IF YOU’VE EVER had the good fortune to view a cadaver you are suddenly aware that you are bearing witness to a very remarkable piece of construction and engineering.

The Shoulder
The shoulder girdle provides the widest range of motion of any part of the body. It is made up of a complex combination of bones, joints, and numerous muscles that help to stabilize the shoulder while at the same time giving it motion.

Human anatomy illustration - Shoulder Girdle - from HumanAnatomyLibrary.com

Push-ups are one of the best exercises to lift the bust line and develop the arms, shoulders, back, chest… and image.

However, if you’ve ever watched a football team during their workout, or you’ve ever been a part of that team, you know that the move is only made between all-the-way up to half-way-down.

The web offers you all kinds of ways to do push-ups depending on your strength, attention span, build, access to equipment, etc. But I did not find the suggestions written below anywhere other than in Bonnie Prudden’s books.

Push-Ups and Let-Downs the Bonnie Prudden Way

  • Start at the top of the push-up. Feet together, body straight, arms about shoulder-width.
  • Keeping your body straight, let yourself slowly, slowly down and come to a resting place on the floor. The last 3 inches may be awful.
  • While resting flat on the floor swing your hands around to touch behind your waist.
  • Starting from the floor, push up slowly into the full push-up position. If this is difficult spread your feet apart which takes some of the weight off your arms.
  • If you can’t do it at all, just get up any way you can and start at the top for your very S-L-O-W Let-Down. During the Let-Down phase you are building strength in reverse while lengthening the muscles. When you can use a full 10 seconds to come down, you will probably be able to do one push-up.

The reason you are starting your PUSH-UP from flat on the floor is this:

“The body is much like a stalled car that must be pushed to the gas station. Getting it moving is the hardest part. You want to force your muscles to work all along their full length. The initial lift from the floor is very demanding, just as getting anything moving from a standstill is far more difficult than just keeping it moving once it is in motion. The first inch of lift off the floor calls for more effort than all the rest of the lift to full arm stretch.” —How to Keep Slender and Fit After Thirty, by Bonnie Prudden

Women Not Exempt
Women and girls have the same muscles as men. Plan to dump modified or “girl’s push-ups” done from the knees as soon as possible. However, if you need to begin this way make sure you go to the floor and begin each of your “modified” push-ups with your initial lift from flat on the floor and taking time to put your hands behind your waist each time as described above.

Bonnie was a prominent rock climber in the 40s and 50s, and without shoulder girdle strength she would have been unable to make the 30 documented first ascents in the Shawangunks… including the famed Bonnie’s Roof.

Shoulders and Flexibility
Push-ups done quickly and not through a full range of motion can lead to loss of flexibility, pain and weakness.

To test the flexibility of your shoulders reach down your back with the right hand and up your back with the left. Do they touch? If not, measure the distance between the fingertips. Reverse the arms left hand up and right down to test the other side. To improve and / or maintain your shoulder flexibility use the BACK STROKE, SNAP AND STRETCH and DOORWAY STRETCH.

Shoulder Flexibility Exercises

Shoulders and Stress
One of the prime targets for stress is the shoulders. Note those whose shoulders are up around their ears. Enough tightening for long enough leads to pain, reduced range of motion, and weakness. Do SHOULDER SHRUGS and SHOULDER THRUSTS often to offset the stress.

Shoulder Shrugs and Thrust Exercises


For more information about Bonnie Prudden®, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®, workshops, books, self-help tools, DVDs, educational videos, and blogs, visit www.bpruddencom.wwwaz1-lr2.supercp.com. Or call 520-529-3979 if you have questions or need help. Enid Whittaker, Managing Director, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®

The anatomy illustrations featured at the beginning is from http://humananatomylibrary.com. The exercises and accompanying photos are featured in Bonnie Prudden’s Corrective Exercises handouts.