That said, Push-ups can be an appropriate exercise for just about anybody without shoulder issues including senior adults! No- I’m not kidding. I use modified push ups regularly with most of my clients. They work chest, shoulders, arms, abs, glutes(butt), calves and legs in one exercise.
Push ups don’t have to be on the ground, full out, military style. Here are some progressions that will make push ups one of your favorite exercise too.
If you have never done one, begin by doing push-ups with your hands on the wall, stand on your tip toes, lock your abs and bend your elbows then straighten your elbows. The rest of your body should look like you are attached to a board- no hip sway, no neck sway or “nose-bobbing” At this level you’ll feel more shoulders than chest.
Next progress to using a high kitchen counter top, or in a gym look for the “Smith” Machine” where you can roll the bar to different depths. The angle will be lower so you should try to squeeze your chest muscles more. Again, watch your form implicitly. Make sure your hips are tucked under you- not sticking out, and no nose-bobbing!
Angled Push Up
When you can do that with perfect form 20+ times, find a slightly lower sturdy surface. In the gym, roll the smith machine lower. At home, stairs work great, or fireplace hearth. DO NOT use a chair or object that would move with your pressure or cannot support your weight.
Next progression is to get on the ground, with a pad or towel under your knees. you will do the push up with hands and knees. You’ll hear me say it again- it’s about form above everything! Hips low, abs tight, open and close the elbows and shoulders and press through the chest and triceps (back of the arms).
The last modification is the full pushup but with feet wide apart for more balance. When you move to toes, you’ll feel your abs much more than before.
A few notes:
Pay attention to your shoulders. If it hurts in any way, try going shallow. If it still hurts, Stop and have someone evaluate if you have an injury.
When you can’t hold form STOP. Your body will produce compensation patterns which are hard to correct. I’d rather have 3 perfect push ups x 5 sets than 5 lousy push ups x 3 sets.