The pushup is an effective exercise that you can perform just about anywhere, and it targets a number of muscle groups in the upper body. As a body-weight routine, the pushup can be used to develop functional strength and flexibility. Like many other exercises, you have several ways to perform pushups. For example, the standard pushup is simple to perform and requires few special considerations; the knuckle pushup, on the other hand, is more difficult and is not an ideal exercise for everyone.
The knuckle pushup is a variation on the standard pushup where, instead of placing the palms of your hands flat against the floor, you ball up your hands into fists and place your top two knuckles on the floor. Also, the arms are brought in closer to the body, more closely mimicking the form of a closed-grip bench press. This variation engages the wrists more efficiently, since they bear more of your body’s weight during your repetitions. This is due to the fact that the wrists aren’t bent. Knuckle pushups also engage the forearms, and the stress of supporting your body weight on your knuckles improves proficiency in contact martial arts, toughening up the knuckles and preparing your fists for sparring activities.
The regular pushup targets the deltoids, the triceps and the outer portion of the pectorals. The flat palms are placed on the floor slightly wider than your shoulders, with the brunt of your body weight resting on your fingertips as you perform your reps. The standard pushup also engages the trapezius, the latissimus dorsi and the lower back as stabilizers. The bent wrist orientation requires your shoulders and triceps to contribute the bulk of the energy necessary to push yourself up and control your descent.
The most effective pushup variation is the one you get the best results from performing. If you box or if you spar during any kind of martial arts activity, the knuckle pushup will help you develop functional strength for punching while toughening up your wrists and knuckles. For those who don’t participate in contact fighting or sports, the standard pushup will likely be enough. If you’re new to body-weight training and doing pushups, begin with the regular version first until you perfect the form before attempting any variations.
If you choose knuckle pushups, find a soft, smooth surface, such as carpeting, padding or a rubber gym mat. Hardwood flooring, concrete and blacktop can cause injury to your knuckles and hands. To increase the difficulty of either pushup type, wear a weighted vest. For non-fighting applications, instead of using your knuckles, use pushup handles to provide the same arm and wrist angle without adding stress to your knuckles. This gives you the muscle-engagement benefits of knuckle pushups without any of the drawbacks.
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