“Yeah mate, I do 100 push-ups and 200 sit-ups every night. I feel great and don’t need a gym. The girlfriend loves it”. I’ve heard this said so many times, from mostly young guys, that it’s beginning to feel as repetitive as all those push-ups. Of course you feel great. Your body has not yet had the years of abuse from bad exercise plans that will result in long-term pain and discomfort. The live fast die young brigade is alive in the mid noughties. But it’s not so much based on drugs as it was in the sixties. These days it’s the body beautiful that is the rush. Those that punish themselves daily with RSI-inducing manoeuvres are falling prey to the idea that if something produces a desired result, doing it repeatedly will provide an improved result.
I started thinking about the long-term effects of 100 push-ups or 200 sit-ups per day. The old adage “too much of anything is bad for you” proves itself here. If you do 100 push-ups every morning you will no doubt develop strong muscles in the chest and arms. Your efficiency at doing push-ups will increase to the point that it doesn’t take major effort to complete the 100. No doubt you would become a stronger person overall. Wonderful ! But take into consideration several points. There are two sides to every coin and in simplistic terms there are two sides to every body. The front side is where the pectoral muscles and anterior deltoids reside. These muscles help to push the body from the floor. Located on the back side are the rhomboids and trapezius muscles which help are contracted when you use your arms to pull something towards your body. The rhomboids and trapezius are antagonist muscles to the pectorals. This means they work in opposition to the agonist muscles. Basically when one muscle is contracting its antagonist is stretching. The antagonist has the job of returning the worked muscle to its original position. Now imagine you are working your pectoral muscles by doing push-ups. The Rhomboids are stretched during these exercises. If you do 100 push-ups you are not only creating stronger pectorals, you are creating weaker rhomboids due to their becoming stretched and taut. If these powerful back muscles are neglected then they will end up much weaker relative to the muscles of the chest. The pectorals, on the other hand, become tight and shortened due to overuse. These muscles of the body are designed to work in pairs, antagonists and agonists pulling against each other to keep bones in place and our posture in line. If there is an imbalance in the power of one side of the pair then bad posture, pain, injury and reduced mobility can ensue. Have you ever noticed that body builders (and bouncers) palms of their hands face backward? They walk a bit like apes because their shoulders are rotated forward from the immense tightening of the chest muscles and the weak stretched back muscles. As the shoulders rotate forwards the back of the hand turns to face the front and the palm faces behind the body. The classic Neanderthal position. Still keen to work those chest muscles 100 times every day?