If you have at least one friend with military background you have probably heard that the best way of getting better at push-ups is to do them every day. However, in a previous post we have already discussed that performing them is not enough, your push-up form must be on point if you want to pass the PFA test for the Australian Defence Force. There is another reason you should learn the correct technique from the get go though.
Injury prevention. No matter how many push-ups you can perform, you may not get the chance to show off your talent if you end up injuring yourself. Working through injuries can hinder your performance. Repeatedly picking up injuries in the same area will only cause you long-term problems later in your career.
In this blog, I have brought you 5 exercises that will strengthen the deep tissue muscles in your shoulder too. These can be used as part of your warm-up, as accessory work at the end of a strength workout or even part of your rehab if you already have problems with your shoulder joint.
Exercise #1: Suicide Plank (Up and Down Plank)
In a nutshell, you will be changing positions between a low plank (on your elbows) and a high plank (on your hands). The important part is that your full body is engaged, your core area needs to stay stable, which means your hips should stay parallel to the floor at all times and not wiggle while you are moving. Alternate which arm you push off first so both arms get about the same amount of pushing work.
This exercise is great for core strength and stability, but the reason it made it to this list is because it will train your shoulders to stay stable under load, so long as you keep your core engaged.
Exercise #2: External Shoulder Rotation
There are two variations of this exercise.
1. You start with the upper arm and elbow by your side while your forearm is at a 90-degree angle in front of your body. You can use a cable machine or a resistance band in a standing position, or a small dumbbell while lying on the floor. In the latter case you’ll be working against gravity plus the weight.
Keeping your elbow connected to your waist you slowly start rotating your forearm outward maintaining the angle. Hold it for a second or two on the top, then go back to the starting position in a controlled manner.
2. In this variation, in the starting position your elbow is out on the side at shoulder height. The upper arm is parallel to the floor, so is the forearm at a 90-degree angle, fist pointing forward and the palm is facing down. You perform an upward external rotation by pulling the resistance band into a position where your forearm is vertical, and your fist is pointing to the ceiling, hold for a second then release it back in a controlled manner.
Both variations work two small and deep muscles in your shoulder joint, they are called the infraspinatus and the teres minor. If you have ever seen anybody with shoulders rolling forward, these two muscles are lengthened and weak in their body. The issue then is, that the gap in the shoulder joint will be smaller than it’s meant to be which often leads to wear and tear and other painful injuries.
Exercise #3: Shoulder Retraction
Shoulder retraction can be done with a cable machine or resistance band. Set yourself up as you would for standing rows, arms straight in front of you, core engaged, ready to pull.
The difference is that you are not going to bending the elbows and when done correctly no other parts of your body moves apart from your shoulders. Squeeze the shoulder blades together like you were trying to pinch something between them, hold that position for a few seconds and then slowly release back into starting position. Repeat 12-15 times for 2-3 sets.
It’s much harder to achieve correct form on this exercise than it sounds. It’s a small movement that is isolating your upper back muscles. It’s also great if you’d like to improve your posture. Once you are confident with the technique, try doing them in a plank position for a different load.
Exercise #4: Wall Angels
Your back will be against the wall, hips, upper back, elbows, hands and head in contact with it throughout the exercise. A small arch at your lower back is ok, just make sure you wouldn’t be able to put a fist through. Elbows out at chest height, forearms vertical with the palms facing forward.
Slowly slide your arms up overhead then slide them back down to starting position. Focus on keeping the important contact points attached to the wall: hands, elbows, shoulders and head. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions.
If this exercise is a real challenge, you will need to work on your shoulder and upper back mobility to prevent any future problems during your ADF training.
Exercise #5: LYING T/W/Y's
Start by lying face down on the floor with your arms straight out from your body at 90 degrees with your palms facing down and hands raised off the group about an inch. This creates the letter 'T' and is also the starting position.
From there pull your elbows closer to the sides of your body but keep your hands in line with your head which creates the 'W'. For the 'Y' position straighten your arms forward at a slight angle outwards to complete the routine.
Try and transition between each letter and back to the start while keeping your hands slightly raise off the ground to ensure the stabiliser muscles remain activated in your upper back throughout the whole routine. Conduct this for 10-15 reps for 3 sets.
There you have 5 accessory shoulder strengthening exercises to help you master your push-up form, assist in preventing injuries and pass your push-up test with flying colours.
Do you feel you need some added help to make it through the initial physical fitness assessment for the Australian Defence Force? Feel free to get in touch!
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