Many people do push-ups regularly to help achieve their fitness goals.
While it’s easy to think that push-ups are a great exercise for everyone, this isn’t always the case.
There are some people who actually experience some negative effects from push-ups, such as back pain.
And that’s why this article looks to answer the question of whether push-ups are bad for your back.
In it, we discuss some reasons why some people feel pain in certain parts of their back during or after push-ups.
We also discuss whether certain push-up variations might be worse for your back than others.
Are Push-Ups Bad For Your Back?
As a general rule, push-ups aren’t bad for your back and can actually help strengthen your core muscles resulting in less back pain.
That being said though, push-ups can be bad for your back if you don’t do them properly. Even small errors in your push-up technique can cause much bigger issues than anticipated.
Some people will do bodyweight exercises, like push-ups, each time they train.
(Regardless of which muscle groups they’re training.)
If you do push-ups when you’re already fatigued from your workout, it’s easy to get things wrong in the technique.
Do Push-Ups Work Your Back Muscles?
Push-ups are mainly a chest-building exercise.
While it’s true that push-ups help build your chest, they’re also beneficial for targeting your back muscles too.
When you’re in the upward phase of a push-up, your chest is doing a lot of the work to lift your bodyweight up from the ground to the highest point of the exercise.
During the downward phase though, your back is doing a lot of the work.
If you‘re trying to target your back muscles more during push-ups, deeper push-ups will be one of the most effective ways of doing so.
Obviously, you can’t lower yourself any further than the ground, but you can increase the distance you have to lower yourself by having your hands on a platform.
(Or something like a medicine ball.)
This increase in the range of movement makes your back muscles work harder as they’re placed under more stress during the lowering part of the movement.
The more stress you place your back muscles under, the greater benefits they can get.
However, putting extra stress on your back when performing deep push-ups can increase the risk of injury.
So, unless you’re highly experienced at push-ups, it’s best to build a strong foundation with regular push-ups before moving on to more challenging variations.
What Causes Upper Back Pain During Push-Ups?
Small errors in your push-up technique can cause the wrong muscles to work harder than they should at different points in the exercise.
Errors such as dropping toward the ground during the lowering phase (rather than lowering yourself under control), sagging your hips, and having your hands too high can all result in issues for your upper back.
Upper back pain during push-ups is often a sign that your technique needs improved on.
If you feel pain or discomfort in your upper back when you’re doing push-ups, you should stop and double check you’re doing things right before continuing.
(Watch below to see how to do the perfect push-up!)
If your upper back muscles are a bit weaker than the other muscles involved in push-ups, they’ll likely fatigue quicker.
Once your upper back muscles start to fatigue, you’ll likely feel pain and discomfort as they struggle to keep up with the rest of the working muscles.
What Causes Upper Back Pain After Push-Ups?
After any exercise, it’s likely that the working muscles will have some level of fatigue.
During their recovery and repair, your muscles can feel quite uncomfortable and almost painful.
While this might not be a pleasant feeling, it may be completely normal as your muscles work hard to repair the microscopic tears that formed during your workout.
As your upper back muscles have a big role to play in push-ups, any discomfort felt after doing them could be a sign that they’ve worked hard and are simply recovering ready to be targeted again in your next gym session.
Sometimes, the discomfort caused by muscle fatigue can be mistaken for pain. That being said, muscle fatigue after push-ups shouldn’t cause pain.
If you’re feeling anything other than mild discomfort in your upper back after push-ups, you should speak with a doctor to rule out any potential injury or issue.
Push-ups are normally a safe exercise to perform.
Even though multiple muscle groups and joints are needed throughout the movement, push-ups are a low-risk exercises once you’ve mastered the technique.
However, that doesn’t mean that injuries can’t happen.
No matter how careful you are, how good your technique is, and how experienced you are, sometimes, things can go wrong and you could pick up an injury during your training.
Upper back pain felt after push-ups could be a sign of an injury.
Any back injury should be taken seriously, so it’s well worth seeking medical advice if you think the pain you’re feeling could be due to an injury.
What Causes Lower Back Pain During Push-Ups?
The usual cause of lower back pain during push-ups is incorrect technique.
Your lower back is a vulnerable part of your body and even the smallest of errors in your push-up technique can cause lower back pain.
Something you should be aware of when doing push-ups is to avoid letting your hips sag during the lowering phase of the movement.
Sagging your hips during push-ups can put excessive stress on your spine, particularly in your lower back region.
Stress felt in this area can cause pain during push-ups.
What Causes Lower Back Pain After Push-Ups?
Lower back pain after push-ups is usually due to one of a few reasons.
It could be that the muscles in and around your lower back are fatigued after doing push-ups. As a result, they’re causing some discomfort which you may confuse with pain.
As always though, it’s worth keeping in mind that fatigued muscles can cause mild discomfort but they should never cause pain!
If you’re certain that it’s pain (and not mild discomfort) you’re feeling in your lower back after push-ups, then this could indicate an injury.
If this is the case, then you should seek medical attention so that you receive the appropriate treatment to get you on the road to recovery.
Can Doing Too Many Push Ups Cause Back Pain?
Doing any exercise too much can cause issues in the form of pain, discomfort, or even injury.
Doing too many push-ups (more than your current fitness levels can handle) can be a factor in any back pain you might be feeling.
However, as long as your technique is correct, you’re properly warmed up, and you’re training at a suitable intensity, push-ups shouldn’t cause back pain.
Just remember to allow all working muscles enough time to rest and recover after each workout to minimize the risk of pain and injury.
Are Weighted Push-Ups Bad For Your Back?
By adding a weight to your push-ups (normally placed on your back), you can increase the intensity of your push-ups to keep progressing your fitness goals.
If you try to do weighted push-ups too soon though, they can be quite bad for your back.
Putting additional weight on your back can cause excessive stress which can lead to issues.
If you’re properly prepared for them, weighted push-ups aren’t bad for your back, but if you try to do them before your body is ready, they’re much more likely to be bad for your back.
Are Diamond Push-Ups Bad For Your Back?
Diamond push-ups aren’t usually any more bad for your back than regular push-ups are.
That doesn’t mean they’re risk free, but the risk to your back is similar to the risk posed by regular push-ups.
Diamond push-ups aren’t always kind to your shoulders though, so this is something to keep in mind.
Picking up an injury elsewhere (like your shoulders) can cause extra stress to be placed on other working muscles (like your back) to counteract the weaker body part.
This can then cause further issues to your back and beyond.
Can Push-Ups Cause A Back Injury?
Any exercise has the potential of causing an injury.
Push-ups are a relatively safe exercise to perform but injuries can still happen.
While they’re unlikely to cause a back injury if you’re doing them correctly, push-ups can lead to back issues if your technique isn’t completely correct.
Can Push-Ups Relieve Back Pain?
Push-ups aren’t directly going to help relieve back pain but they can help to do so over the long term.
As you do push-ups, you’re strengthening your core and gradually improving your posture.
While both of these things take time to achieve, they can be a big help in reducing any pain felt in your back.
Is It Ok To Do Push-Ups With Lower Back Pain?
It can be completely fine to do push-ups with lower back pain but it depends on why you’re feeling pain in the first place.
As long as you aren‘t injured or a doctor hasn’t told you not to do them, push-ups can be ok to do with lower back pain.
You may need to alter how you do them or do a less challenging variation but, as a general rule, lower back pain doesn’t usually mean push-ups are out of the question.
Are Push-Ups Bad For Sciatica?
There are some push-up variations that are said to help relieve some of the pain associated with sciatica.
However, as sciatica is a medical condition, the best thing to do is to speak with your doctor and follow the advice they give you.
If they say push-ups can help, then do push-ups, but if they advise you to avoid them, then that’s what you should do.
- While push-ups aren’t necessarily bad for your back, they can cause back pain if you do them incorrectly.
- Some types of push-ups are more likely to cause back pain than others.
- If you experience back pain after push-ups, you should look at improving your technique as this is a common issue I see in the gym.
Hope this helped!
I’ve been in the fitness and strength training industry for nearly a decade. In that time, I’ve gained 30 pounds of muscle, written hundreds of articles, and reviewed dozens of fitness supplements. As for my educational background, I’m a currently studying for my Active IQ Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training.