If You Feel Wrist Pain During Push-Ups, Stop and Do This Trainer's Modifications Now

It's safe to say that push-ups are pretty low on our list of favorite exercises. (If you love them, please teach us your ways.) Whatever your feelings about the classic upper-body move, we can all agree that it's difficult enough without a side of wrist pain that often comes along with it. It's not just push-ups, either; that pain can flare during planks, handstands, renegade rows, and any other exercise that has your wrists bearing all your weight.

What Causes Wrist Pain During Exercise?

Your wrist pain could come down to a number of causes, but Liz Letchford, MS, BOC-certified athletic trainer and doctoral candidate in kinesiology, told POPSUGAR that two potential culprits are swelling or improper alignment of your carpal bones (the bones in your wrist). An old injury could be to blame, too, limiting your range of motion and making it impossible to do a plank or push-up without pain.

How to Treat and Prevent Wrist Pain

If wrist pain is an issue, Liz recommended doing your planks and push-ups in a more neutral position. Liz's favorite modification: instead of planking directly on the floor, hold dumbbells instead. This puts your wrists in a more neutral alignment and takes some of the stress off your joints. If modifications aren't helping, do an elevated plank or push-up instead. "Not only will this decrease the load to your wrists, but it will also make it easier to find a more comfortable wrist flexion angle," Liz told POPSUGAR. See examples of those modifications in the slides ahead.

By working with a certified athletic trainer or physical therapist, you can get a good idea of your current range of motion and find strategies to heal or work around injuries. Restoring and improving your wrist mobility will put pain-free push-ups, planks, and handstands in your future.

Incline Push-Ups
POPSUGAR Photography | Diggy Lloyd

Incline Push-Ups

  • Start in plank position, placing your palms on a stable surface like a wall, chair, kitchen counter, back of couch, or bench. Keep your arms and legs straight with weight on your toes, shoulders above the wrists, and core engaged.
  • Take a breath in, and as you exhale, bend your elbows out to the sides and lower your torso in one piece (it's common to leave your pelvis behind, aka sticking your butt out) toward your hands. Stop when your shoulders are in line with your elbows. Inhale and straighten your arms to return to your starting position. This counts as one rep.
Dumbbell Push-Up

Dumbbell Push-Up

  • Begin balancing in plank position, shoulders stacked over the wrists, with a dumbbell on the floor in each hand.
  • Bend the elbows behind you, and lower the torso into a push-up. Press back up to plank. This counts as one rep.