How To Do Knuckle Push Ups Properly

If you think standard push ups are challenging then you clearly haven’t heard of knuckle push ups.

Unlike its traditional counterpart, this variation is done on the knuckles with your entire bodyweight resting on them.

This particular type of push up is popular among people who practice martial arts such as karate and it is effective in building strength in your pecs, forearms and deltoids.

It also boasts of multiple benefits which we will get to as soon as we talk about how to do it properly.

Required equipment: Padded mat

Steps:

  • Spread the mat on the floor.
  • Get on all fours with your toes flexed and your hips stacked over your knees.
  • Ball your hands into fists and position them slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
  • Rest your bodyweight on your knuckles and then rotate the shoulders outward to engage the lats.
  • Straighten your legs out to lift both knees off the ground, so that you get into the plank position. Make sure your legs are hip-width apart or a bit wider.
  • Squeeze your hips and shoulders to pre-tension them and then tighten your core.
  • Tuck your chin in and let it stay that way throughout the exercise.
  • With a neutral wrist, push your chest downwards by bending at the elbows. Your shoulders should be pulled back as you lower your body toward the floor.
  • Keep lowering your body until your upper arms are aligned with your back. At this point, your elbows should be about 45 degrees away from your body and your wrists under your elbows.
  • Pause for a few seconds at the bottom.
  • Maintaining your alignment, begin the upward movement by tightening your chest and straightening both elbows.
  • Finish the exercise by squeezing your triceps and chest.
  • Repeat as many times as you desire.

Note that the padded mat is not a must-have, but it will reduce the risk of injury to a great extent and provide your knuckles with extra comfort.

WHAT MUSCLES DO KNUCKLE PUSH UPS WORK?

CHEST

Knuckle push ups primarily work the pectoralis major, your main chest muscles which are responsible for the medial rotation, horizontal flexion and adduction of your shoulder joint.

FOREARMS

Traditional push ups train your shoulders and upper arms, but knuckle push ups move a portion of the workout to your forearms.

When you ball your hands into fists, you contract your forearm muscles, which then stay contracted to help keep your wrists steady and your body balanced on the small surface area provided by your wrists.

This contraction helps improve your grip strength and define the muscles in your forearms.

SHOULDER

The front part of your shoulder muscle, also known as the anterior deltoid, works together with your pecs to flex the should joint as you lower your body and push it back up.

Other muscles recruited during this exercise, although to a lesser extent, are the core and triceps brachii on your upper arm.

BENEFITS OF KNUCKLE PUSH UPS

GREATER RANGE OF MOTION

When you perform push ups on your knuckles, you add at least an inch more distance from the ground than the standard push up position.

A higher range of motion adds a bit more intensity to your workout.

REDUCED TENSION ON YOUR WRISTS

Unlike the traditional push up which places a significant amount of tension on your wrists, knuckle push ups put a lot less tension on your wrists since you rest all your weight on your knuckles.

For this reason, it is ideal for people who are experiencing wrist pain or have a history of wrist injury.

STRONGER FOREARMS

Knuckle push ups activate your forearm muscles more than the traditional push up.

Stronger forearms help in building grip strength which is essential for other upper body exercises like pull ups and deadlifts.

WORKS YOUR CORE

Since it requires a lot of stability, this exercise requires that you use your core a lot so you can balance your weight on your knuckles.

This will challenge you to tighten your core and channel more strength from it than you would if you were doing the traditional variation.

REQUIRE MINIMAL EQUIPMENT

Unlike most upper body exercises, knuckle push ups do not require specialized gym equipment to execute.

You only need to get a mat for extra comfort on your knees but then again it’s optional.

ALTERNATIVES TO KNUCKLE PUSH UPS

ATLAS PUSH UPS

Like knuckle push ups, atlas push ups also work with an increased range of motion for a more effective workout.

Steps:

  • Position three chairs into a T-shape.
  • Place your hands on two chairs, and both feet on the other. Your hands should be about shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend your elbows and lower your chest until you get to the point between your two hands. As you lower, take care not to hyperextend the shoulders and lumbar spine.
  • Push your body back up and repeat these steps as many times as you desire.

KNUCKLE PUSH UPS MISTAKES TO AVOID

NOT TIGHTENING YOUR CORE

If you don’t tighten your core, you may find yourself falling over because of lacking the stability you need to stay stationary as you lower and push back up.

USING MOMENTUM

You want to maintain as much tension as possible in your target muscles; so you should avoid fast movements which will not allow your muscles to stay long enough under tension for them to get activated.

SUMMING UP

As much as this exercise is great for building upper body strength, it is not for everyone.

First on the list of the categories of people who should steer clear of it are those with knuckle injury/pain or a history of such.

Another category is people who aren’t yet comfortable with the traditional push up.

Knuckle push ups require so much more balance and stability to execute; so if you still consider yourself unstable, this exercise may not be for you.

This is not to say everyone else is free to try them out; if you have reason to believe they might be unsafe for you, consult your doctor first before you get started.