Push-Ups for Shoulder Health?

Discussion in 'Bodyweight' started by Tobias Wissmueller, Feb 14, 2018.

  1. Tobias Wissmueller

    Tobias Wissmueller Strong Member of the Forum

    Not sure if this actually belongs into the bodyweight forum, but let's try.

    If someone has shoulder pain, visits the doctor, gets injections and passed on the the physiotherapist who lets the patient do push-ups, am wondering if this is the right thing to do to strengthen and rehabilitate the shoulders.

    Have never heard about push-ups for restoring shoulder health. Plus, those push-ups are being done like usual, from the ground on the toes as the first progression. The person with the shoulder pain who has to do them is untrained.

    So I am asking here if this would be a common "treatment"?

    I know of other exercises, like tea-cup drill, Russian pool, arm bars and of course the Turkish getup which would better fit in my opinion.
  2. pet'

    pet' Strong, Powerful, Explosively Athletic Member of the Forum


    @Tobias Wissmueller
    I would use something very progressive:
    - push up against the wall
    - push up on the knee
    - push up on a box (feet lower than hands)
    - push up on the floor (regular)
    - push up with push up bar

    I'd do that to strengthen joints and tendons.

    Plus, maybe it can be interesting to use other stuffs, with a thin / moderately thin rubber band of instance:
    - regular press
    - Palov press
    - rowing

    These are just some ideas, but I am not a nor a physio, or medic or trainer ;)

    Kind regards,

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  3. the hansenator

    the hansenator Helping Make Others Stronger

    Does the person feel discomfort while doing the pushups? Maybe the physio decided pushups work the muscles that need to be worked?
  4. Tobias Wissmueller

    Tobias Wissmueller Strong Member of the Forum

    Merci, @pet'!

    Very helpful as always. I also thought it might make more sense to start with an easy progression and I would have expected them to start easy.

    No pain during or after the session. There is more pain now after a couple of days. Especially at nights when lying sideways.
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  5. Marc

    Marc Strong Member of the Forum

    I think pushups might have a place in shoulder rehab. Tim Anderson from OS often recommends them. It would be wise to progress slowly and conservative and use perfect technique, of course: packing shoulders, placing hands not too wide and too close to the belly (ideally right below the shoulder or slightly in front of the shoulder) and brushing the shirt with the triceps.
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  6. pet'

    pet' Strong, Powerful, Explosively Athletic Member of the Forum

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  7. Steve W.

    Steve W. Strong, Powerful Member of the Forum

    Speaking of Tim Anderson and OS, rocking and crawling (as well as plank variations) are great for shoulder rehab (insert the usual disclaimers and caveats) and a lot less likely to cause problems than pushups. In rehabbing from rotator cuff surgery, rocking was one of the first things I was able to do, and crawling became a big part of my rehab. My physical therapists did not prescribe rocking or crawling, but cleared me to do them. They did prescribe a lot of plank variations, which I did, but I felt that the dynamic rocking and crawling helped me a lot more than the static planks.

    Pushups were not nearly as well tolerated and had to wait until much, much further along in the rehab process. For an untrained person with shoulder pain, I would be dubious about starting with full pushups -- too much to learn and potentially go wrong as far as form, and too much potential for impingement/aggravating existing inflammation.
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  8. Marc

    Marc Strong Member of the Forum

    I can echoe that. I disclocated my shoulder mid-may last year. I justs took one whole week off and after that I first startes doing OS with an extra emphasis on crawling and rocking. Again one week later I slowly added pushups back in.
    Note: this all was my own prescription based on what I thought would help me and felt good. Cosulting with a good physio is always preferred.
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  9. offwidth

    offwidth Strong, Powerful, Explosively Athletic Member of the Forum

    @Tobias Wissmueller
    Having recovered from labrum surgery on one shoulder, and trying to avoid labrum surgery on the other shoulder, I treat push-ups with the upmost caution and respect. I do them currently, but I also eased back into them very slowly, and do them with upmost attention to form, and not near at the volume or difficult variations I did in the past.
    Many better options are available, most have been mentioned by the other responders.

    Paloff Presses
    Band Work
    OS Crawling and Rocking
    TGU (maybe)

    Aggressive stretching and mobility exercises might not be recommended depending upon the injury in question.

    When in doubt seek medical advice from practitioners that specialize in these areas. Ones that preferably deal in sports medicine and work with athletes, and in a perfect world also train (workout) themselves.

    I have been very fortunate to have had doctors and physiotherapists who not only work with professional, college, and national sports teams, have also competed themselves.
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  10. Tobias Wissmueller

    Tobias Wissmueller Strong Member of the Forum

    @offwidth, @Marc, @Steve W., thanks a lot for your answers as well!

    Interesting that you all mention rocking and crawling. Especially rocking. It is easy to learn and to perform.

    The physiotherapist has a very good reputation and surely knows what has to be done. I was just wondering myself, because I never heard of push-ups in regard to shoulder health.

    Yes, then you have been very lucky. This is very rare to find. Am still trying to find someone like that for my knee ...
  11. jca17

    jca17 Helping Make Others Stronger

    Gray Cook includes pushups in his Secrets of the Shoulder video (with StrongFirst’s very own Brett Jones!). The pushup is one of the checkpoints before moving on to rows, other presses and full get ups.
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  12. Marc

    Marc Strong Member of the Forum

    @Tobias Wissmueller rocking and all its variations are really awsome for shoulder pre- rehab. The scapular rocking is an excellent movement to teach you the feeling of keeping the shoulders packed. Just browse through OS's videos on youtube.
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  13. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Director of Community Engagement and Forum Admin Staff Member Senior Instructor

    @Tobias Wissmueller, every doctor and every PT is different. I know, e.g., an excellent doctor who has written a book in his specialty and included an exercise program. I read the book from cover to cover, and think it's excellent - _except_ for the chapters on exercise, which I don't think are good.

    The real question is whether the excellent PT with the excellent recommendation is interested in straying outside of his/her area of expertise and getting into strength training, or whether they are truly interested in restoring the patient to some sort of normal, ready-to-begin-strength-training place.

    It's a tough call, but we do need to say, as others have already said, there is nothing inherently wrong with pushups as part of a rehabilitation program. They're like anything else - the important thing is whether the pushup instruction is good, and whether it's sensitive to the patient at hand. If all those conditions are met, I'd say there is no cause for concern.

    Just my opinion, and not intended to be medical advice.

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  14. Acbetten

    Acbetten Still New to StrongFirst Forum

    I feel that push-ups are an excellent form of rehab but I'm sure it depends on the injury. My own experience is this- 2 years ago I injured my shoulder training for a Spartan race. Due to my own ego/stupidity I continued training. The injury and pain would come and go for various lengths of time and varied levels of pain for approximately a year. I did go to a doctor and a physical therapist but didn't completely stop training until the pain became unbearable and I truly considered surgery. My primary care physician diagnosed it as a torn rotator and a specialist diagnosed it as a torn labrum. Happily, I have no idea because I never got surgery. Instead, I finally stopped training for 1 month. I still would go running but absolutely no pressing, pull-ups, etc. my rehab included med-band pull aparts to strengthen the posterior delts, scapula, et al. I would then foam roll my lats to loosen the muscles that were causing impingement. I then incorporated push ups using "grease the groove" in which I would do 2 push-ups several times a day. Truthfully, my shoulder was so bad I could only do 2 push-ups. Eventually I incorporated kettlebell swings and continued increasing the number of push-ups. Even further on I went back to crossfit, and now can do high volume pull-ups, literally hundreds of push-ups and basically have erased the shoulder injury. I have zero issue with my shoulder. I feel that the strengthening of the back muscles in conjunction with the push-ups absolutely were responsible for this.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2018
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  15. elli

    elli Strong, Powerful, Explosively Athletic Member of the Forum

    Starting in the bottom position works well for my sensitive shoulder. It feels like a better muscle builder than doing them top down.
    And it is a great way to practice the plank position - it has already improved my swings!
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  16. pet'

    pet' Strong, Powerful, Explosively Athletic Member of the Forum

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  17. Kozushi

    Kozushi Strong, Powerful, Explosively Athletic Member of the Forum

    Interestingly, the pushup is absent in Ancient Greek callisthenics manuals. Instead of this, we read about practicing wrestling moves such as sprawls - a standard and basic wrestling maneuver where you jump down into a pushup position, and then back up to your feet again. You can still see this move done in South Asian traditional wrestling schools, and of course in modern MMA gyms too. The purpose of the sprawl is to jump your legs backwards out of the way of your opponent's arms, to avoid getting your legs grappled up by him. At the same time, your upper body leans onto his upper back, and you press him down, which can give you some advantages in the match. I assume this is the origin of the "burpee" maneuver we are all familiar with.

    The ancients seemed to particularly favour using training partners as the "weight". They were apparently more social than we are today. Why buy expensive heavy iron weights, which could be stolen after all, when all you need is your 200lbs friend to lift! You can pick him up and walk around with him, do squats with him on your back, all kinds of things. You can even wrestle with him, which is a different kind of exercise, too.

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