Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Can't do pushups?

Yesterday, I mentioned inchworm pushups. And as I was contemplating my rediscovery of th is move, I realized that here are probably some of you who can't do pushups. You might not have the strength yet, or you might not have the wrists. Pushups can really aggravate your wrists if they happen to be weak. Not only because of the angle at which they're bent, but also because they're supporting a heavier part of your body. So I thought I'd offer some words of advice and encouragement. Because really, anyone can do a pushup.

How To Pushup If You Can't
1) Start on your knees. Shoulders right above your wrists, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep yourself straight from the back through the hips, and lower your nose to the floor as low as you can go. Press back up and repeat. This is the basic starter pushup.

2) Do chest presses with hand weights or an Olympic bar. This will strengthen your chest muscles while getting them used to the pushing factor.

3) Work the incline. Put your hands on a railing that hits no higher than your chest. Position your feet far enough away from it so that you can maintain the standard pushup position. Your body should be straight from your shoulders down through your knees, which would put your arms right in front of our chest. And yes, your shoulders should still be in line with your wrists. As the incline gets easier, you can get lower. Grab a bench, maybe a step. You decide.

4) Strengthen your core. Most pushups are done off the knees, which requires the engagement of your core to keep the center of your body off the ground. If you can't get your knees off the ground yet, don't worry. You'll get there. Until then, work on your core so that it's ready when your chest muscles are. Weak core = weak pushups. Now go, do some planks.

How To Pushup With Weak Wrists
1) Grab a mat. Sometimes you just need a little cushioning to absorb some of the pressure. Yo ucould also try using two BOSU trainers, one under each hand. Or some balance pods. Be prepared! This, of course, will challenge your core a bit more.

2) Hold dumbbells. But only if they're hexagonal at the end. Round dumbbells will roll, which will create an unsafe surface on which to pushup. Note that it really doesn't matter how much the dumbbells weight, only that you have enough room to grip them without your fingers touching the ground. This will eliminate that harsh 90-degree bend at the wrist.

3) Put a body bar on top of a BOSU trainer. But only if you've got a heavy, sturdy body bar. God forbid it snap in your face, so make sure you inspect the equipment and keep an eye on it as you go. IF you feel the bar bending at any time whatsoever—stop what you're doing. Like the dumbbells, this will take some of that bend off your wrist.

4) Use a TRX trainer. Well, if you've got access to one. Pushups on a TRX will absolutely take off the pressure, mostly because you can adjust the amount of bodyweight you put on the TRX...and, therefore, your wrists. This doesn't make the pushup easier, though. That's the beauty of the TRX trainer. If you don't have access to a TRX, and if you're in a gym setting, you might see if you can find the following toys:

On the left: A set of Lebert Equalizers.
On the right: Pushup bars.

You should know, however, that no matter how many ways you try to modify the pushup, if you can't get rid of the wrist pain, you should probably get those wrists checked out by a medical pro. It's just not worth it to work through the pain. And remember, a pushup is just a pushup.  There are other ways to challenge those chest muscles.

Question: How do you work your chest muscles?


Erin said...


This is a fantastic post and super helpful as I am trying to work up to full push ups and didn't know how! Thanks so much!

- Erin

Unknown said...

Ive never really been able to do pushups do to an injury that left my wrists weak. I didnt think of using dumbells to take off the harsh 90 degree. Will def try this when i get home.

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