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Joint Movements in Pushups

author image Steven Lowis
Steven Lowis is a teacher of metaphysics, as well as a writer covering a wide range of topics. He specializes in the areas of quantum theory, physics, biology, health and fitness, psychology, theology and philosophy. He has released a book titled "The Meaning of Life - Understanding Purpose and the Nature of Reality."
Joint Movements in Pushups
The shoulder and elbow joints are engaged during a standard pushup. Photo Credit nPine/nPine/Getty Images

There are two main versions of the pushup. The normal base, or wide pushup, requires you to place your hands on the floor, a little wider than shoulder-width apart. The narrow pushup will have you placing your hands on the floor forming a diamond shape with your fingers, in line with your head. Each version produces similar movements in your shoulders and elbows, but the wide pushup gives you a greater range of motion.

Phases of the Pushup

There are two phases of the pushup movement. The first phase, or position, flexes your elbows, allowing them to bend, while causing abduction of your shoulders, allowing the arms to swing out to your sides away from your body. The second phase of movement is the dip, lowering your body to the floor. This action causes the extension and ascension of your elbows and the continued abduction of your shoulders.

Exploring the Elbow Joint

There are several complex muscles and tendons that allow your elbow to move, and these are connected to three bones. The humerus bone of your upper arm joins with the radius laterally and the ulna medially bones of your forearm to form your elbow joint. The troclea of the humerus attaches to the ulna, and the capitulum of the humerus attaches to the head of the radius. The joints are lubricated by a large bursa sack that allows your muscle to interact with the joint so that it doesn’t become worn down or cause any pain.

Exploring the Shoulder Joint

Your shoulder joint is composed of two separate joints. The first joint is called the glenohumeral. This is where your upper arm bone fits into your shoulder blade. The second joint is the acromioclavicular which is formed by the meeting of the collarbone with the shoulder blade. The joints are held together by ligaments and muscles, but it is vulnerable to dislocation due to sudden movements of the arm.

Easiest on the Joints

A recent study carried out at the University of Michigan found that, of the two, the wide pushup is easier on your joints than the narrow pushup. The narrow pushup decreases your range of motion and puts more force on the shoulder joint. The standard wide pushup gives you almost twice the range of motion when compared to the narrow pushup. Further, because of the way in which the elbow joint is used, the wide pushup allows you to perform the action quicker, putting less stress on the shoulder joint.

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