Last updated on September 18th, 2022 at 12:31 pm
Ever wondered, “Why Does My Back Crack When I Do Push Ups?”
It’s a weird sensation, but more often than not it doesn’t cause you any pain or discomfort.
With that being said, back cracking during push ups (or any exercise for that matter) doesn’t exactly feel normal.
And I’m sure this may even concern you somewhat.
So, why does this occur?
Allow me to explain.
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Why Does My Back Crack When I Do Push Ups?
There are various reasons why your back cracks or pops when you do push ups. The most obvious of these is that your joints tend to make more noise as you age. Back cracks can also occur as the tendons slide over the bones, which usually indicates muscle tightness. You should also be aware that a nitrogen-compound gas naturally forms in the space between the joints. So, often the “popping” noise you hear is the joints releasing this gas. Back cracking can also occur during one-armed push ups, as there are more rotational forces generated.
1. Your Joints Make More Noise As You Age
I’m sorry to say it, but if your back cracks when you do push ups this could simply be a sign of age catching up with you.
In fact, as you get older you’ll notice that your joints tend to make more noise.
And this can happen during push ups, any other exercises, or even during your normal day-to-day activities.
The reason this occurs is that as we age the cartilage in our joints typically starts to wear away.
This is nothing more than a sign of wear-and-tear.
I have even heard this described as your joints getting grey hairs.
Basically, the surface of our joints lose their smoothness over time.
So, as you move about you are more likely to hear cracking and popping noises.
This shouldn’t be of concern to you if you don’t feel any pain.
It’s simply a part of the aging process.
2. Your Tendons Are Sliding Over The Bones
If age isn’t a factor then there are various other reasons for you back making noises whenever you do push ups.
This is especially true if you perform push ups quite often and with considerable volume.
The noise you hear could indicate muscle tightness.
What happens here is that the tendons of the body are sliding over certain parts of the bone.
You should remember that the spine contains many joints.
The bones of the spine, otherwise known as the vertebrae, each contain two sets of facet joints.
In other words there are numerous bones that the tendons could slide over.
This is also why you hear popping sounds in the elbow or shoulders whenever you perform push ups.
The simplest solution is to stretch the specific areas of the body where the sound emanates from.
So, in the case of back cracking, you should stretch your upper back, lats, and lower back prior to push ups.
You may even find that if you stretch these muscles both before and after you do push ups the sound simply disappears.
Once again, if you’re not feeling any pain, this isn’t something that should concern you.
3. Your Joints Are Releasing Gas
There’s something you thought you’d never read.
Out of all the possible body parts that “release gas” who would’ve thought that your joints get in on the action.
But, they do.
Okay, time for a quick anatomy lesson, which will explain the noises your back makes during push ups.
Firstly, there is a thick liquid between your joints known as synovial fluid.
This joint fluid actually cushions the end of your bones.
In effect, it is a lubricant.
Therefore, synovial fluid will actually reduce friction as you move your joints around.
This joint fluid contains the gases carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and oxygen.
Whenever you stretch a joint capsule this gas is released.
And it is the release of this gas that causes a cracking or popping sound.
The release of gas is actually called cavitation and once more it is completely harmless.
So, as I’ve already mentioned, if the back cracking isn’t causing you any pain there’s nothing to worry about.
4. Are You Doing One-Armed Push Ups?
Firstly, if you’re at the stage in your training where you can perform one-armed push ups, well done.
However, this is one of the common types of push up when you’ll hear your back cracking.
With that being said, this can actually be a cause for concern.
When you perform one-armed push ups there are extensive rotational forces at play.
Basically, it takes a huge amount of effort not to twist your body to one side.
You are doing everything you can to stabilize your body and literally stay “straight” during the movement.
So, if you experience back cracking just be wary, as this could be happening because you are twisting your spine.
Another theory is that your spine is going through self-adjustment when you perform a one-armed push up, and therefore your back produces a noise.
In effect, you are pulling your back into alignment.
You’ll also typically find that your back pops or cracks when you’re performing reps on your weaker side.
When it comes to one-armed push ups you will need to be very aware of any spinal rotation.
Plus, any potential pain caused when your back cracks.
5. Is it a “Good” or “Bad” Back Crack?
So far I’ve only spoken about back cracks being harmless, and not of any concern.
However, this isn’t always the case, as I’ve alluded to with one-armed push ups.
But, then again the same can be said of any type of push up.
It’s important to differentiate between a “good” or “bad” back crack or pop.
In the simplest of terms I would class a good crack as one that immediately makes you feel better and stronger afterwards.
This can often happen when it comes to muscle tightness being the cause.
But, a “bad” crack will usually leave you feeling weaker and in pain afterwards.
So, you should definitely stop doing push ups if this is the case.
In fact, if you feel any pain or discomfort when your back cracks, this is a sign that you should seek immediate medical attention.
Whether this is an appointment with your Doctor or a chiropractor.
As I’ve mentioned, there are various reasons for your back and joints making noises.
And for the most part, these are usually completely harmless.
But, pain is never a good sign, so if you hear a pop or a crack and it hurts, I definitely wouldn’t try to work my way through it.
Is Joint Popping and Clicking During Exercise Bad For You?
So, I hope you have a better idea of why your back cracks when you do push ups.
Although no-one wants to hear it, the most obvious reason is that you’re getting older.
The cartilage in your joints will typically wear away with age.
With that being said, back cracking could also be a sign of tight muscles or simply that your joints are releasing gas.
You’ll generally find that back cracking and popping occurs more often if you perform one-armed push ups.
However, you should always be wary of whether your back is simply making a noise without causing discomfort, or if you’re actually in pain.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.