Coaching Gym Movement Patterns
THE UPPER BODY PUSH
How to Perform the Upper Body Push
WHY IS THE UPPER BODY PUSH IMPORTANT?
Upper body pushing patterns refer to a group of movements that obviously all involve an upper body pushing pattern. There are several ways these pushes can be categorised, however we generally like to group them according to direction of push relative to the body (horizontal vs vertical), and laterality (unilateral vs bilateral).
Upper body pushing patterns will train a variety of muscles depending on what variation you're completing. Generally speaking, all upper body pushing variations will train the triceps and anterior or middle deltoid. Horizontal pushing patterns typically train the pectoralis major and anterior deltoid, whilst vertical pushing patterns typically train the anterior/middle deltoid with minimal pectoral involvement. Additionally, depending on how the rest of the body is organised there is frequently core/trunk stabilisation required to allow for the production of pushing forces through the core, with some throwing/pushing variations requiring core/trunk rotation too. Training an upper body push pattern transfers to sport-specific movements such as throwing/passing a ball, fending off a tackle, or throwing a punch (in martial arts, not the footy field). Incorporating core/trunk rotation and other kinetic chain movements in addition to the upper body push will likely transfer better to these more rapid/powerful throwing and punching movements as it's rare for an upper limb pushing pattern to occur during sport without contributions from the rest of the kinetic chain.
KEY TECHNICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF A SUCCESSFUL UPPER BODY PUSH:
Very movement-specific, hence general recommendations are as follows.
- Elbow stacked over wrist/hand
- Minimises instability and maximises efficiency of movement and force output
- Appropriate shoulder blade movement
- We generally encourage protraction/retraction or elevation/depression of the shoulder blade
- Some exercises require a fixed shoulder blade (bench press), however this is not sport-specific
- Appropriate organisation of the trunk/lower body
- Generally we want a braced/stable trunk and lower limb, in a relatively neutral position
- Some more sport-specific patterns may require more sport-specific positions
MOST COMMON UPPER BODY PUSH EXERCISE VARIATIONS:
- Overhead press
- Bench press
- Med ball throws
COMMON TECHNICAL ISSUES IN THE UPPER BODY PUSH AND HOW TO FIX THEM:
Very movement specific. Often athletes have better upper body awareness than lower body awareness, and upper body movement patterns can be corrected via cuing quite easily. Additionally, make sure that the movement pattern is not too challenging such that the athlete is unable to execute it with good technique. Common example we see is athletes who lack the strength to complete a full range pushup, and default into bad movement patterns where they lift their hips up excessively, only go halfway down, or tuck their head in so that they touch the ground with their head rather than their chest.