Bench Press vs. Pushup

The pushup article I posted on has been a popular link lately and yesterday I got a question on the article from Brian.  It’s a good question and one that confuses a lot of people.

What You Don’t Know about the Push-up

Could you explain why you say, “The scapula is allowed to go through its full range of motion during the push-up. This isn’t possible for the scapulae in the bench press or dumbbell bench press variations…”. It’s not clear to me why the scapula goes through a full range of motion with the pushup but not the bench press. I’m having a hard time understanding how this is possible. Thanks.

Although the bench press and the pushup look exactly like the same movement, there are actually some important differences.  The scapula isn’t allowed to go through any ROM during bench pressing variations partly because of the bench itself, and the fact that we are laying on top of them. They are supporting our weight as well as the weight we are pressing.  Another thing is that we don’t want the scaps to move during our presses. In fact, if we allowed them to move this would increase the range of motion required during our press significantly as well as make us considerably less stabile.  Both things we generally don’t want, especially if you want to move some weight.  The ROM for the scapula that we’re talking about during the pushup is protraction.  This is when the scapula moves away from the spine in a lateral / anterior fashion.  It basically follows the ribcage around.  That is the reason the pushup, and doing it correctly, is so important. It allows the scap to move forward and activates the serratus anterior, a hugely important muscle for shoulder health and function.  The serratus anterior is one of the first muscles to go dormant when a shoulder injury, or pain occurs.  It can also occur due to an improper training program.  The principle is the serratus is super important for stability in the scapula which 100% affects the glenohumeral joint.  Pushups train this muscle, when done correctly, and the bench press doesn’t.  I hope this helps to answer your question.

And through all of this I forgot that I had answered this question before.  You can find more on it below.

Protraction and the bench press

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