the scapular stabilizing muscles. Here, you push up beyond the normal “up” position as high as possible until you feel your shoulder blades (scapulae) spread apart.

Whether you’re trying to get in shape after a long winter or after pregnancy, the benefits of push-ups is you can do them anywhere and at anytime. Your push-up options are almost endless!

The key to a happy life is being healthy, and exercise is key to a happy, healthy life!

Dr. Blake Kalkstein DC, MS, CCSP, TPI, ART

While earning his D.C. degree, Dr. Blake worked as a chiropractic intern at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Hospital in Bethesda, MD where he had the privilege to work in the amputee rehabilitation center. Dr. Blake’s post graduate sports medicine internship with John’s Hopkins Sports Medicine orthopedic surgeons allowed him to observe all types of injuries. Guidance from Dr. John Wilckens, team orthopedist for the Baltimore Orioles and his internship supervisor, led Dr. Blake to better understand advanced orthopedic and sports injuries and ways to appropriately manage each condition.

Dr. Blake Kalkstein DC, MS, CCSP, TPI, ART

While earning his D.C. degree, Dr. Blake worked as a chiropractic intern at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Hospital in Bethesda, MD where he had the privilege to work in the amputee rehabilitation center. Dr. Blake’s post graduate sports medicine internship with John’s Hopkins Sports Medicine orthopedic surgeons allowed him to observe all types of injuries. Guidance from Dr. John Wilckens, team orthopedist for the Baltimore Orioles and his internship supervisor, led Dr. Blake to better understand advanced orthopedic and sports injuries and ways to appropriately manage each condition.

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