The Perfect Upper Body Exercise

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When the thought of upper body exercises comes into question, the bench press is often the king. There is nothing like being able to load up the bar and move some weight.

The bench press has its flaws though. For starters, the shoulders are in a compromised position and shoulder blades tend to move excessively.

Chronic benching has left experienced lifters with bum shoulders and beginners stuck at a particular weight.

Rows and chin ups are both well designed exercises that have many benefits with little risk. There is one exercise, however, that trumps all and it is one that we have all done – The Pushup.

But why are they so much better than everything else.

They are Challenging

The push up requires you to move your body weight. There are tons of gym goers out there that cannot even do one proper pushup, yet spend plenty of time benching.

It is no surprise that many people will struggle to bench their body weight when they cannot do a pushup. They are hard and always will be hard. Why else would coaches prescribe pushups as a punishment?

Pushups are also self limiting. There will be a point where you cannot do any more full pushups and you will just collapse. If your hips are sagging or sticking straight up in the air, you are no longer doing a pushup. You are not doing anything.

Muscle Involvement

The pushup is an exercise that involves a number of muscles in order to complete the movement. For a successful pushup, the pec major, pec minor, rotator cuff, triceps, serratus anterior, lats, and others are all active.

The pec major and lats, specifically, are two of the larger upper body muscles. Developing this musculature is essential for building lean strength and looking better in the mirror.

The pushup also requires a great amount of core stability. The torso must stay in a straight line to perform the pushup. If the core does not do its job, the pushup will suffer.

It is not uncommon for someone’s abs to hurt after doing pushups since the abdominals and obliques must do a lot of work. This added core stability will have a profound effect on the overall training program.

Shoulder Friendly

This will appeal to the people with injured shoulders from years of benching and other overhead pressing. The pushup is a closed chain exercise. This means that the hands and feet are attached to a fixed point (the ground). The body then moves toward this fixed point.

The closed chain nature of the exercise allows the shoulder blades to move along the ribcage like it is designed to do and not wing out.


In the top position of the bench press, the shoulder blades are protracted. Adding strength to this misalignment is going to result in pain.

Increasing the stability of the shoulder blades will help to realign the humerus. This takes the pressure off of the ligaments, tendons, and other structures of the shoulder in order to enhance the health of the upper body.

Easy to Implement

Pushups are dream exercise for any program because they can be done anywhere. There is no equipment necessary to perform a basic pushup. Pushups can be done on a practice field, in a gym, in a parking lot, etc.

Benching requires a bar, a bench, weights, a spotter, and all of this needs to be available. You could be doing pushups are you read this.

Pushups can also be made easier or harder in a number of ways. To make it easier the person needs to come off of the ground. This means that the person needs to use a box, a bench, a rack, a set of stairs, or anything else that is available. Using the incline keeps the body in a straight line, but makes is easier to perform.

I prefer raising the body up instead of going to the knees. Pushups on the knees seem to change the mechanics of the pushup and are not as beneficial. But if the person is on a field, there are not a lot of options.

They Can Be Progressed Easily

Making a pushup harder is very easy to do and can utilize equipment, if available.

To make it harder without using anything, the exercise needs to be manipulated. This can be done by narrowing the feet, narrowing the hands, lifting a leg up, leaving the ground on the ascent (explosive), adding a clap, etc.

With the use of other equipment, the pushup can be taken to new levels. A plate can be placed on the back to add weight, a band can provide resistance, a slideboard can decrease stability, and elevating the feet will all progress the pushup.

It is always important to select good exercises for your program. When it comes to upper body work, the pushup has been forgotten. It is paramount that pushups be performed to get lean and strong.

Mastering this exercise will enhance gains in all other exercises. You will enhance your upper body strength, shoulder stability, shoulder health, and core stability by perfecting the pushup.

You do not have to reinvent the wheel in order to train hard. Start doing pushups and you will be happy with the results.