Enough with the Damn Pushups

Every year when spring rolls around you read countless posts from men (mostly) sharing their new goals to get in shape with pushups. If it’s not a new mobile app it’s a facebook page, hashtag or some other mislead effort to get people “in shape” with pushups.

So, what’s wrong with that?

There are, perhaps, a few problems with trying to get in shape with pushups, the least of which is you will likely get sick of doing the same movement over and over and over again and won’t succeed in getting in shape with pushups.

The second and more significant problem is you are only training part of your body. This will certainly lead to internally rotated shoulders and bad posture. See the not-so-sexy posture the guy has in the image above? Yeah, that. As the muscles of the upper chest out-perform the rear shoulder and upper back muscles. Moreover, as these muscle groups get out of balance, you put yourself at greater risk of throwing your back out. For a culture that is already being destroyed by sitting, the last thing we need to be doing is furthering this imbalance.

Anterior vs Posterior Muscles

Your body has two groups of muscles, or chains, that move your body with great efficiency and power. The anterior chain comprises all the muscles in the front of your body (left-hand side of the image to the right). The posterior chain is composed of all the muscles in the back of your body (right-hand side of the image to the right). Your goal is to keep these chains balanced. This will give you that sexy posture you’ve always wanted, alleviate the aches and pains caused by sitting and prevent more serious injuries in the future.

What to do instead?

Pushups are fine (particularly when proper form is respected) but balance them out with something that strengthens your posterior chain. Try a few of these bodyweight exercises to achieve that balance:

Plyometric Lunges



Hamstring Curls

Note: Engage the glutes by pushing your butt up (perhaps higher than he does in the video).

Crab Walks

Eccentric Hamstring Curls

These are my personal favorite. Make sure you have some really solid padding under your knees.

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4 thoughts on “Enough with the Damn Pushups

  1. Hans

    Think you overcomplicate it.

    Rule of Thumb for upper part of your body: Always complement each push movement with a pull movement and vize versa.

    This should keep you in balance.

    Do it for whatever body plane you are working.

    So for example:

    - Doing Pushups or Bench Presses? -> Do some Horizonal rows or some Inverted Rows on a bar as well.
    - Doing Handstand-Pushups or military presses? -> do some Pullups after that.
    - Doing Dips -> How about standing rows or an Inverted Pullup if you have some rings hanging around?
    - Doing Leg-Raises for an abs-workout -> (Dead)lift something heavy from the floor for your lower back.

    The rule doesn’t apply for legs though. Mother nature desgined them almost exclusively for “pushing” stuff. For them Squats rule. All else accessory. Mix in some sprints. Upwards against gravity for best time to benefit ratio.

    Just my 2 cents

    1. josh

      Thanks for your comment but you’re missing the point. The campaigns I’m referencing focus on only doing pushups as a introductory means for fitness. I’m suggesting people try some of these instead or in addition to push-ups.

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