Michael Reid
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Used and Abused: Push Ups

In this monthly series of articles, Mike will discuss the science and practice of physical training for Water Polo. Strength, flexibility, Water Polo science, rehab and other areas of interest with respect to the physical development of the Water Polo athlete will be covered.

The Push Up, used all around the world in physical education (gym class), military PT and strength programs. Unfortunately, it is often performed so poorly that the benefits of the exercise are lost and in the worst case it can become a catalyst to a shoulder or back injury.

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Unfortunately, this is how most people, even high level athletes perform push ups.

I have seen too many International and pro level athletes perform bad Push Ups, to me it displays such a lack of respect to the movement and their body. Many of you may think “push ups … that’s too easy, it’s for beginners” … WRONG.

“Push Ups – there is always a version to kick your ass!”

unknown strength coach

Benefits of Push Ups:

  • Shoulder Stability
  • Upper Body Strength
  • Improve Pushing Power
  • Upper Body hypertrophy
  • Trunk Stability and Strength
  • Body Awareness/Body Control

In the video below I discuss two big areas of the Push Up that are often butchered by even elite athletes.

  • Alignment
  • Range of Motion

Video Link: Push Ups – 2 common errors & fixes

Improved Throwing

Push Ups can be classified as a closed-kinetic chain exercise where a bench press or even throwing a ball would be classified open-kinetic chain exercise (in relation to the upper body). Since specificity in training is important you would then think that to improve throwing a ball you should do lots of open-kinetic chain exercises but this isn’t necessarily the case.

Prokopy, MP, Ingersoll, CD, Nordenschild, E, Katch, FI, Gaesser, GA, and Weltman, A. Closed-kinetic chain upper-body training improves throwing performance of NCAA Division I softball players. J Strength Cond Res 00(0): 1-9, 2008

Closed-kinetic chain resistance training (CKCRT) of the lower body is superior to open-kinetic chain resistance training (OKCRT) to improve performance parameters (e.g., vertical jump), but the effects of upper-body CKCRT on throwing performance remain unknown. This study compared shoulder strength, power, and throwing velocity changes in athletes training the upper body exclusively with either CKCRT (using a system of ropes and slings) or OKCRT. Fourteen female National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I softball player volunteers were blocked and randomly placed into two groups: CKCRT and OKCRT. Blocking ensured the same number of veteran players and rookies in each training group. Training occurred three times weekly for 12 weeks during the team’s supervised off-season program. Olympic, lower-body, core training, and upper-body intensity and volume in OKCRT and CKCRT were equalized between groups. Criterion variables pre- and posttraining included throwing velocity, bench press one-repetition maximum (1RM), dynamic single-leg balance, and isokinetic peak torque and power (PWR) (at 180 degrees .s) for shoulder flexion, extension, internal rotation, and external rotation (ER). The CKCRT group significantly improved throwing velocity by 2.0 mph (3.4%, p < 0.05), and the OKCRT group improved 0.3 mph (0.5%, NS). A significant interaction was observed (p < 0.05). The CKCRT group improved its 1RM bench press to the same degree (1.9 kg) as the OKCRT group (p < 0.05 within each group). The CKCRT group improved all measures of shoulder strength and power, whereas OKCRT conferred little change in shoulder torque and power scores. Although throwing is an open-chain movement, adaptations from CKCRT may confer benefits to subsequent performance. Strength coaches can incorporate upper-body CKCRT without sacrificing gains in maximal strength or performance criteria associated with an athletic open-chain movement such as throwing.

Variations

There are endless variations of the Push Up that can be used for all levels of athletes (i.e. diffeent levels of strength, experience and age … LTAD!). Below are some of my personal favourite Push Up variations.

If you have questions you want answered please leave them in the message board category “Physical Training with Mike Reid

I can also be contacted through my website: www.waterpolotraining.net

References

Prokopy, MP, Ingersoll, CD, Nordenschild, E, Katch, FI, Gaesser, GA, and Weltman, A. Closed-kinetic chain upper-body training improves throwing performance of NCAA Division I softball players. J Strength Cond Res 00(0): 1-9, 2008