I don’t know how this started, but it did.
Deep inside the bowels (nice visual huh?) of “kettlebell land”
somehow exercises get bashed, tossed out, and downright
Some even think these are proclamations that come from on
high with a “Thou shalt not do such-and-such exercise…”
In fact, I think most of it is hearsay, or a snippet of conversation
taken out of context and spread around the community with a
message similar to the “Telephone Game” we used to play when
we were kids –
You know, the one where everyone sits in a circle and one person
whispers something into the ear of the person next to him. And
person does the same to the person sitting next to him… And so
on… Until it gets back to the person who sent the original message?
So “I like peanut butter” ends up as “I beat peanuts in an udder”
or some such silliness…
The humble Push Up has suffered this cruel fate and has become
one such “forbidden” exercise.
Yes, it’s true, the way most people do Push-Ups can wreck your
shoulders over time, but when done correctly, they can actually
do not one, but THREE phenomenal things for you –
Thing #1 – They can actually help rehab busted shoulders when
Most people do Push Ups flat out wrong.
They let their shoulders roll up and forward as they lower their
chests to the floor.
Bad news for your shoulder, amigo.
This “unpacks” your shoulder putting stress on your rotator cuff
and the tendon of the long head of your biceps (yeah – that one –
the one people rip all the time).
Instead, use these two cues to “amp up” your Push Up –
1. Before starting, and while you’re in the “front leaning rest
position” as I heard it called when I was in ROTC, pull your
shoulders down to your hips – shorten the distance between
your armpit and hip.
This helps “pack” your shoulder and engage your lats, which
help protect your shoulder joint.
2. Pull yourself down into the Push Up like you’re rowing.
That’s right, pull your shoulder blades down and back envisioning
rowing yourself to the floor.
This keep the shoulders packed, stretches the pecs, and
provides a more powerful contraction coming off the floor.
Thing #2 – They can help bring structural balance – “antagonistic
balance” to the whole body.
I first heard this term – “antagonistic balance” from Jedd Johnson
of the Diesel Crew. I used a variation of this principle many
moons ago, but like all things that worked so well, I promptly
ditched it and opted for beating my head against the wall.
This is it in a nutshell – do the opposite movement. But not just
for a particular limb or exercise – like triceps work is the
opposite of biceps work, or do your rows after your benching…
… Nope – think literally opposite movements. Like across the
body – as in the Gait Cycle.
Obviously I can’t go into full detail in this short email, but trust
me when I tell you that I’ve spent YEARS thinking in these
terms so the humble Push-Up is the opposite movement of
our beloved Swing.
Push Ups compliment Swings.
Trust me on this. Do some Swings. Superset them with high
quality Push Ups. Tell me if you don’t feel awesome after doing
Ok, let’s leave it at that cause this is the subject of a whole
Thing #3 – They can teach body awareness and strengthen
When you do Push Ups right, they teach you how to link up
your body and automatically use your trusty ol’ abz… n glutes…
n spinal erectors… n all those other fancy pants core muscles.
This increases your body awareness and therefore your body
And that means better, faster results in your training because
your mind can now command your body more easily.
Bottom Line: Consider adding in correctly performed Push Ups
into your kettlebell training. Especially after Swings or between
sets of Swings.
Or, if you’re tired of doing so much KB training, alternate between
days of bodyweight exercises where you make the Push Up the
foundation and KB exercises where you make the Swing the