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Hand Warm-up With Pushups

The video below includes a brief sequence of pushups that I use to prep my hands and wrists for more rigorous work. I typically perform a few sets before progressing towards more difficult hand or wrist training activities. I have used this sequence along with a few others for several years and have always found it useful for stretching and warm-up purposes.

It seems like a lifetime ago that I was a young fighter who was sidelined with hand and wrist injuries. At the time, I didn’t know anything about hand training so it wasn’t something I did. As a result, wrapping my hands became a complex process. My trainer would always need extra time to perform the job. Once they were wrapped and taped, I still had to be cautious with my hands. With all the fractures and sprains, I always felt like I was rolling the dice when I punched.

Twenty years later and my hands have never felt better. I now take hand and wrist training seriously; not only for myself but more importantly for the fighters I train. If I can prevent even one athlete from making the same mistakes I made, I will be grateful beyond words.

Ironically, since posting the brief demonstration above, I don’t think I’ve ever read so many emails that have questioned the safety of an exercise. I’ve read everything from jokes that my wrists will snap to statements that it is irresponsible to recommend these exercises. Based on the volume of such comments, I believe it is a useful topic to discuss. The last thing I want is for someone to be dissuaded from an exercise based on an uninformed opinion.

To begin, it is difficult to comment on an exercise that you have never attempted or are unable to perform. Following this brief pushup demonstration, I read several comments about what would happen if someone were to attempt these pushups. Essentially, opinions were formed without hands on experience.

Contrary to what some may believe at first glance, these pushup variations are not very difficult. Knuckle pushups are obviously the easiest of the three. Finger pushups may be difficult to those who have never tried them, but certainly aren’t a high level skill. With a consistent and patient approach, most athletes can perform them with relative ease. As for the wrist pushups, they may look intimidating at first, but are really just a display of flexibility. Wrist flexibility often develops rapidly. By simply starting from the knees (and bending at the waist if necessary), it is not difficult to progress to this variation.

Unfortunately, many athletes neglect wrist strength and flexibility entirely. I couldn’t tell you how many fighters I’ve seen jam and injure their wrists by landing a hook slightly off target. Such injuries would be much less frequent if more athletes took the time to adequately develop the hands and wrists.

Many years ago, I needed a precise wrap and tape job before I’d even think about hitting the bag. Today, I can hit a heavy bag without wraps and have absolutely no problems. And while these pushup variations are just a small part of my hand training, to suggest that they are dangerous does nothing but add to the abundance of misinformation that taints the internet today.

Rather than worrying about what would be dangerous if you tried it, perhaps you should focus your safety concerns towards more pressing matters. For example, texting about the dangers of exercise while driving could likely benefit from your attention.

Be safe out there!

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What you don’t understand you can make mean anything. – Chuck Palahniuk

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8 comments

8 Comments so far

  1. Brendan February 1st, 2014 6:56 pm

    1,000′s of martial artists have done wrist, fist and fingertip pushups for hundreds of years, and I don’t you see an unusually high percentage of Okinawans with horrible wrist injuries.

  2. Neville February 1st, 2014 10:01 pm

    As soon as I saw this video on Facebook I knew you’d be getting inundated with emails about how unsafe it was. What astounds me is that people an clearly see it’s done you no harm.

  3. Randy Maddux February 2nd, 2014 7:59 am

    A few years ago I was looking for ideas to enhance my programming as a trainer when I found your tutorials on YouTube. I followed your advice for making rings from PVC pipe, homemade sandbags, and various other useful items. I also absorbed the wisdom you shared about breaking perceived boundaries, such as embracing minimalist training and not settling for the perfection of double-unders or single clap push-ups. Perhaps some day I will have time to search and find trainers who I disagree with and don’t respect, but for now I am too busy paying attention to the ones I can benefit from, and you have been at the top of the short list. Thank you.

  4. brian February 2nd, 2014 8:28 am

    I’m a guitarist, and due to playing the guitar I developed a repetitive strain injury. You know what helped my right wrist, push ups such as these. Coupled with hand-stands and handstand push-ups, for some reason it helps a lot. At the start it was painful, but after a two to three weeks, I don’t remember, my wrists felt so much better. I don’t think I could recommend the same protocol to everyone who has a wrist injury as it would be irresponsible, but I’d like to add this comment because of the people who view back of the hand push-ups as injurious. If that was the case I’d imagine my wrist injury would have been aggravated, when the exact opposite occurred. that being said, prevention is always better than cure. As someone who has also broken their hand engaging in martial arts, and suffered from various wrist injuries, look after your hands guys. Take that 30 minutes or so a few times a week to care for your hands.

  5. Samer Ibrahim February 2nd, 2014 8:29 am

    I think with the wrist pushups it’s just the first time people have seen that. They don’t realize that it the gymnastics world this seems to be rather common practice. I personally don’t have the flexibility after I broke my hand but I’m working towards it…

  6. C# February 3rd, 2014 9:56 am

    Thanks for the post. Interestingly, just a day before it, I had started experimenting with going from knuckle to fingertip pushups. It was something I had never tried or seen before. (And I did not hurt myself.) Now I will have to try the wrist pushups, too, although it looks like that will take a little longer to work up to.

  7. dmitry February 3rd, 2014 4:50 pm

    Dear Ross,

    Thanks for sharing this valuable information.

    Cheers!

  8. Eric February 4th, 2014 5:23 pm

    Hard to imagine a fighter would neglect hand, wrist, and grip training. You had posted another article stating that many fighters neglect training their neck also, that is shocking being that some pretty good fighters like Sonny Liston, Tyson, etc., took neck training seriously. I’ve read that Bruce Lee trained his forearms fanatically which would no doubt help hand and wrist strength also. I remember years ago seeing a light heavyweight by the name of James Scott who fought out of Rahway Prison using grippers as part of his training along with over a reported 1,000 pushups a day.

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