Ask Denise: How Do I Avoid Wrist Pain Doing Push-Ups or Planks?

Denise Austin by Denise Austin | April 4, 2021 | Workouts

This week’s Ask Denise question comes from Bee60Sue, a member of my Whole-Body Plan who posted in my online community, “How do I avoid wrist pain while doing push-ups or planks?” Read and watch my new video for tips!

Planks and push-ups are one of the fastest ways to strengthen your muscles. They can be done anywhere, anytime. They benefit your body in so many ways: with a plank you’re strengthening your core and shoulders, and push-ups are a great mainstay and essential exercise in your training to improve upper body strength! Plus they are versatile – you can be on your toes or knees, whatever fits your fitness ability.

Sometimes, all that stands between an individual and pain-free planks or push-ups are some simple adjustments to their form! Watch this video for tips on how to prevent wrist pain while doing push-ups or plank.

Push-ups and planks are both tried and true proven exercises to improve your muscles, and are part of the workouts in my Whole Body Plan. But – you have to use proper form to protect your wrists! Place your hands shoulder-width apart. The key is keeping your shoulders in line with your wrists to keep your wrists healthy. Feet can either be shoulder-width apart, as well, or, if you prefer, your feet can be touching. If you’re a beginner and more comfortable performing a push-up from your knees, then go for it!  Then you want to think of your body as a straight line from the top of your head to your heels with your hips held up and not sagging. At the top of a push-up or a high plank your arms should be straight and supporting your body weight.  See if you can do 10 push-ups or hold plank for up to one minute! Do the best you can and give yourself credit for trying!

There are some people that experience wrist pain while doing push-ups or planks. Wrist pain can be caused by several underlying issues. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis, or if you have an injury, push-ups and planks can cause extra strain on your wrists. It’s always good to know what’s really behind pain by seeking advice from a health care professional.

Here are a few other suggestions to help YOU properly perform a push-up or a plank pain-free!
  1. I like to use push-up stands, they really help me keep in perfect form. They can help to reduce wrist strain and move through the range of push-up motion while toning and strengthening! With push-up stands, you can perform modified push-ups on your knees, wall push-ups or close grip push-ups (tricep push-ups) with comfort! I also love using them for some yoga moves, like downward dog and Chaturanga.
  2. Another great option if you don’t have push-up stands is simply doing the move from your fists while balancing on your knuckles. This keeps your wrists a bit straighter and helps you to avoid hyperextension – but you may want to have a foam mat or do this on the grass or carpet so it is more comfortable.
  3. Perform your push-ups on an incline. By having your feet lower than your upper body, you’re still using the resistance of your weight but with less strain than if your body is parallel. Try balancing your hands on a workout bench or even a bed or your sofa.

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Let’s get fitter, together – inside and out,


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