I have had several clients ask me whether planks and pushups are appropriate osteoporosis exercises. Just this past week an individual who started the Exercise for Better Bones program asked me the same question. This appears to be a topic of interest for a number of people so I think that it is time to address it in some detail.
Should You Do Planks and Pushups if You Have Osteoporosis?
Here are Judy’s (not her real name) questions for you. Like many people, Judy is doing everything she can to build the strength of her body and her bones but she is receiving conflicting, confusing and incomplete messages from people she consults.
Is it okay to do pushups and planks without risk to the spine?
The muscles in my upper body need to be built up. I had been working on pushups and planks with my trainer until my doctor recently did an X-ray of my back and discovered two fractures in the middle of my spine. He told me to stop doing pushups and planks (even though he didn’t know what a plank is. I have low confidence in his advice on exercise.)
I can’t understand why pushups would be bad since the spine seems to stay in a neutral position.
I’ve tried to research this issue on the internet but can’t find anything for or against pushups and planks for those with osteoporosis. Do you believe pushups and planks in my case are helpful or risky?
My Response: Planks and Pushups for People with Osteoporosis
When done with proper form, both the pushup and plank are excellent exercises. You will find the pushup within the Exercise for Better Bones program. In fact I have several variations of the pushup – each one targeted at a specific program level.
There is very specific guidance on maintaining form. Make sure you watch the video that accompanies the exercise in the program.
I think the big concern your doctor may have is that both exercises strengthen the pectorals (chest muscles) and unless you counter balance them with back strengthening exercises (such as the Floor M) and ensure that you do things to keep the muscles flexible (doorway stretch and elbow press, under Postural Exercises) that the process of strengthening the pectorals muscles can promote a more rounded kyphotic posture.
A kyphotic posture can lead to further stresses on the vertebrae and compression fractures.
I would ensure you emphasize your back exercises in your routine. Do them when you are feeling fresh and energetic. Make them a priority in your workout.
Push Ups Variations
If you want to learn how to do push ups properly, visit Push Ups Variations.
Core Exercises Guide
Want to learn more about core exercises? Visit my Core Exercises Guide.