by Don Heatrick

Here’s a follow up answering to a couple of questions that came up from the first video on push up technique for fighters…

“I feel so much weaker when I stop flaring out my elbows when I do my push ups, will this change?”

“Is there any benefit to doing push ups on your knuckles?”

First of all, many confessed that they where guilty of flaring their elbows during their push ups…

If you have that habit, be aware that because of that, you’ll feel weaker when you change position at first.

But that will change.

And then you’ll feel WEAKER when you flare your elbows, which means you’ve succeeded in reinforcing and strengthening the correct pattern.

And your body will no longer seek to flare the the elbow to feel stronger.

Another good question was, “Is there any benefit from pushing from your knuckles as opposed to an open hand?”

There are pros and cons.

Push ups from the knuckles is a friendlier anatomical position for the wrist, and develops punch specific wrist strength and stabilisation.

However, although the wrist position is friendlier for the bones in the wrist, the additional leverage resulting from the increased height from the floor (which places greater demands on wrist strength and stability), also fatigues your wrist quicker.

And this isn’t a good idea heading into a session with a ton of heavy punches, as you’ve increased the likelihood of wrist injury.

Knuckle push ups also don’t challenge wrist mobility at all, where as regular palm push ups certainly do.

Many fighters like the sensation on “conditioning” your knuckles for impact… because of the pressure on the knuckle bones on harder floor surfaces.

And although somewhat useful, I’d caution against too much of this, as you’ll pick up an overuse injury that stops you punching!

You can get plenty of sport specific impact conditioning from just hitting a heavy bag… and as fighters, we wear wraps and gloves to protect our hands too…

So we can tolerate the high volume of punches that we practice without injury.

For me, a small number of knuckle push ups are useful for teaching the correct punching wrist-alignment for beginners, or perhaps activating this alignment as part of a warm up for everyone else.

I also like knuckle push ups as a finisher to test wrist stability under fatigue, once you’ve finished using them to stabilise your punches in a training session. That way, you avoid needless pre-fatigue that could cause you to buckle a wrist while punching in training.

If you want to train the more comfortable wrist alignment without either destabilising the wrist due to leverage, or overusing the knuckles, then practice push ups on dumbbells.

I often have clients with wrist issues (that can’t tolerate a regular palm push up), perform them using dumbbells as handles instead.

A neutral, or thumbs up toward the shoulder position is the friendliest all round (for both the wrist and the shoulder). And helps you prevent flaring out those elbows too!

However you practice your push ups, get strong without the that chicken wing. That’s the most important thing.

And remember quality over quantity, every time.

Don Heatrick

Founder of Heatrick Strength and Conditioning

Don Heatrick is a family man from the UK, former mechanical design engineer, European Muay Thai silver medallist, former pro Thai boxer (ranked 4th in UK while aged 40-years), a Muay Thai coach, podcast host, and the go-to expert on Muay Thai performance training with over 25 years of coaching experience.

Don helps ambitious fighters and coaches take their game to the next level by bridging the gap between Strength & Conditioning, Performance Science, and Muay Thai.

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