Knuckle Pushups VS Traditional Pushups: Which is Better?

Knuckle Pushups

Are knuckle pushups really all they’re cracked up to be, and are knuckle pushups actually tougher than regular pushups? Which is better? Is one better? I answer all of those questions in this video…

Knuckle pushups. They’re the subject of many heated Internet discussions. And nobody invited me! Apparently, some people simply think that knuckle pushups are better than traditional pushups, and I don’t know why. Maybe they have big egos and small…err…nevermind. Anyway, since one of you asked me a couple weeks ago, I thought you’d like to know that they’re both great exercises – each with their own unique advantages – and I think it’s silly to say that one is simply better than the other.

That said, there are some things you might want to know if you’re considering the knuckle pushup. They¬†do have their perks, and I have my reasons, which you can learn all about in the video below…

Summary of Key Points

  • Knuckle pushups are totally identical to regular pushups except for the hand configuration and placement.
  • All other pushup technique components are the same for both knuckle pushups and traditional pushups (click here for detailed instructions on pushup technique).
  • Clench the fists by curling the fingers and and wrapping the thumbs around the outside of the index/pointer and middle fingers.
  • Fists should be clenched firmly, but not a deathgrip – just enough to maintain solidarity and support the bodyweight.
  • Arms should be perpendicular to the ground (ie vertical), with each joint stacked on top of the next from the fists to the wrists, elbows, and shoulders (ie like a pillar).
  • The neutral-wrist position is particularly important during knuckle pushups and should be maintained throughout the full ROM.
  • You may get slightly deeper into the pushup range of motion when using knuckle pushups (with a greater stretch on pecs and anterior deltoids).
  • If performed regularly, knuckle pushups will toughen up not only the skin on your fingers/knuckles, but also strengthen the musculature, connective tissues, and even the bones of the forearms, wrists, hands, and fingers.
  • Knuckle pushups are a great alternative if traditional pushups aggravate your wrists
  • Knuckle pushups and traditional pushups are both great exercises, and if you can, I recommend using both of them in your strength training routine.

Final Words

So, there you have it. My two cents on this extremely important discussion topic. Thank goodness there is a rational voice in the world of pushup variations. What would you do without me? *gag*

But in all seriousness, let’s get back to what’s really important, folks: training. Speaking of which, I mentioned a few times in the video that knuckle pushups and traditional pushups are exactly the same exercise except for the hand configuration.

So, if you’re the type of person who wants to optimize your pushup technique in order to maximize your results and minimize the risk of injury – whether you’re doing regular pushups or knuckle pushups, then check out my extremely detailed tutorial on proper pushup technique here: How to do Pushups with Optimal Technique for Better Results and Less Injuries. You’ll be that dweeb that knows everything there is to know about proper pushup technique, and it’ll show every time you’re reppin’ out sets of 30, 50, or more…with excellent technique, I might add.

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9 Responses

  1. SJ

    Good analysis here John.
    Traditional/knuckles makes no difference in my eyes – it’s when you start adjusting the width of hand placement or adding an incline/decline to the push-up position that you really start to notice a difference.

    Keep up the great blog.


  2. Amy B.

    Hey John,

    Just got referred to your site by a friend who did your cert a while back. And you now have a new convert to knuckle pushups — me! I’d never even heard of them before he mentioned them. They sounded kind of killer, but I tried some and they’re actually pretty great. I don’t have any *big* issues with my wrists, but I do notice sometimes they can give out before the actual muscle groups I’m working do. And I do get a slightly bigger range of motion using my knuckles. Who knew? Very cool. Always nice to add something new (read: not as boring) to a workout. Thanks!

  3. Aaron

    I do gorilla push ups, which are not on the knuckles of the normal knuckle push ups, but on the next set of knuckles an ape walks on, try those suckers out! Guarantee you wont be able to do one before your wrists shake and you collapse to the ground, I basically invented this stype of push up for humans and after 2 years of occasionally doing them my wrists are as steady as an elephants, when I hit the heavy bag I dont even feel it, plus the boney growths on my knuckles add some decent weight to the hands. What works for me may not work for you, ive got my friends to try these and they give up immediately claiming its impossible, or they do them wrong by using the thumb as a support thus dramatically changing the angle of the wrist and hands and still failing. We are very much different from our ape ancestors, evolution will do that lol, but none the less we are still apes, so the potential to imitate their movements for our benefit has been tried and tested. Try new things and most importantly know your body, what works for me might not work for you.

    • John

      I tried them, Aaron. I can do a few reps on my knees, but no full gorilla pushups for me. It would probably take several weeks to work up to one. Thanks for the idea!

  4. Aaron

    No problem John, keep me up to date on your progress, id be interested to know if other people notice the same changes in their hands, wrists and arms as me. A good thing to note is that other than just doing push Ups on the knuckles I also lean on them when possible, when getting up off the sofa I will push myself up with them, when walking up my stairs I will walk on them ( haha it all seems a little strange ) but you get the idea, the more they are used the more you get use to bearing weight on them.

  5. Ian

    I Do em on my finger tips. In trying to work my way up to Bruce’s level rs

  6. Gabor

    Hello John,

    In knuckle push up the weight is on the knuckles of the index and middle finger or on the knuckles of ring and pinky fingers? For me, the wrist seems to be the most neutral when I’m on the knuckles of the middle, ring and pinky fingers. I suppose that karatekas wouldn’t agree… Thank you for your response.

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