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Push Up Mistakes to Avoid Wrist Injuries

If you talk to someone who is a physical therapist, you are bound to hear stories of patients complaining about having wrist pain while doing push-ups. While this might be an indication that the patient had a wrist injury, it is also likely that they just needed to adjust their form.

The good news is that there are simple ways to get rid of this type of wrist pain; this article aims to educate you on how to do just that.

How to properly do a push up to avoid wrist pain

First, you must consider how you currently do a push-up

begin by getting into the starting position:

  • Look at the location of your hands, and their relation to your shoulders.
  • What kind of contact do you have with the ground below you?
  • What are the position of your elbows and your shoulders?
  • How is your torso, upper back, and hips positioned?

As shown above, you have a lot to be aware of when thinking about how to do a push-up. Luckily, there are answers.

1. Hand Positioning

It is a tendency for beginners to do push-ups with their arms far in front of their chest and their hands wide apart. I have also seen many people relaxing their hands and fingers, as well as even rotating their hands in some direction. It is important to be aware of where your hands are as placing them in the incorrect position can lead to unnecessary wrist strain which, if you don’t adjust this, will inevitably lead to pain.

To do a push up correctly, be sure that your hands are only spread as far as your shoulder width, and that they are close to your chest; when you get to the top of your push up (i.e., when your arms are straight), your arms should be directly underneath your shoulders. Your wrist experiences excess pressure when your hands are above or behind your shoulders.

Next, consider the direction your hands are facing. They should be facing straight forward and not angled whatsoever, and all points of your hand should be in contact with the ground.

It is common for many beginners to cup their palms, or lift their fingers, but doing so increases the pressure and force that the heels of your hands will experience and this will definitely lead to discomfort and pain. Placing your whole hand on the ground ensures that the weight and force of your body going up and down is dispersed and that the pressure is not focused on one section of your hand.

On a side note: if you are utilizing push up handles, your palms should be facing each other at the top of your pushups, then face backward at the bottom.

TL;DR for the correct way to do a push up without hurting yourself

To summarize, the incorrect way of doing a push up is:

  • Having your hands below or above your shoulder line
  • Not having your whole hand flat on the ground
  • Your bum is raised, similar to a downward dog position. Keep your position straight from your head to your toes.
  • Your elbows are sticking out from the sides, instead of being tucked in.


2. Elbow Position

As stated above, having your elbows flared out to the sides is the incorrect way of doing a push-up, and most beginners make the mistake of doing this; this is understandable because it makes you feel like you are stronger as it helps compensate for a beginner’s weakness.

The problem with doing this is that it can not only lead to wrist pain, but also injuries in your elbow and shoulders. Moreover, sticking your elbows out means that your hands are further apart than your shoulder width!
Always remember to keep your hands underneath your shoulders and close to your chest. Be sure to keep your elbows in a 45-degree angle underneath your body, not flared out to the sides.
To recap, the incorrect way to doing a push up includes:

  • Flared out elbows and hands that are wide apart.
  • Cupped hands that are not flat on the ground.


3. Torso Position

A push up also involves being aware of your trunk area; if you do not engage your trunk, your torso will sag, and this can also lead to wrist pain as it is again taking on extra weight and pressure.

When doing a push-up, your body should go up and down as a single unit. This requires core stability, and one way to know if you lack just that is to pay attention to your spine and hips. It is important not to allow your back or hips to sag, and to talk to a professional if you cannot avoid this. If that is the case, you may need to do a variation of the push up in order to build strength in your torso, such as an incline or eccentric push up.
The wrong way to do a push up is:

  • Having your lower back arched.
  • Allowing your hips to sag.

The final conclusion to do a correct push up without hurting your wrists.

So, in conclusion, we will recap what a proper push up should include:

  • Your hands should be flat on the ground, without cupping your palms.
  • Your hands should be below your shoulder line.
  • Your elbows are not flared out and are underneath you at about a 45-degree angle.
  • Your core is flexed and engaged, and your body moves as one.
  • Your head is in a neutral position, not pointing downwards.

If you have weak wrists as a result of a condition or if your wrists are naturally weaker then there is a solution by wearing wrist supports that help you compress the wrist. This works by compressing the muscles in the wrist to prevent your muscles from stringing within your wrists.

Check out Sneakydeez wrist supports for pushups for yoga, acro yoga, gymnastics and pole dancing.


Disclaimer: this article is for educational and entertainment purposes only and should only be used at the reader’s own risk. Please consult a fitness and or medical professional (doctor) for any questions and answers you may have.

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