Knuckle Push Ups – Truth And Lies Revealed! Are They Really Worth Your Time?

Let’s face it knuckle push ups look kinda cool. It always looks like the person doing them has fists as tough as nails!

But are knuckle push ups worth it when it comes to building muscle and strength?

What about the wrist and knuckle conditioning aspect of knuckle push ups when it comes to a fight?

Do knuckle push ups actually make you a better fighter?

Lets find out!

The knuckle push up actually has a lot of potential when to comes to building muscle and strength.

In fact, I would pick it over the regular push up if not for one glaring problem.

Let me tell you why:

  • The knuckle push up has massive potential for building muscle and strength.
  • Knuckle push ups actually SUCK – Even though they have more muscle and strength building potential than regular push ups.
  • What you should be doing instead of the knuckle push up to build maximum strength and size.

Let’s begin.

Benefits Of Knuckle Push Ups – Why They Have Massive Muscle And Strength Building Potential

Apart from looking cool, the knuckle push up does have its benefits.

  1. Knuckle push ups are easy on the wrists:

As the name suggests, knuckle push ups are done on clenched fists.

This means that your knuckles and clenched fingers are in contact with the ground when performing this movement.

Knuckle push ups place the wrist in a neutral position, which allows individuals with wrist problems to perform the exercise without any discomfort in the wrist.

If you are experiencing wrist pain when performing push ups, placing your wrists in a neutral position will ease the pain.

Therefore, knuckle push ups can be beneficial to those individuals who are suffering from wrist pain.

Unfortunately, this advantage of knuckle push ups is a double edged sword.

While knuckle push ups are easy on the wrists, they are extremely painful on the knuckles and fingers.

In fact, there are several pieces of equipment like gymnastics rings and parallettes; that can place your wrists in a neutral pain-free position while performing  push ups.

What’s more is; using these pieces of calisthenics equipment, won’t injure your fingers and knuckles in the process.

This means you don’t really need to be doing push ups on your knuckles if you have wrist pain.

  1. Knuckle push ups take the muscles through a greater range of motion:

The biggest benefit of knuckle push ups when it comes to building muscle is that they take the muscles of the chest, shoulders and triceps through a longer range of motion.

I’ve said this time and time again;

Taking your muscles through a longer range of motion; recruits more muscle fibers and builds more muscle in the process.

Moving the muscles through a longer range of motion also builds strength in the additional range that the muscles have travelled through.

When performing regular push ups, your wrists are closer to the floor, this means that the chest makes contact with the floor earlier than when doing push ups on your knuckles.

When doing knuckle push ups, notice how the level of your wrists are higher off the ground.

This means that your chest can move a few more inches before it comes in contact with the floor.

These precious additional inches in ROM recruit more muscle fibers and also make the exercise slightly harder to perform.

Of course all this is assuming that you are already taking all your push ups through maximum range of motion, i.e. chest touching the floor.

Although, doing push ups on your fists isn’t the only way to achieve additional range of motion.

Instead, you can simply elevate your hands by placing them on a pair of yoga blocks, parallettes or gymnastics rings.

Even placing your hands on two chairs, bricks or books will allow for additional range of motion when doing your push ups.

So there really isn’t any real need to do your push ups on your knuckles and grind through the pain for a few additional inches to your ROM.

Having to grind through knuckle pain is the biggest disadvantage of knuckle push ups.

Benefits Of Knuckle Push Ups – Why They Have Massive Muscle And Strength Building Potential

Now, I’m not here to bash any particular exercise, if you are someone who doesn’t move, any form of movement is a win for you.

But when to comes to building muscle and strength, there is a hierarchy of exercise that will put the most muscle and strength on your body.

Unfortunately the knuckle push up is not one of these movements, here’s why:

The limiting factor for any exercise should be the muscles that are being worked and nothing else.

Remember, we are trying to build muscle and strength, nothing else.

In the case of the knuckle push up; the limiting factor is the pain and discomfort experienced on the knuckles.

This means you will most likely terminate your set before your muscles get a good workout, thereby limiting and even diminishing your muscle building potential.

Even though knuckle push ups offer improved range of motion and a more ergonomic wrist placement than the regular push ups, they are far inferior to regular push ups in terms of building strength and size.

If you are experiencing wrist pain when performing push ups:

  1. Work on your wrist mobility [OR]
  2. Place your palms on parallettes, gymnastics rings or any other cylindrical object that reduces the amount of wrist flexion.

If you want to get more range of motion while performing push ups (and you should):

  1. Place your palms on a slightly elevated surface and allow your chest to move past your wrists at the bottom of the push up. You can do this by placing your palms on parallattes, gymnastics rings, bricks or even books.

Knuckle Push Ups For Boxing – Knuckle And Wrist Conditioning For Punching Power

There is speculation that the knuckle push ups condition the knuckles for punching, and they might.

But I’ve always believed in specificity of training and there are several better methods to condition the wrists and knuckles for punching.

When performing knuckle push ups, the knuckles don’t create an impact with the ground.

They are placed there, gently so that you can perform as many push ups on them possible.

On the other hand, when it comes to throwing punches in a fight, the knuckles absorb high levels of impact.

Conditioning the knuckles and wrists to absorb high impact damage with knuckle push ups is not specific enough to the sport.

In fact it is detrimental to try and combine several different training effects into one single exercise.

If you’re trying to build punching power for your sport, then use the most hyper focused exercises to build just that.

If you’re trying to condition the knuckles and wrists to absorb high levels of impact, then focus your training specifically on that.

Mixing training modalities – like trying to build muscle and strength while trying to condition the wrists and knuckles for fighting will lead to inferior results in both.

Knuckle Push Ups Alternatives - What To Do INSTEAD

Did you know that the regular close grip push up can also offer superior range of motion when compared to regular push ups?

Moving your hands closer together (but far enough that your torso can pass between them) moves the chest, shoulders and triceps through a longer range of motion.

If you’re looking for an exercise that has all the benefits of the knuckle push ups but without any stress to your knuckles, then look no further than the gymnastics rings close grip push up.

In fact, close grip push ups on gymnastics rings will not only provide you with extra range of motion, they will also place your wrists in a neutral position.

What’s more is that this version of the push up will also demand more stabilization from several smaller muscle groups as well as the abs, lower back and glutes.

I highly recommend you go check my article on the benefits if incline push ups and why I recommend using them!

Conclusion:

Knuckle push ups have the potential to be a better version of the regular push up because of the extra range of motion they offer during the movement.

Doing push ups on the knuckles also places the wrists in a more comfortable, neutral position than regular push up which requires bent wrists.

But the biggest flaw with knuckle push ups is the fact that the limiting factor of the exercise is the pain and discomfort experienced in the knuckles and fingers.

This makes it an inferior strength and muscle building exercise because the limiting factor of the exercise is not the muscles being worked but the wrist and knuckles instead.

You’re better off performing close grip push ups instead.

But if you want the benefits of the knuckle push up (increased range of motion and more ergonomic wrist alignment); do your push ups on gymnastics rings or parallettes. These have the added benefit of also building the abs.

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