, , ,

push up plus4


The push up plus is a chest exercise that I rarely see performed by members at my gym and they may very well be missing out on one of the best chest exercises out there. Here’s why: it works the serratus anterior muscle.

Why is working this muscle so important?
All movement that requires the arm to be raised or extended outward relies on the serratus anterior. It is often referred to as the “boxer’s muscle” because it is responsible for the pattern of movement when one throws a punch.
Neglecting this muscle can result in its weakness and that puts you at high risk for serious injuries like shoulder impingement.
Shoulder impingement occurs when the muscles or tendons in your rotator cuff become entrapped in the shoulder joint. This condition is one of the most common causes of pain in the shoulder. 

serratus1The serratus anterior muscle is attached from the inside (medial border) of the shoulder blade, runs under the shoulder blade, under the latissimus dorsi and attaches to the upper rib cage.

There are several exercises that help maintain a strong serratus anterior. The focus for this post is the push up plus exercise.
The standard push up works the serratus anterior but adding the “plus” further activates this muscles and makes it more effective.

Below is a copy of the standard push up exercise that I posted on December 4, 2012 with the addition of the “plus” movement.*


Major muscles worked:  Pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, coracobrachialis, triceps.

Stabilizer muscles worked: abdominals, erector spinae(back muscles), gluteus maximus, trapezius, rhomboids, serratus anterior, pectoralis minor.

push up musclesstabilizer muscle diagram

Overview: Weight is on hands/toes or hands/knees. Neck, spine, shoulders and pelvis do not move. Hands are slightly wider than shoulders. Fingers face forward. Contract abdominals.  Inhale on way down to about a fist’s width to the floor (it should look like a 90° angle). Exhale on the way up.

Position: (for the standard push-up) Distribute weight evenly on hands and toes or hands and knees. If you experience wrist issues, place hands on dumbbells instead of flat on floor.
Neck, spine, scapulae and pelvis are in neutral position. They don’t move. Hands are slightly wider than shoulder width. Fingers face straight forward. Contract abdominals.  Proper form is imperative.  A loss of core stability can lead to back injuries.

Movement: Start in the up position. Lower until the chest is about a fist’s width from the floor (it should look like a 90° angle). Inhale on the way down. Exhale on the way up.
* Once you return to the starting position, with arms straight, push upper back towards the ceiling. Hold for one second. Return to starting position. Raising the back is a small movement (about an inch) and allows the shoulders to rotate slightly around the front.

Common errors: Sagging in the back. Keep the glutes engaged and the abdominals contracted.
Looking up, causing stress on cervical vertebrae. Keep the neck stabilized in neutral (lined up with the spine).
Hyperextending (locking) the elbows on the way up.
Hyperextending the hips so that they are “risen”up.
Inability to keep scapulae (shoulders) stable.

Need more information on the serratus anterior muscle?  Please leave a comment…