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Tactical Fitness: Pushups and Wrist Pain

Tactical Fitness: Airman in pushup contest.

Pushups can aggravate the wrist, especially if you have any swelling in your tendons, ligaments, or joints themselves. Here are a few ways to work around the standard pushup by adjusting the wrist angle. 

Hello,

I am a 17-year old high school senior and future Army soldier. I need to work on pushups, but I currently have a sprained wrist that seems to not be getting any better. How do you suggest I work with my injury and make progress? I need to work back up to get to my old 80-90 in 2-minute max. 

Warm regards. 

If it has been several weeks since you have had pain in your wrist, I would consider seeing a doctor in case you have a broken bone. But if you can adjust your hand placement so you do not flex or bend your wrist too much, you might be able to do pushups again without pain.

Here are a couple ways to adjust so you keep a straighter angle along your wrist when in the pushup position:

1) Fist pushups

These are also called knuckle pushups. You have to keep your wrist straight while doing these. If this does not hurt your wrist, that is a good sign. If you're not experiencing any pain, see if pull-ups and pulldowns bother your wrist. If any of these hurt, see a doctor and get an x-ray.

Stew Smith: knuckle pushup

2) Handle pushups

You can adjust your pushup and wrist angle by holding onto some pushup handles or Perfect Pushups gear. You can even use a set of hexagon dumbbells to provide a stable pushup platform and keep your wrist straighter than a normal pushup.  

Stew Smith: Dumbbell pushup

The trick to handle pushups is: Place the heel of your palm on the handle so you do not bend your wrist 90 degrees like when you perform a normal pushup. Your wrist should only have a slight angle if you are doing it right. As you can see below, a regular pushup can place the wrist in a painful angle if you have any swelling in the joint.

Stew Smith: bent-wrist pushup

If any of these hurt, do not do any form of pushups. Just give your wrist time to heal and work on other events like running, sit-ups, plank poses, and leg workouts.

Hang in there.

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Contributor

Stew Smith works as a presenter and editorial board member with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He has also written hundreds of articles on Military.com's Fitness Center that focus on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

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