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Hand Release Push-Ups vs Regular (Key Differences!)

It’s no secret that there are many ways you can include push-ups into your training program.

Regardless of your ultimate fitness goal, there’s likely a push-up variation that fits perfectly into your workouts.

One such variation is the hand release push-up and that’s what we are talking about in this article – which is best, regular push-ups or hand release push-ups?

We discuss the difference between the two exercises, which muscle groups are better targeted with each one, as well as looking at safety and difficulty levels too.

Woman doing a push up in a crossfit gym

What’s The Difference Between Push-Ups And Hand Release Push-Ups?

For a big part of both regular push-ups and hand release push-ups, they look almost identical. It’s only at the lowest point of the exercise that things look a little bit different.

The main point of hand release push-ups is to eliminate any momentum from helping you perform the movement.

Without momentum to help you, you’ll need to rely on the strength of your working muscles to complete the full range of motion.

Hand release push-ups remove momentum by forcing you to pause at the lowest point of the movement.

During hand release push-ups, you have to lower your upper body all the way down to the ground. Once your chest, core, and quads are resting on the floor, you lift your hands off the ground for a second before returning them and performing the upward phase of the push-up.

Aside from this small change (which can actually make a big difference), regular push-ups and hand release push-ups are very similar exercises.

Are Hand Release Push-Ups Better For Chest?

While regular push-ups are a great chest-building exercise, hand release push-ups take chest activation to the next level.

When you get to the bottom part of the movement and your hands lift off the ground, not only are you stretching your chest a little bit, but you’re also removing any momentum that could be used for the lifting section of the exercise.

As there’s no momentum to help your working muscles lift your body weight back up to the starting position, your chest has to do a huge amount of work to make the movement happen.

Although other muscles will play a part in hand release push-ups, it’s your chest that will take most of the stress.

As your chest has to do so much of the work in hand release push-ups, without the assistance of momentum, they’re a fantastic exercise for chest development.

Are Hand Release Push-Ups Better For Triceps?

Pretty much the same muscle groups are used in both regular push-ups and hand release push-ups.

What makes hand release push-ups so effective though is that all of the working muscles have to work a little bit harder as there’s no momentum to help you perform the movement.

It’s worth mentioning that even when using the correct technique for regular push-ups, there’s still a chance that momentum creeps into the exercise and assists even in a very small way.

As hand release push-ups remove momentum pretty much entirely, your working muscles will have more stress placed on them, and will therefore work to a higher level during the movement.

Your triceps are quite heavily involved in regular push-ups and they’re equally as important to hand release push-ups.

Are Hand Release Push-Ups Better For Shoulders?

During hand release push-ups, the range of motion is around 10% more than it is in regular push-ups.

This increase in movement makes your shoulders work harder through a larger range.

Hand release push-ups are great at strengthening shoulders. In fact, if you perform them correctly, and with the appropriate frequency and intensity, they can actually help you improve on a number of shoulder press variations too.

The increased range of motion and the removal of momentum from the exercise make hand release push-ups very good for shoulder development.

Are Hand Release Push-Ups Harder?

There are two ways of looking at this. The first is that by eliminating momentum, you’re challenging your working muscles more resulting in a harder exercise.

However, if you look at it the other way, you could argue that by “resting” your chest at the lowest point of the movement, the additional challenge that the lack of momentum adds is counter-balanced by this brief rest period.

As a general rule, hand release push-ups will be harder than regular push-ups.

As long as you don’t stop for too long with your chest resting on the floor, removing momentum from the movement adds an extra challenge to the exercise.

Are Hand Release Push-Ups Safer?

A road with the words Safety First painted on in yellow paint next to double yellow lines

Hand release push-ups will likely be a little bit safer than regular push-ups.

The main reason for this is that the exercise forces you to slow down which can be extremely beneficial for your technique.

By pausing at the lowest point and removing any momentum that can lead to performing the movement quickly and incorrectly, hand release push-ups can reduce the risk of injury associated with push-ups.

Regular push-ups are a safe exercise too, but hand release push-ups make the movement a little bit safer.

Hand Release Push-Ups vs Regular: Which Is Best?

Both of these exercises are highly beneficial and can go a long way in helping you reach your fitness goals.

As they’re both so similar, it can be hard to choose between them. However, the removal of momentum, and the reduction of speed that comes with it, makes hand release push-ups a more challenging (and safe) exercise that helps build your chest, triceps, shoulders, and core.

If you’re looking to push yourself further with your push-ups, then hand release push-ups could be a great choice for you.

If you’re still relatively new to push-ups, or you want to make sure you have a good foundation of strength in the working muscles before trying to work them too hard, regular push-ups still come with a range of benefits that will be appreciated by most gym-goers no matter what their fitness goals are.

There will also be other factors to keep in mind when deciding which of these exercises is best for you.

You should think about your fitness goals (and whether one of these push-up variations will be better suited to them), your personal preferences (maybe you simply prefer one to the other), and also your current fitness levels (it’s important not to push yourself too hard, too soon, to avoid overtraining).

That’s all for this article, but can you do push-ups after carpal tunnel surgery? Or do push-ups give you a pump?

Hope this helped!


How To Do A Hand Release Push-Up