Clinical rationale and application of the car push

"Really? And you're paying them to do this?"

  -Dr. Unger our back-door neighbor at the office.

Ah, the car push. Ask anyone who has actually completed a car push and they will tell you that it's well worth the price. You can have your hour on the elliptical, your "shoulders and tri's" bro-split weight session. I'd rather push cars.

"-Gasp!- I could never do that."

"I'll just strain something."

"That's for people who are really into it. Like hard core fitness competitors and nose tackles."

Is this activity justifiable as performance training? As rehabilitation? Let me tell you that YOU TOO will feel terrible and then outstanding for having pushed a car. It's much easier on the body than you think. There are no kinetic and kinematic studies, and the verdict is most definitely not in. That doesn't mean you can't dress it up as a therapeutic activity!

The car push is a low skill, open kinetic chain, isotonic power-endurance activity that provides the rare combination of very high intensity with low impact. The lower extremities provide reciprocal triple extension of the hip, knee, and ankle. The circumferential core muscles co-contract to resist trunk extension and provide a stable base for the scapula and upper extremities.

There. Does that make it more acceptable?

But seriously, I've witnessed what a few good car pushes can do. I've pushed and pulled various weight sleds, and nothing comes close to the feeling of pushing a car. The muscles engaged include, well, the body. The only inactive muscles during a car push are (possibly) the biceps and forearms. The legs burn everywhere, the lungs expand and abs tighten.

But don't take my word for it. Doing is believing. Here are a few tips on how to effectively push cars for functional awesomeness.


Step 1: Get 'yer car.
Step 2: Put 'er in neutral
Step 3: Push.

THE LONG VERSION (Yes I'm giving away my "training secrets" right here).

-The grade of the road is the most important variable. A nearly flat (or downhill) roadway is actually easy once you manage to overcome the resting inertia. But a -slight- uphill on the order of 2 to 4 % is just right. A car push track that's a bit on the steep side can be easily accommodated by having two people push the car at once.

-Make sure your shoes are on tight and the road is free of snow and gravel. You will walk out of loose shoes.

-The weight of the vehicle matters, but far less than you would think.

-A slightly sloped, sparsely used parking lot is the ideal location. Highway pushing is not recommended.

-The weight of the pusher is important. Simply being heavy or light helps and hinders a car push more than you would imagine.

-Strength athletes will fly and run out of steam quickly. Endurance athletes will move slow and steady and ultimately fail early. I've had the best results doing two to four efforts that demand 20 to 60 seconds of intense pushing.

Car Pushes at the Bonny Lane Club (my home) are like a right of passage. Those who complete their first sets of car push get a surprise that I have yet to implement at the PT clinic!

                                                             HAPPY PUSHINGS!

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