If you’re trying to work out at home to get fit without the gym, you’ve probably heard about the benefits of a high-rep push-up routine. But what parts of your body should feel sore after push-ups?
Do you ever get up the day after a hard workout feeling like you got hit by a truck?
Although if you really did hurt yourself you should seek medical help, sometimes a tough workout can put you in agony.
When push-ups are the culprit why does it hurt so much in your chest and your wrists? Let’s find out more about the almighty push-up, what strain it puts on your body and how you can drive down the “ouch” factor.
What Are Push-Ups
You lower down, you push up!
Simple. So why does it hurt so badly? Along with the bench press, push-ups are one of the best moves to build developed shoulder and chest muscles. This essential full-body building hack is one you can use to get jacked quickly. Yet many of us would rather be doing anything else.
Maybe you were forced to do push-up tests or drills in sports growing up. Probably not the highlight of the game. But as adults, we recognize the importance of this move for muscular strength. As the population ages too, core strength is essential in preventing dangerous falls for seniors. This is a move that can help you get fit for life.
Push-ups help you pump blood, improve the range of motion in your shoulders and build strength to perform better in other upper-body exercises.
Because this type of physical activity uses your body weight only, it may help you to improve your functional strength long term.
It may be lower impact and can work towards healthy muscle tissue and connective tissue. Not only this, some people including those with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, find bodyweight exercise less intimidating.
Compared to weightlifting, it can be a way to relieve pain while still getting your heart rate up.
Many calisthenics athletes incorporate things like push-ups or planches into their routines to get fit sans equipment.
They are great, not only paired with other workouts, but they can be a solo exercise to get you strong.
NFL star Herschel Walker even built out a fitness routine that involves cranking out thousands of these bad boys. Clearly, they can be pretty effective for muscle building!
To incorporate push-ups into your fitness routine, make sure you’re doing them with perfect form.
Though they may not be the most fun for everyone, push-ups are a key bodyweight exercise that hits multiple muscle groups in your upper body. If you’re doing proper push-ups, you should be able to build strength, tone your body, up your endurance and increase muscle hypertrophy.
Let’s go through a little explainer on how to do this:
- Start in a plank with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your body in a straight line from head to heels fully extended arms.
- Bend into your elbows and lower your body toward the ground.
- Be sure to keep the elbows pointing backwards as you do this. This will help you prevent shoulder injuries.
- Maintain a straight torso. Don’t let your hips sag below the rest of your body or stick your butt up in the air. Either mistake is incorrect form. This takes away from your core engagement.
- Lower yourself until your chest is just above or lightly touches the ground.
- Here, your elbows should be at 90 degrees.
- Exhale and push through the palms of your hands to forcefully drive your body up, extending your arms and coming back to your starting position using your strength.
- Repeat for as many reps as you need.
Why Do We Get Sore After Push-Ups?
There are a few common parts of the body where we experience soreness after push-ups. Although much of it is the harness type of sore that you’d feel after any workout, some muscular or joint pain associated with your push-ups can be negative.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is one of the most common culprits that may be behind the “ouch” factor you experience from push-ups.
Exercise does damage to your muscles (that’s how they grow!). The microscopic tears that a good workout sesh can induce can also be painful sometimes.
DOMS is when the pain doesn’t set in until later. This condition can be brought on by introducing
Generally, experiencing DOMS from 1-4 days after a workout is normal.
Once you pass the 4-day marker, there’s a good likelihood that you push(up)-ed yourself a bit too hard in your workout.
Take some time off to stretch and recuperate. You may want to try foam rolling, an ice bath, or muscle scraping to speed up your recovery.
DOMS can be a marker of an unexpected switch-up to regularly scheduled programming. If you’re a diehard weightlifter and you make a quick transition to only calisthenics-based moves, chances are, you’re putting your muscles in shock.
Soreness in the chest is normal for most people after doing push-ups, especially when performed at high reps or for a lot of sets.
Although chest pain during a workout can occasionally be asthma, heart attack, or costochondritis don’t panic. That’s most likely not what you’re dealing with.
The chest is doing a lot of the heavy lifting here, so make sure you give it a good stretch.
To stretch the pectoral muscles of the chest, find a doorway, plant one arm on either side (you can do this single-armed if you prefer) and pull yourself through. You should feel a deep stretch in the chest muscles. Doing this can help alleviate push-up soreness.
If you’re feeling a twinge in your shoulders, it could be a sign of rotator cuff injuries that are acting up during your push-ups.
Keeping proper alignment is essential for the safety of your elbow and shoulder joints. Letting the elbows flare out or up too far away from the body puts a lot of strain on your shoulder joints.
Remember to keep your elbows tucked in tight to save your shoulders from injury or soreness.
Wrists are one of the most sensitive areas in the body when working your push-ups.
This is probably the most commonly cited source of pain that most newcomers to push-ups experience.
Think about it: working on your wrist strengthening is pretty dull to most. We often overlook warming up our wrists and ankles in favor of stronger muscles or more interesting body parts.
Wrist issues that can arise in push-ups include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Poor joint mobility
When you’re doing push-ups, especially with full body weight, these issues can all crop up and make your wrists flare up with pain.
Make sure to include wrist rolls as a warm-up.
You can also put weight on your wrists, while on all fours to help them get used to the motion of a push-up.
Triceps tendinitis is one of the most common injuries to the tricep muscles. Putting strain from push exercises, like push-ups and dips on these arm muscles can give you chronic pain in the backs of your elbows.
Although this condition is most common among men in their forties, it can happen to anyone, especially if you’re rapidly adding push-ups to your program without working on elbow strengthening first.
Especially if you hold your push-ups in the up or down position for a long time or go through multiple sets, your abs are getting a serious workout!
Because there’s no equipment to stabilize your body, your core is doing all the work here. Soreness in the core could simply be an adaptation to a new exercise routine.
However, if you feel a stabbing pain or stomachache, take some days off to rest. Remember, if you’re looking for an upper body workout, the military press or overhead press can be an alternative on days when you have sore abs.
Legs or Feet
Your legs and feet act as stabilizers in your push-ups, so they might feel a bit of pain too. Give your legs a shake out between sets to help get less pain and stiffness.
Remember to incorporate leg stretches after push-ups too, since they are a total-body move.
If you’re sore, don’t fret. It’s possible that you haven’t worked up the right amount of strength to do this exercise with full body weight yet.
In the meantime, try some push-up variations.
- Kneeling push-ups
- Incline push-ups
- Decline push-ups
Holding your body in a push-up position puts a lot of stress on your muscles and nervous system if you’ve never been diligent about practicing this move before.
But these are some of the best core strengthening exercises you can do that also build both the upper and lower body. You’d be foolish to not at least throw in a push-up set here and there even if this move is not your fave.
It’s typical to feel some soreness in your chest, shoulders, abs, wrists, or even legs a few days after you do push-ups. This is especially true if you don’t practice them often.
Remember to always stretch to help with muscle soreness.
Keep track of your reps so you can work up to full-form variations. Flex offers an all-in-one workout platform to help you learn new exercises, visualize your fitness journey and keep all your PRs in one place.
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