Is it better to be feared or respected?
Is it too much to ask for both?
That above statement could easily apply to strengthening the chest and keeping the shoulders healthy simultaneously. My bench press-pushup articles have become so heavily hit on by Google searches by now that they've also become the single biggest source of SPAM on my site. For some reason, if people want strength and/or big pecs, they bench press and put up with shoulder pain until they can't. If they want conditioning and healthy shoulders, they push-up and then pretend that conditioning is so much more important than strength.
So, I ask: IS IT TOO MUCH TO ASK FOR BOTH?
For some reason, weighted push-ups elude just about everyone's mind as a great compromise to getting strong without turning the shoulder joint into tendon-graters. That may well be due to the difficulty of loading up the body with weight to perform them. The pull-up and the dip are more straightforward since an inexpensive and easy method of adding weight to them exists in nearly every serious gym: the dip belt. The push-up is a bit more tricky. The weight cant hang from the torso. Weighted vests are expensive with any serious amount of mass to them.
Those are not the only means to weight a push-up. I've used chains around my neck and had a friend load plates on my upper back (CAUTION: use rubber coated or bumper plates. they stay stacked much better! Few sensations will induce un-needed panic like the feel of 3 plates falling off your back). My choice pick has been sandbags. Alpha Strong Sandbags. These are the easiest weight I've found to get on the back alone and stay in place without beating the shit out of the body.
I've used the smaller, Beast sandbag (50-60 lbs) as well as the larger Kraken (135-to-who-the-fuck-knows-left-it-in-the-rain-again pounds). The little guy is pretty simple to get into position since it can just be dangled around the neck. I'm sure the fine readers remember this one from a several months ago...
That This was good for sets of 15-20 reps. That can still build some strength and it's also a great neck and trap work-out simultaneously.
Since being set free to try tempt fate with my knees again, I've resorted to throwing the big one on my back and doing push-ups pretty often. Figuring out the best way to get that bulky blob of sand back there as efficiently as possible looked like a Three Stooges prank but I came up with the following sequence:
- Clean the sandbag off the ground
- place the sandbag on one shoulder while doing some twerking and holding the bag to the neck.
- squat down and let the sandbag slide down the back a bit.
- get into the push-up position at the bottom of the squat
|Clearly, should have let this one slide farther down my back|
On either of these push-ups I just demonstrated, getting rid of the weight is as easy as dropping one shoulder and letting it slide off.
Since I brought up a key point of doing a push-up right, Another virtue of slinging some weight on the back and pushing some extra bodyweight off the ground is that it also can help clean up bad push-up form. Rather than take the word of some wing-nut blogger on the internet, here's a guy who actually, successfully, trains people for a living on how to do one right:
See that around 7:26? I'm kind of re-enacting the same thing with 135 lbs of sand instead of 135 lbs of super-cool, kick-ass woman. It's not particularly feasible to do these sandbag push-ups with bad form. Something will give out too soon. So, I've found that I either have to do them right, or they just won't get done.
Life is already too full of compromises and dogmatic adherence to traditions for no good reason. There is no excuse for the bench presses hegemonic domination of chest training. There's no reason why a push-up have to sit in the neglected strength-endurance-conditioning bin of tools, collecting figurative dust. So, grab a sandbag and get your fear and respect in one move.