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Do Push-Ups Strengthen Wrists? (Or Damage Them?)

As great as push-ups are, there’s no doubt that they put the working muscles and joints under stress.

While your muscles being placed under stress can be beneficial, your joints can be a slightly different story.

Although your joints can certainly benefit from being placed under stress too, it can be harder to get things right.

Your wrists are used heavily in push-ups.

So that’s why, in this article, we discuss whether push-ups strengthen your wrists or if they aren’t as good for them as we’d like them to be.

In it, we look at how different push-up variations impact your wrists as well as looking at ways you can strengthen your wrists ready for push-ups.

Woman doing a push up in a crossfit gym

Do Push-Ups Strengthen Wrists?

Yes, push-ups can strengthen your wrists but it’ll be in an indirect way.

Push-ups are a muscle-building exercise, so while your wrists are being used during the movement, harder to use this type of exercise to directly strengthen joints.

However, the way your wrists can get stronger from push-ups is through the muscles surrounding your wrists getting stronger.

As the muscles in your forearms (that are used during push-ups) develop and increase in strength, they provide higher levels of support for your wrists.

The more support your wrists have from the muscles that surround them, the stronger they’ll effectively be.

Do Knuckle Push-Ups Strengthen Wrists?

Knuckle push-ups are the push-up variation that you often see in any kind of action movie.

The hero of the movie is usually seen doing push-ups with their fists clenched and their knuckles on the floor instead of regular push-ups where your palms are on the floor and your wrists are bent.

While doing push-ups in this way will do almost nothing in terms of working your chest, shoulders, and arms any harder than regular push-ups, they can help strengthen your wrists.

There’s a problem with the way in which they strengthen your wrists though, and that’s by making them less stable during the movement.

When doing knuckle push-ups, your wrists stay in a straight line which is a more comfortable position for them.

However, it also means that more pressure is going through your wrists as they have to hold more of your body weight with less support.

This can obviously be a bad thing, but it can also strengthen your wrists as they don’t have as much support to rely on in order to maintain the push-up position. As a result, your wrists are placed under more stress and can get stronger over time. 

A more comfortable, but less stable wrist position has pros and cons and it’ll be up to you to decide whether knuckle push-ups are the right exercise for you.

What’s The Best Push-Up Variation For Strong Wrists?

Man doing knuckle push-ups under a bridge

Knuckle push-ups are probably one of the best choices if you want to strengthen your wrists through push-ups.

You don’t actually have to do knuckle push-ups though if you find them uncomfortable. Instead, you can use push-up bars.

These put your hands and wrists in a very similar position to that of knuckle push-ups but makes the exercise a bit more comfortable (particularly on your knuckles).

While some people will argue that they’re bad, pointless, or otherwise a negative addition to your training, push-up bars can not only help reduce the risk of a wrist injury, but they can also alleviate pressure on your elbows and shoulders, and increase the depth of your push-ups too.

All of these things point to push-up bars being a great addition to some gym-goers’ push-up programs.

How To Strengthen Wrists For Pull-Ups

Wrist Curls

Similar in some ways to a bicep curl but the curling movement is done at your wrists rather than at your elbows.

These can be done with your palms facing up (supinated grip) or palms facing down (pronated grip) to target your wrists and different muscles in your forearms.

Grip Squeezes

You can get specific grip squeezers to perform this exercise but you can also do it by squeezing a rubber ball or other similar objects.

Working on your grip can help your wrists get stronger and be better prepared for all the push-ups you plan on doing.

What Should You Do If Your Wrists Are Too Weak For Push-Ups?

If your wrists are too weak for push-ups, you can change to less challenging variations of the exercise, such as box push-ups and incline push-ups.

Box push-ups are performed on your hands and knees so reduce the amount of body weight your wrists have to support during the movement. 

Incline push-ups have your feet elevated meaning you lift less of your body weight during the movement.

Alternatively, you can work to strengthen your wrists so they’re more able to handle the stress placed on them during push-ups in the future.

Why Do You Get Sore Wrists From Push-Ups?

Incorrect Hand Placement

If you have your hands too wide or too far forwards during push-ups, you can put additional pressure and stress on your wrists which can cause discomfort, pain, or soreness.

Making sure your hands (and the rest of your body) are in the correct position can go a long way in making push-ups more comfortable for your wrists.

Wrist Injury

If your body position is correct, and your technique is 100% correct too, any soreness felt in your wrists during or after push-ups could be due to an underlying wrist injury.

If you’re in any doubt as to whether you have a wrist injury or not, it’s usually a good idea to speak to a medical professional so they can advise the best course of action.

Why Do Your Wrists Crack During Push-Ups?

Normally cracking sounds coming from your joints during push-ups is completely normal.

It’s a process called cavitation and is simply gas being released from your joints.

If the cracking is accompanied by pain though, then this is not normal and further attention might be needed.

Do Push-Ups Damage Your Wrists?

As a general rule, push-ups won’t damage your wrists.

However, they do place quite a lot of stress and pressure on your wrists which can cause problems if you have weak wrists or other wrist issues.

As long as you’re careful and build up strength in your wrists first (if appropriate), push-ups are a great exercise and can actually help strengthen your wrists in the long term.


In summary:

  • Push-ups indirectly make your wrists stronger by working your forearm muscles and wrist flexors.
  • You may experience sore wrists after push-ups if you do them incorrectly or if you’re carrying a wrist injury.

That’s all for this article, but are incline push ups harder? Or do push ups get easier?

Hope this helped!


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