Hand Release Push Ups – Why They SUCK | What To Do Instead
Hand release push ups seem like a smart idea when it comes to building muscle and strength.
When you try them for the first time, they seem harder than regular push ups.
Many talk about the huge potential HRPU have when it comes to building a massive.
But do hand release push ups deliver what they promise?
Lets find out!
In this article we’ll talk about:
- The “claimed” benefits of hand release push ups – Why Hand Release Push Ups SUCK
- How to do hand release push ups for MAXIMUM gains – If you really must do them
- SUPERIOR ALTERNATIVES to hand release push ups – The BEST push up variations for MAXIMUM gains
The Claimed Benefits Of Hand Release Push Ups – Why They SUCK
Hand release push ups have been touted as the “miracle” push up.
With benefits that include “the ability to improve your bench press”, “build explosive strength”, “improved range of motion” and “the ability to build the chest and the back”.
Let’s examine these claimed benefits of the hand release push ups and get to the bottom of things!
- Massive chest building capacity:
The biggest claimed benefit of the HRPU is the ability for the movement to recruit more muscle fibers because it is done from a dead stop.
I have always talked about the benefits of “paused” and “dead stop” reps, but what makes the HRPU so special?
Does taking the hands off at the bottom of the movement increase the intensity of the the push up?
The short answer is – NO.
In fact the “release” of the hand release push up is what decreases the intensity of the exercise.
You see, performing “dead stop” reps releases the tension built up by the muscles.
This gives the muscles time to relax, thus making “dead stop” reps easier than “paused” reps.
Paused reps on the other hand, force the muscles to come to a dead stop in a fully contracted position, thereby increasing the intensity of the contraction.
By this mechanism itself, the paused push up is a far better chest builder than the hand release push up.
In fact, even regular – full range of motion push ups keep way more tension in the pecs than the HRPU.
- HRPU have the ability to improve your bench press form:
Now, if I wanted to get better at bench pressing, shouldn’t I be bench pressing more?
The short answer to this on is YES.
If you want to get better at any particular movement; be it handstands, pull ups, dips or even the coveted bench press, then practicing that movement or close variations thereof are what will make you better at it.
This is by far the most absurd claimed “benefit” of the handstand push up out there.
Push up mechanics are very different from bench press mechanics, especially when it comes to the movement of the scapula.
In the bench press, you are lying down supine on a bench and pushing an object up. In the push ups, you are holding a plank position while pushing your entire body up through space.
Lying down on the bench jams the scapula in place, thereby hindering free movement of the scapula.
In fact, allowing the scapula to protract during the bench press is considered shoulder suicide.
On the other hand, when it comes to the push up, the scapula is free to move. This is because the push up is a far more natural movement than the bench press.
Scapula protraction is encouraged during push ups and discouraged during the bench press!
The argument that the HRPU trains you to set your back right in the bench press is a straw man argument as well.
If you want to set your chest and back right during the bench press, set it right during and ON the bench, not during your push ups.
- Handstand push ups build explosive strength:
It is important to note that; the majority of the power displayed by the upper body is generated by the lower body.
Yes, upper body power and strength is a thing.
Yes, if you get stronger, your potential to display power improves.
And yes, your genetics play a huge role in how much power you can generate.
This is because your muscle fiber ratio (which is based on your genetics) determines how explosive you can become.
Therefore trying to gain upper body power by training a bodyweight movement is mostly a futile investment of your training time.
All this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t train for power. As a matter of fact, you should.
But to say that only the HRPU will build power is a bit of a stretch.
ANY push up variant done explosively has the ability to develop power.
In fact, weighted push ups have the ability to develop more power as they can be scaled infinitely along with your gains in strength.
Bodyweitght push ups cannot be scaled for power effectively.
But forget about weighted push ups, even the shiny clap push up requires way more explosiveness than the Hand release push up.
This is because clap push ups require your hands to lift off the ground and this cannot be done slowly.
In fact it is possible to perform any push up variation with explosiveness and a pause as well, this is no benefit unique to the HRPU.
I guess HRPU myth busted again.
- Improved Range of motion:
I guess by now you’re starting to see a trend with these claimed HRPU benefits.
This last one is the funniest.
Apparently, the hand release push up is supposed to improve range of motion.
Unfortunately, the ROM of the HRPU is limited by your chest.
In fact, if the ability of the HRPU to build a massive chest is true, then your bigger chest will actually reduce range of motion in the exercise.
Other pointless push up variations like the knuckle push up will produce more range of motion for the muscles to travel than the HRPU.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge advocate of taking the muscles though the maximum effective range of motion.
But if you want a push up that that can provide you with maximum range of motion, why don’t you do your push ups on gymnastics rings instead?
Gymnastics rings provide far more range of motion than even knuckle push ups and also provide the added benefit of working several core stabilizers of the body.
In fact any elevated surface that will allow your chest to pass through at the bottom of the push up will increase your ROM.
Hand Release Push Up Alternatives – For Maximum Gains
If you are looking for that one magic push up variation that has most of the claimed benefits of the HRPU, then look no further than low incline pause push ups on gymnastics rings.
The low incline pause push up on gymnastics rings will take your push ups to the next level.
If you’re struggling with your push ups, check out my in-depth guide on push up progressions.
Low incline paused gymnastics rings push ups have the following benefits:
- The ability to pause at the bottom with constant tension on the chest shoulders and triceps.
- The ability to add load with a dipping belt and some weights.
- Increased range of motion.
- Active “core” stabilization due to instability provided by gymnastics rings.
- Can also be performed in the decline position; thereby targeting the muscles of the upper chest and shoulders more.
How To Perform Hand Release Push Ups For Maximum Gains
If you’ve read this entire article and still aren’t convinced about how the hand release push up is an ineffective exercise, let me at least offer you some advice on how to perform the movement for maximum gains.
The hand release push up can never have constant tension on the chest shoulders and triceps, but it is possible to maintain constant tension in the abs and the glutes.
The biggest mistake being made when performing the HRPU is to allow the belly to also rest on the floor.
This is blasphemy and another reason why the HRPU cannot teach proper bench press form.
Maintaining total body tightness is of paramount importance during any push up variation or the bench press, but I digress.
Allowing the belly to lay on the floor during the HRPU allows the entire body to lose tightness, especially where it matters most; in the abs and the glutes.
Instead of allowing the belly to sit on the floor in the HRPU, keep the hips up slightly, such that the glutes and abs are under constant tension.
This means that the chest, and toes will be in contact with the floor while the hands are release at the bottom of the movement.
This will fry the abdominal muscles and give you far more bang for your buck than performing ordinary belly on the floor hand release push ups.
The hand release push ups is an unjustly glorified exercise.
There are several push up variations that are far superior to the HRPU.