Muscle pain opposite the working muscle?
July 11, 2013 10:18 AM   Subscribe

When doing push-ups I would expect to be working my chest but I never get to the point where my chest feels the work because I have so much weakness and pain in my rear deltoids.

I'm looking for a recommendation on working through an issue that I continue to have. I'm not sure if it's caused by an imbalance or simply a weak muscle. I first started to notice the pain in my rear deltoids when doing push-ups. Trying to perform another exercise, I tried doing incline dumbbell flys and quickly realized the pain and feeling of impingement was far worse. I've just recently taken nearly 2 weeks off thinking it may be overuse but it seemed far worse tonight than when I had stopped. I'm at a loss what this is or how to improve it.
posted by mcarthey to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Could you clarify - is your goal to find a way to work your chest, to strengthen your back, or to be able to do pushup? Or all of the above?
posted by kitcat at 10:36 AM on July 11, 2013

Are you sure you're doing the pushups correctly? Back pain sounds like maybe you're bending your back, possibly even to the point where you're basically undulating rather than doing pushups.

The wider your hands are placed, the more you're working your chest.
posted by kavasa at 10:52 AM on July 11, 2013

It is so easy to do exercises wrong in a way that Internet descriptions will never tell you. Coulud you book a session with a personal trainer to go over your form and make suggestions?
posted by grouse at 12:04 PM on July 11, 2013

Deltoid workouts look pretty similar to pushups.

Is working out something you've been doing for a while, or are you just starting?

The good news and bad news about training with weights and regular exercises (like pullups, situps, squats, etc.) is that they aren't good at isolating muscles. So you get a better overall workout doing them rather than on isolating machines, but if you are just starting out, there may be some muscles that had fallen into disuse and are far more under developed than the rest of you.

Also, and I might be a moron here, but I think of pushups as a shoulder and arm exercise rather than a chest exercise.
posted by gjc at 7:21 PM on July 11, 2013

It is not normal for pain to persist for two weeks after you stop doing the exercise. Please see a doctor.
posted by d. z. wang at 8:39 PM on July 11, 2013

Best answer: No one is going to be able to give you a definitive answer to this question based only on what you've written here; they'd need to evaluate you in person in order to do so. There could be a mobility issue that needs to be addressed, some kind of strength imbalance, or it could just be a problem of technical execution.

But I can make some suggestions. Eric Cressey has a lot of posts on his site about shoulder pain/health and rehab. I would hazard a guess that there's something lacking in your pushup technique, because that's true of most of the pushups I see. If you're performing pushups with your upper arms flared out at 90 degrees to your torso, that's known to be a cause of shoulder impingement; you want to keep your arms tucked in more tightly against your torso. That will also stretch the internal rotators of the humerus, namely the lats, making for a more stable movement. Check out this post from Cressey about pushup technique, which focuses on the shoulder movement during the exercise. Also check out Cressey's "Shoulder Savers" articles (search for parts 2 and 3) for some other ideas. If you're doing a lot of pushing work (pushups, bench presses, etc.) you should be careful to balance it out with pulling work (pullups, rows, face pulls). Working on your thoracic mobility is a good idea too.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:23 AM on July 12, 2013

Response by poster: To answer some of the questions, I have been working out for quite a while but the pain has slowly gotten worse. I *have* been doing the push-ups with my elbows flared out so I will certainly investigate that but I'm concerned that the incline flys also caused a good level of pain. I will start with my form, though, and see if that has been exacerbating the issue.
posted by mcarthey at 5:45 AM on July 15, 2013

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