T Nation

Knuckle Push-up Tips?


I’m not a combat athlete now, but have a lot of respect for the sports and did enjoy boxing in the early 1980s.
I train regularly with weights. My question is about knuckle push-up. I’ve been doing push-ups again for the last few months. They feel great. Due to some arthritis in my wrists, knuckle push-up feel good , but open palm feel awful. I’ve heard they are used by combat athletes to strengthen their knuckles. Not my goal, I do them on a carpet at home.
Any advice or tips are appreciated


I don’t see how it could make a substantial difference. Do whatever doesn’t exacerbate the arthritis pain…


Get those gimmicky pushup bars or the rotating ones “as seen on tv” they keep your hands more nuetral and give you some more ROM. The knuckle ones get annoying after 25 or so the ends of my fingers go numb. I have an angry wrist from a wrestling injury and the bars do eliminate the pain.


We do them in karate sometimes. A wooden floor is probably the best option, rather than a carpet. The coarse fibers will aggravate the skin of your knuckles, or at least that’s what I find. Concrete or paving slabs (as I once did at home) are a decidedly bad idea. Most people find they can do fewer knuckle pushups than they can open palm pushups. For some reason. This exercise has been known to cause problems in the knuckle joint. People who do a lot of knuckle conditioning tend to end up with arthritis.

So all in all, I’d hazard a guess that you’d be better off with the pushup bars as suggested above. You can also use hex dumbells in the same way. I have a major boner for hex dumbbells. They just look so cool.


This. Knuckle push ups aren’t really that great. If you really start grinding em out it’s very easy for your wrists to buckle, and cause an injury


I find that doing them on any hard surface generates callouses, which split, especially in places with wintery climates. So I got a 3mm thick foam mat (about 3’ wide by 1.5’ tall). It’s available Walmart, though I can’t seem to find it online. I use the back side so that I’m not distracted by patterning when trying to position my two hands. I also place it on a rectilinear tiled floors, and I imagine where the lines are if the matt was invisible.

Since split callouses are a showstopper in terms of knuckle pushups, I use Dermal Therapy lotion, with 15% urea for hand, elbow, and knee.

P.S. Regarding the comment about buckling wrists, that goes away pretty quickly. It might be an issue for those completely new to knuckle pushups, in which case, moderation should be the key. Once you condition yourself to keep your wrist straight, it doesn’t take any energy to do it. Your limb muscles will fatigue and fail and you won’t even notice exertion on your wrists. I would say that risk of injury is almost zero, much much lower than hitting a bag, and even much lower than shadow boxing. Knuckle pushups are for people who want to be gentle on their bodies and old geezers (like me) who don’t like hyper-extending the wrists. Mind you, you can superset the pushups by switching to normal non-knuckle pushups after you run out of steam on knuckle pushups. The former is easier because there’s less travel. A good routine to try is superset with hand close together (less than a foot for me), then wide, then normal. That’s in order of decreasing difficulty for me.


I knew an idiot who did pushups on knives. I’m not recommending that in any way, shape or form, I’m just saying.


Okay I have to ask. Were they jammed into the floor? Or was his flesh on the sharpened edge?


Jammed into the floor.


Hey clee I used to live with knuckle pushups when I was practicing karate back in the day. But you really don’t need to do them. All you need to do to take the pressure off your wrist is grab a couple of 30lb hexagon dumbells and use them as handles when you do your pushups—no more sore wrists, no pressure on your knuckles…problem solved!


Thank you, seems like a good idea.
I have gotten used to the knuckle push-up, and actually like them. I will give a try to the DB