Tactical Fitness: Pushups After a Collar Bone Injury


After an injury, getting back to normal can take some time as it is a process that has to follow these steps:

  • Injury
  • Reduce Swelling
  • Healing
  • Regain Full Range of Motion
  • Rebuilding
  • Back to Normal

This process can take a few weeks to more than a year depending upon the inury's severity, and if surgery is required. Here is a question concerning getting back to 100% after a collar bone fracture:


A few years ago I was involved in a motorcycle accident and consequentially broke my collar bone. Initial recovery went fine, but over time it seems as if scar tissue and other inflammatory symptoms have hampered my ability to perform correct pushups. I went from being able to get an excellent on my PFT to being around 10 points shy.

Sometimes I can hit the minimum number and sometimes I have to stop due to pain. It's kind of beat me mentally on trying to push through the other aspects of my fitness routine. The docs around here have just sent me to physical therapy and that has helped very little. Is there anything I can do to get back on track? I want to get back to knocking out my PFTs with little anxiety and no waivers.


Several major torso, joint, and a few neck muscles attach to the clavicle including the big three of the upper body:  pectoralis major, trapezius, and deltoid. So the collar bone is a hub to many movements of the shoulder and neck. Any movement during the recovery stage of a clavicle injury very often leads to pain which can be dull or sharp. You can always assume some amount of soft tissue injury when the collar bone is broken due to it being a connecting point to muscles and ligaments of the bone. Rebuilding these muscles after prolonged movement restriction takes time, physical therapy, and possibly even deep tissue massage to break up any scar tissue caused during the trauma of the injury.

Things to Consider Trying: Massage, Foam Rolling, and Stretching

I would consider soft tissue massage and/or foam rolling of the muscles – perhaps get your physical therapist to show you how to roll those muscles out. You should be able to break up some of that scar tissue, if it is there, using these methods. After warming up the joints and muscles, get in a good, full range of motion stretch as well. 

This is one of the best foam roller collections of upper torso elements in one video – do them all.

Elbow / Shoulder Placement for Pushups

When you get in the down position of the pushup, make sure your elbows and shoulders produce a 45 degree angle with your torso. Having high elbows could be an issue if you're closer to 90 degrees. However, you do not want your elbows to touch you ribs while in this pushup position. Imagine your triceps and shoulders forming an arrow shape instead of a capital T when in the down position.

Incorrect pushup.

Not This Way

Correct pushup.

This Way

Hand placement

You should have your fingers pointing at the 11 (left) and 1 (right) o'clock positions instead of both pointing at the 12 o'clock position.

Forearm Location

Keep your forearm vertical in the movement of the pushup. Look in a mirror to see if your forearm stays vertical during the entire movement of the pushup.

See how playing with these positions helps your performance. Work a full range of motion when stretching, and try massage, the foam roller, and ice when post-workout pain occurs to reduce any inflammation during this rebuilding phase.

Stew Smith works as a presenter / editorial board with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).  There are also over 800 articles on Military.com Fitness Forum focusing on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

Latest Fitness Books: Navy SEAL Weight Training and Tactical Fitness

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