The Push Up Plus is an exercise derived from a regular push up to activate, improve, and strengthen the shoulder blades or scapular area.
The main muscle that is activated through this exercise, aside from the usual arms and core muscles from a regular Push Up, is the serratus anterior muscle. This muscle resides at the sides of a person’s upper ribs.
When opened up and stretched in the Push Up Plus, they help to target shoulder functions by rotating the shoulder blades.
Whilst it might be hard to explain and understand, the Push Up Plus is a simple and effective exercise to achieve. Here is our ultimate guide on how to perform the Push Up Plus and its benefits!
What Exactly Is The Push Up Plus?
A Push Up Plus is a variation and advancement to the regular Push Up.
Where a Push Up is a useful exercise for strengthening the arm and core muscles, a Push Up Plus works to improve shoulder functions and posture.
Serratus Anterior Muscle
The serratus anterior muscle resides alongside the upper eight ribs and helps to move and rotate the shoulder blade up and down. This muscle is activated through the Push Up Plus.
The scapula (shoulder blade) is often called the “boxer’s muscle” as boxers are likely to injure this muscle when they throw punches.
A sore serratus anterior muscle can also be caused by poor posture, tension, and repetitive movements resulting in repetitive strain injury. Asthma, a broken rib, and arthritis are amongst several health issues that can cause pain in this area.
Due to the nature of modern humanity, it is important that we all make sure to stretch our serratus anterior muscle. We spend so much time sitting down, mostly in improper postures, which can create intense discomfort in the shoulder blade area.
Push Up Plus Benefits & Why To Do The Push Up Plus
The Push Up Plus is a simple yet effective exercise that can be done by anybody – whether you’re a pro-athlete or if you work from home and need some desperate respite for your sore shoulder blades.
There are several benefits of doing sets of the Push Up Plus every week. Obviously, you will receive the benefits from the regular Push Up whilst doing the Push Up Plus; including arm muscle improvement, core strength, and balance.
Shoulder Blade Improvement
Possibly the biggest benefit of the Push Up Plus is the improvement of the shoulder blades, and shoulder function.
Where a regular Push Up moves the shoulder blades in and out, the Push Up Plus rotates the shoulder blades up and down to activate the serratus anterior muscle.
Opening up and activating the serratus anterior muscle is what helps to stretch out sore shoulder blades. We are all guilty of sitting with bad posture and dealing with stress in unhealthy ways, which results in shoulder and upper back pain.
This exercise helps to open up, stretch, loosen, and strengthen the serratus anterior muscle which helps to improve the shoulder blades.
This is also a useful benefit for weightlifters, boxers, and athletes who rely on the health of their shoulders and chests to perform properly.
Shoulder Physical Therapy
The Push Up Plus is often recommended by physiotherapists for people with shoulder issues.
Not only does it help to strengthen and improve shoulder health, but it is great for relieving the shoulder blades from stress and tension
Trying to improve your posture isn’t as easy as simply sitting upright whenever you remember to. As the Push Up Plus activates the serratus anterior muscle, it helps to open up and stretch the shoulder blades as they rotate.
When people are struggling with their posture, you will often see them try to click out their back by pushing their stomach and chest outwards.
What the upper back and shoulders need is a proper rotation by activating the muscles. The Push Up Plus is the equivalent of stretching out your hands when they cramp up.
By doing several sets of the Push Up Plus every week, you will have less chance of developing knots and tension in your shoulder blades, which can be agonizing if left untreated. This also helps to encourage good posture!
Avoid Weak Serratus Anterior Muscles
Weak and damaged serratus anterior muscles are usually caused by pro-athletes and weightlifters who don’t keep their shoulder blades in the right position when working out.
These muscles are often forgotten about because people get into a comfortable and repetitive routine with their workouts or sports which can tear the serratus anterior muscles.
Muscle imbalance occurs when some muscles in the body are forgotten or missed out during workouts and exercise. This mostly happens during push exercises such as dips, overhead presses, foldable bench , and regular Push Ups.
Whilst these exercises are excellent for weightlifters to bulk up and work on their arm and core muscles, they do not activate the serratus anterior muscles. This means that the other activated muscles (chest, arms, shoulders) will bulk up and become stronger, whilst the serratus anterior muscles (shoulder blades) can begin to dislodge out of place.
This can make the shoulder blades stick out in an odd way, which can lead to discomfort, pain, and even shoulder impingement – a chronic condition that can be detrimental to pro-athletes and weightlifters alike.
How To Do The Push Up Plus
So…the time has come. Here is our step-by-step guide to performing the Push Up Plus. We promise it’s not as difficult as it sounds!
- Step One: The easiest way to explain the position is to get into a regular Push Up position. Instead of lying your body on the floor or bending your elbows, extend your arms until they have locked. Your feet should be stretched out behind you, shoulder-width apart for balance. Your body should be in a straight, diagonal line.
- Step Two: Push your upper back upwards into a rounded position to stretch out the shoulder blades. Picture your spine lifting towards the ceiling.
- Step Three: Then, push your shoulder blades together without bending your arms. Your body should still be in a straight line and won’t be moving much. This will activate the serratus anterior muscles.
- Step Four: Hold this position for 2 seconds, and then fall back to the original position in step one. Repeat this motion 10-15 times per set.
It’s much easier to show you how to do a Push Up Plus rather than explain it, so here’s a good example of how to perform this exercise:
Key Points To Remember:
- Keep your neck and head in line with your feet to help with balance. Moving your head to look around will cause your body to wobble or lean to one side, which will make the exercise ineffective.
- It’s all in the shoulders, so keep your arms extended and straight. Let your shoulder blades rotate and then fall how gravity wants them to.
- Don’t drop your hips – it’s still a Push Up variant, so you need to keep your core somewhat tight and strong.
- This isn’t an arm workout, the only part of your body that should be moving is your shoulder blades.
- Ignore the urge to push your hips/glutes upwards when your upper back is rounded upwards. It’s not a yoga position!
- Resist the urge to push your shoulders up to your ears during this exercise. This will only create more tension and will not activate the serratus anterior muscles properly. Make sure to keep your neck straight and long.
Variations of the Push Up Plus
We’ve told you how to perform the basic Push Up Plus, but there are a couple of variations that are designed to help beginners and to increase the intensity of the exercise.
We recommend starting with the beginner Push Up Plus position before slowly advancing to the next positions until you can effectively achieve the regular Push Up Plus position.
This is to prevent injury and to activate your serratus anterior muscles effectively to achieve the best results.
Push Up Plus For Beginners
If you’re struggling to keep your body up in the plank position for a set, you can adjust your body slightly to provide more balance.
Instead of relying on your hands and feet, rest your knees on the floor. Not only will this provide more balance, but it will stop your arms from wobbling so you can focus purely on your shoulder blades.
Your knees should be shoulder-width apart and underneath your hips rather than stretched out as your feet normally would be in this exercise.
If you feel like you’ve advanced past the hands-and-knees position, but you’re not quite ready to move into the regular hands-and-feet position, you can increase the intensity of this exercise by using one arm at a time.
Just make sure to do the exact same sets with both arms to avoid muscle imbalance!
Push Up Plus For Advanced Exercisers
You may have mastered the hands-and-knees position with one hand, but you’re still not quite ready for the plank position Push Up Plus. We have a handy tip to get you into this position quickly.
Get into the regular Push Up Plus position with your feet stretched out behind you in a plank position. Instead of keeping your feet shoulder-width apart, you can spread your legs apart to help provide more balance.
The next step after this is to complete a set with one arm at a time. This is quite tricky, so we recommend taking it slow and building yourself up each step at a time.
How To Enhance The Push Up Plus
There is a way to enhance and intensify the Push Up Plus to get the best results. This should only be performed by those who have mastered the Push Up Plus.
You need to bring your hands closer together and slightly rotated inwards so your thumbs are facing each other. Then, move your rotated hands ahead of your shoulders.
Instead of your hands residing directly parallel to your shoulders, extending them slightly further will activate other areas of the serratus anterior muscles that the regular position might not activate well enough.
When To Do The Push Up Plus
Whilst it’s not necessary, we recommend performing several regular Push Ups prior to performing the Push Up Plus.
It goes without saying that you should always do a warm-up before doing any form of exercise to prevent the risk of injury, so don’t just rely on a few Push Ups beforehand.
Do some arm swings, jump around, go on a short jog on a treadmill – whatever it takes to loosen your body and muscles as you would for a normal workout.
However, you don’t need to exhaust all of your muscles in order to perform a Push Up Plus. The beauty of this exercise is that it targets specific muscles, so it’s actually a great exercise to do at the start of your proper workout – especially if you’re planning on heavy lifting.
It is recommended that you should do sets of the Push Up plus around three or four times a week. This is because serratus anterior muscles are stabilizers that can (and should be) worked more often than major muscle groups such as core muscles.
When it comes to how many times you should repeat the Push Up Plus, it is recommended to hold the positions for several seconds and repeat the movement 10 to 15 times.
Overall, you should be paused for around 30 seconds during each set. This is called an isometric hold set, which is a low-intensity set that focuses on stabilizing muscles. After all, this exercise isn’t designed to exhaust the body.
Who Can Do The Push Up Plus?
The Push Up Plus is an easy exercise that can be performed by anybody. As long as you listen to your body and don’t push yourself, you can perform it in any position you like.
People who work from home or those who work in offices will benefit from this exercise as it will help to improve their posture and relieve shoulder tension.
As with any exercise, it’s important for beginners to start at the bottom and work their way up. Whilst an easy exercise to perform, beginners will benefit more from the Push Up Plus if they work their serratus anterior muscles slowly through different positions (such as the hands-and-knees position).
Pro-athletes, weightlifters, boxers, and regular gym-goers will also benefit from doing the Push Up Plus regularly. Stabilizing muscles such as the serratus anterior muscles are so often overlooked and forgotten during workouts, so it’s important that we include exercises designed to target these muscles.
This is to avoid muscle imbalances, pain, injury, and the development of potential conditions.
So, there you have it! The ultimate guide to the Push Up Plus. We’re big fans of this exercise because of its simplicity and effectiveness in targeting muscles and body parts that are so often forgotten about.
We’re all prone to an improper posture, knots in the shoulder blades from tension, and even forgetting to utilize our stabilizer muscles properly compared to other muscles that may seem more important (like our biceps).
The truth is – you’re not working out to your full potential if you’re not focusing on the smaller and less intense exercises that are vital for activating our stabilizer muscles.
The Push Up Plus is a great way to start your weightlifting session, workout at the gym, or just to relieve some tension from your day at the desk.
Just make sure you take the steps slowly and surely. Beginners should start from the easiest hands-and-knees position so they can focus the exercise purely on their shoulder blades before they begin to advance into other positions.
The same goes for every other exercise – planks, regular Push Ups, dumbbell lifting, bench presses, the lot.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I build my serratus anterior?
The serratus anterior muscles reside by the upper 8 ribs and help to rotate and move the shoulder blades.
These muscles are often forgotten about in workouts and exercises, but they are an important stabilizer that needs to be worked on. It’s not so much about building these muscles as it is activating them.
The best way to activate and build your serratus anterior is to perform the Push Up Plus. This is a variation of a Push Up that works to stretch and strengthen the muscles surrounding your shoulder blades.
The way to perform this exercise is to get into a regular Push Up position, but with your arms extended and locked so your body is in a diagonal, straight line. Then, push your upper back upwards so your back is rounded.
Don’t let your shoulders rise by keeping your neck straight and long. Then, drop your chest down so your shoulder blades have rotated, and then repeat the movement. Make sure to not let your hips drop and to keep your body straight and balanced.