Researchers have not yet investigated the effects of various leg positions on the kinetics and kinematics of the push-up or the body weight bend-and-pull. However, the correct position of the lower body during a push-up consists of having the legs held in line with the hips and remaining motionless (2,4,21). During the body weight bend-and-pull, the legs should be aligned with the hips and the knees should be slightly bent to avoid excessive compressive forces for those athletes who can hyperextend their knees. If an athlete is unable to control the position of the legs during a push-up or body weight bend-and-pull, further assessment may be required by a sports medicine professional.
When screening an athlete's upper-body push and pull patterns using the push-up and body weight bend-and-pull, the athlete should be instructed to perform each exercise in a natural and comfortable manner to a depth they can control. The screener should give primary attention to the shoulders, lower back, hips, and knees and secondary attention to the head, ankles, feet, depth, and balance. On screening, the athlete refers to Tables 3 and 4 to help determine the appropriate load level for the push or pull pattern. Tables 3 and 4 detail each patterns progressive loading paradigm and provide exercises that will challenge the pattern in a progressive manner. The pattern progressions follow a compendium of assisted, body weight, external load, eccentric, and plyometric trainings. The objective of the load progression is to challenge the pattern with a load that facilitates a good pattern. In other words, use the load level that allows the athlete to perform the fundamental pattern with all coaching points maintained for the sets and repetitions prescribed. Level 1 assists the pattern by attenuating the force required to complete the pattern through a full range of motion. Level 2 challenges the pattern with a body weight load. Level 3 introduces modalities to the body weight that provide further external resistance such as free weights. Level 4 challenges the athlete's eccentric strength. This is a critical level for the athlete to demonstrate that they can maintain the coaching points detailed in Tables 3 and 4 under high velocity with moderate to high force. If the athlete cannot demonstrate a good movement pattern under high velocity and moderate to high eccentric force, then plyometric training may be too advanced. Level 5 loads the pattern with plyometric or ballistic training. Table 5 provides descriptions of the exercises detailed in Tables 3 and 4. Regular screening is recommended (e.g., before and after a training block) to confirm the effectiveness of the loading progressions and to ensure that improvements in power production are not achieved to the detriment of movement competency.
When performing the push-up and body weight bend-and-pull, the athlete should demonstrate a centered and stable head position. They should demonstrate fluid scapulohumeral rhythm, which means the scapula will be in good alignment and protract and retract with precision. They should also be able to perform upper-body push and pull pattern exercises with the shoulders held down and away from the ears, demonstrating good shoulder girdle muscle balance. The trunk, particularly the lumbar region of the spine, should be held neutral and stable during either movement. Screening an athlete's movement competency related to fundamental movement patterns provides a framework for the strength and conditioning specialist to prescribe a strength and conditioning program that is most appropriate to the athlete's movement abilities.
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