|If you read the article in this post, what issues could Arnold's hand position be leading to?|
Training at The Compound is tough. We constantly push our bodies and more than often we feel those effects even days later. There are plenty of times to go all out and push the body with as much intensity or speed as possible, putting on as much weight on the bar as you can, or trying some new cool looking exercise that we saw some professional champion do. There are literally hundreds of exercises you can do in the gym to build a healthier, stronger body; but sometimes the basics are the best.
We have been focusing a lot at the gym at perfecting our pull ups, recruiting the proper muscles in the back, instead of relying on the shoulders and arms to do the majority of the work, getting away from butterfly pull ups and using the kipping pull up for what it's meant to be, an assistance exercise to help you attain a powerful strict pull up.
While you continue to work on your pull ups, let's look at another "basic" exercise, the push up. Just like the pull up, the push up is much more difficult to perform properly than most people care to put time in to. Most of the time, when I see the push up programmed into one of our workouts, everyone reverts back to the easiest variation they can do and just try to burn through the reps. I would like you to take a second look at the push up, because they are not so easy and natural to perform as simply pushing yourself off the floor.
There is an article at T-nation.com, titled The Best Damn Push-Ups Article, Period!. In this article, they discuss the literature pertinent to push-ups, discuss common technique errors, offer some corrective exercises to assist in proper push-up performance, and provide a push-up progression list. They explain why most people flare their elbows and place their hands high and wide. Why they tend to sag in the core region, or limit the range of motion and perform "partial reps." And why men just seem to "catch on" much quicker than women?
1) T-Set up:
First, when performing push-ups, people often set up with their hand position high and wide. If you took a snapshot from above as in an aerial view, their set up would look like the letter T. People do this to make the exercise easier. Why is this position easier?
- The alignment of the pec fibers is better suited to produce force from this position.
- This position requires less muscle activation (as measured by EMG) in the pecs and the triceps.
- Shoulder horizontal abduction flexibility is limited, so the structures limiting flexibility will contribute much needed passive force in the bottom position.
Second is caterpillaring, or allowing the hips to sag resulting in anterior pelvic tilting and lumbar hyperextension. Here's why this occurs.
- They lack the core strength to stabilize their lumbopelvic region and simply allow their core to gain stability by "hanging" on the structures that limit this motion – namely the hip flexors and lumbar vertebrae. Basically, the hip flexors lengthen and contribute passive tension, and the neural arches of the vertebrae get closer together (aka approximation). This places the posterior elements of the spine at risk.
- People are stuck in anterior pelvic tilt due to tight hip flexors and erector spinae and don't have the muscular strength in the rectus abdominis and gluteus maximus to override this tightness during the push-up.
- By keeping the hips low and hinging at the lumbar spine, a lower percentage of bodyweight is being lifted since much of the body is hanging toward the floor, thereby making the exercise easier.
- People aren't strong in deeper ranges so they sag to "pretend" they're going deeper since their hips will bottom out before their chest, creating the illusion that they're using full ROM.
Third, people cut the movement short and perform half-reps. Here's typically why this occurs.
- People lack end-range shoulder strength and stability.
- The bottom position of the push-ups involves a higher percentage of bodyweight than the top position, which makes the bottom more difficult. This makes the push-up the opposite of "accommodating resistance" since the loading increases as the push-up is lowered to the ground.
- People want to fool themselves into thinking that they're in better shape than they really are. The ego can handle doing ten half-rep push-ups, but it's tough for a typical person to admit that he or she isn't in good enough shape to perform a single legitimate, full-range push-up.