Suggestions For Improved Pushups

by Kilo on June 20, 2011

Despite my very long arms and weenie elbows, I’ve come to love the humble pushup. There’ s a variation challenging enough for any strength nut, and as a muscle builder for the chest and triceps, it’s still one of the best.


Jack Lalane Fingertip pushups--I can't do these

Recently I have been playing around with a couple of small tweaks that are making a good movement even better for me. Keep in mind that what works for me might not do anything good for you. Experiment and pay attention to what your body tells you.

Hand width

Pushups feel awful to me if I place my hands right outside the width of my shoulders, which is what is often recommended. Lately, at least, I respond very well to narrow hand placement–3-4 inches apart–to extremely wide.


I have been experimenting with abducted (splayed)  or adducted (pressed together or lightly touching) fingers.

It might not sound like it would make much of a difference, but it has made a big difference for me at times, just making sure that all available tissue gets some attention paid to it.


When I am experiencing pain during wrist extension I typically respond well to a neutral grip–palms facing each other. I do this on the uprights at the base of the power tower (a Gold’s Gym throwaway) that I have. I also have a set of the perfect pushup handles, which work well for this purpose.

I’ve also experimented with pushups on the knuckles and on the back of the hand, but they rarely feel good.


Whenever I can do it without a noticeable increase in effort or discomfort, I want to go fast. But I have seen a big payoff at times from slower reps.


From pushups against the wall to working against a deficit with my feet higher than my head, there are many different angles to work out. I’m generally able to find something on any given day that works much better than anything else.

As always, I believe it comes down to one thing in pursuit of progress and strength: how many questions are we willing to ask ourselves?


PS: As far as my numbers, I rarely do sets higher than 45 reps, so if you’re shooting for higher numbers, weigh and consider the advice against your goals.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

John Sifferman June 21, 2011 at 1:42 pm

A couple more ideas…

1) think about pushing the ground away from you, instead of pushing your body up

2) engage the core so that you’re not just pushing with the arms


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: