Alternate Exercises If You Feel Wrist Pain from Push Ups

It’s frustrating. You’re in the middle of a push up. But it’s not necessarily your arms or your core giving out - it’s your wrists. 

Unfortunately, wrist pain during push ups is a common problem that plagues many individuals. However, it doesn’t have to continue. By refining or adjusting your form or performing alternative exercises altogether, you can say goodbye to wrist pain and continue to work toward your goals and more. How? Keep reading to find out.

If your wrist pain is not specific to push ups, and is happening in general during weight lifting, read this article on how to avoid wrist pain when lifting.

Proper Form to Reduce Wrist Pain When Doing Push Ups

Before deciding you need alternatives due to wrist pain from push ups, are you sure you’re performing your push ups correctly? 

Before you perform any exercise, you want to complete a proper warm-up. And if wrist pain is a problem, it shouldn’t be just any warm-up. In this version, you want to focus on your hands and wrists. Start by spreading your fingers and thumbs wide. Go through each finger and perform circles with them to increase blood flow. In turn, this stimulates your wrists as well, prepping for what’s ahead.

Next up, it’s a good idea to stretch it out beforehand as well. Stretch the wrist in all directions. Hold in each spot for 20-30 seconds. 

Read Also: How to Prevent Wrist Pain From Weight Lifting

And now, you’re ready to perform those pushups. How? For the sake of this article, we’re going to focus on your hand placement. You don’t want your hands too high or too low. This can create more of a bend in the wrist than is necessary, which can cause pain. Ideally, your shoulder and wrists should be in-line with one another. This means your hands should be directly underneath your shoulders.

Further, when you push up during the push-up, ensure you are also pushing up with your hands. This, again, can take the pressure off of your wrists.

If you still experience wrist pain when doing push ups, try knuckle push ups. This eliminates the bend in your wrists entirely. However, you will want to make sure you perform this style push up on a soft surface so that your knuckles and fingers don’t become sore from the ground.

Read Also: Top 5 Best Wrist Wraps for CrossFit Athletes

Best Alternative Exercises to Do If You Have Wrist Pain From Push Ups

You’ve got wrist pain from push ups that just won’t quit. So, what else can you do? 

When performing a push-up, you engage primarily your chest muscles, shoulder muscles, and core. Your chest and shoulder muscles perform the movement. Meanwhile, your core muscles work to stabilize the rest of the body. 

While the core muscles are targeted through various exercises, you may want to add other exercises that load and work the upper body, particularly the chest and shoulder muscles. The following offers push-up variations, as well as alternative exercises to do if you have wrist pain from push ups

Read Also: Lower back injury from squats - injury prevention, and how to recover

1. Perform knuckle push ups or dumbbell push ups instead.

As mentioned above, knuckle push ups take away the bend in the wrist. Dumbbell push ups do similar. By gripping two dumbbells as you perform a push up, you eliminate the need to bend your wrists, which is the common reason pain happens during regular push ups. Push up bars are another alternative that can further reduce wrist bend and the strain associated with it.

Read Also: Top 6 Best Push-up Bars (2020 Review)

2. Try the chest or bench press.

The chest press is an excellent exercise when it comes to strengthening those pec muscles. To perform it, hold a kettlebell or dumbbells in your hands and lay on your back. Bring your elbows out wide at shoulder height. In a slow and controlled movement, extend your elbows and arms straight up overhead. Slowly lower them back to start.

bench press

3. Perform your push up on an elevated surface, such as a block.

This is another trick that can help reduce the pressure placed on your wrists and reduce the bend in the wrists. Try push ups on the wall or push ups on a block. While you may not get the same workout as a regular push up, these small adjustments can help prevent pain and persistent injuries.

4. Target the shoulders with the overhead press.

The overhead press builds strength in the shoulders - almost exactly where the push up targets. Grab two weights, and start with your elbows bent at 90 degrees and shoulder height. Slowly extend your arms straight up overhead, then slowly bring them back down to start. 

You may further benefit from starting this exercise with your pinky fingers forward and transitioning into palms forward as you extend your arms. This prevents rotator cuff impingement syndrome, a common injury that can occur in the shoulder and reduce shoulder mobility. You, then, perform the same movement in reverse when lowering your arms. 

Read Also: 10 Exercises To Improve Your CrossFit Shoulder Mobility

5. Hold a forearm plank.

Holding a forearm plank for 30 seconds to one minute is an excellent way to build shoulder, chest, and core strength. It tests all of these through one isometric hold. To do this, place your forearms on the ground. Your elbows should fall directly below your shoulders. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your toes. Make sure you are tightening through the abdominals and the glutes. Your hips should not sag. 

Wrist Pain During Push Ups: When to Go and See a Doctor 

Perhaps your wrist pain has failed to let up. It’s been weeks, and it persists. At this stage in the game, it is likely a good idea to book an appointment with your doctor or your physical therapist. You should further book an appointment if your pain is severe, is accompanied by numbness or tingling, or if there are obvious deformities (such as swelling or bone protrusion). 

If you are experiencing sharp and radiating pains, this could be a sign that a nerve is impacted. This means that a physical therapist’s or doctor’s input could greatly accelerate your recovery, and prevent your condition from getting worse.

In some cases, wrist mobility is the main problem when it comes to the push up. In these instances, you may benefit from stretching and other techniques that target mobility, such as VooDoo Floss Bands. After consistent practice, you may notice your wrist pain disappears when performing a push up. 

Read Also: Flossing For Mobility With VooDoo Floss Bands

Overall, there are many alternatives to performing the push up. There are many options to work the same muscle groups through different exercises, helping you reach your fitness goals. Remember, never push through pain. This may result in more pain and more time away from your regular regime as you recover. Take the proper precautions and switch it up if pain occurs. 

Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden worked as a Rehab Exercise Expert at a physiotherapist clinic in Ottawa, Canada for 4 years. She has an Honours Bachelor Degree in Human Kinetics from the University of Ottawa. She uses her extensive knowledge in this area to educate others through well-researched, scientific, and informative articles. Her passions include helping others and inspiring each person she meets to get the most out of their life.

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