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Can Pushups Be Bad for You?

author image Eric Brown
Eric Brown began writing professionally in 1990 and has been a strength and conditioning coach and exercise physiologist for more than 20 years. His published work has appeared in "Powerlifting USA," "Ironsport" and various peer-reviewed journals. Brown has a Bachelor of Science in exercise physiology from the University of Michigan and a Master of Science in kinesiology from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Can Pushups Be Bad for You?
Make sure you ask your doctor is pushups are right for you. Photo Credit Ibrakovic/iStock/Getty Images

Pushups are an exercise that works many of the muscles of your upper body, build strength and improve your conditioning. Unless you have an existing injury or condition that prohibits you from doing pushups, they can make an efficient addition to your workout regimen. Consult your physician before beginning any new exercise program.

Shoulder Strengthener

Pushups actually strengthen your shoulders. The only way they could be bad for your shoulders is if you are doing something extremely wrong. When performing pushups, keep your hands on the floor at approximately shoulder width and even with your chest. Do not have your hands over your head or out too far; this can stress your shoulders and make the exercise much harder than it should be. If you are new to pushups, do not do them on a wobble board or any other sort of unstable surface, as this can be harder on your shoulders.

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Back Stability

Pushups work the lower back, but not to excess. The lower back contracts to maintain proper position, as do your abdominal muscles. As there should be no motion in your lower back, there is little risk of injury. If you feel pain in your lower back when performing pushups, stop and see a physician, because there is no reason for this exercise to make your lower back hurt. To maintain stability in your lower back, tighten your abdominals and keep your hips elevated so your belly does not sag when performing pushups. You can start doing pushups in the modified position where your knees are on the floor.

Wrist Strain

If you feel wrist strain while performing pushups, it is more than likely because either you lack flexibility or the muscles of your forearms are weak. Both issues should correct themselves with regular repetition. If you wish to speed this up, grasp one hand with the other and stretch your fingers back toward the top of your forearm and hold for at least a 10-count, then switch hands. You can also perform pushups against a wall or gripping dumbbells on the floor until your wrists acclimate to the pressure of pushups.

Benefits of Pushups

Pushups work the muscles of the chest, shoulders and triceps. If you get to the point where you can do at least 50 repetitions per set, you can make the exercise more difficult. You can move your hands closer together; this change in the range of motion will increase the workload on your triceps. You can perform plyometric pushups, in which you explosively push yourself away from the ground and catch yourself with your arms extended but do not lock your elbows. Plyometric pushups build explosive power and increase the difficulty of the exercise. You can also do pushsups with your hands elevated on blocks of some sort and increase your range of motion, which will also increase the workload on the triceps.

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