Are Knuckle Push Ups Harder Than Regular Push Ups?


Knuckle push-ups, although not much different, do look cooler compared to the regular push-ups.

A lot of people have been asking me why they seem more difficult. It is an interesting question as at first glance, they do look very similar. But there is definitely something special about them

Are knuckle push-ups harder than regular push-ups? Yes, they are. Knuckle push-ups place more stress on your chest and arms because of the increased range of motion. Doing push-ups on your knuckles is harder compared to regular push-ups. Knuckle push-ups are a good way to train without hurting your wrists.

Now let’s take a more in-depth look at what exactly makes them so different and whether or not knuckle push-ups are worth your while.

knuckle push-ups

How Hard Are Knuckle Push-Ups Compared to Regular Push-Ups?

If you drop down and try to do several knuckle push-ups, you will quickly see that they feel a bit different and a little harder.

It is difficult to establish exactly how hard they are, but I decided to do a little experiment, doing my own improvised “research”.

What I found out was that knuckle push-ups are about 5 to 15% harder.

For example, if I would normally do about 30 to 50 full range of motion regular push-ups when I switch to knuckle push-ups, the numbers will vary a little and go down by 2 to 6 reps on average.

This is just a little fun experiment that I wanted to do, and it is nothing official, so don’t quote me on that.

But, you can always do the same experimentation and see what the percentage going to be for you is. It is interesting to see if it will be close to the percentages I observed.

Keep in mind that you need to warm up properly before you start; otherwise, the first set is going to be very tough while the second will feel significantly more comfortable.

What Makes Knuckle Push-Ups Harder

There are several aspects of knuckle push-ups that make them noticeably harder compared to regular push-ups.

The Extra Range of Motion

When you are doing knuckle push-ups, you will be higher off the ground. That extra 2 or 3 inches are going to lead to an increased range of motion.

The extra depth (or range of motion) will place more strain on your chest and triceps when you are doing knuckle push-ups.

This is a good thing as the larger range of motion will make knuckle push-ups more effective in training your chest.

The Difference in Balance

When I first started doing knuckle push-ups, something felt very different. However, I wasn’t able to put my finger on the exact reason.

But then I realized what was happening.

When you are doing regular push-ups, you place our palms on the floor, which then you use as stabilizers. The palm has a larger surface than the knuckles do, so naturally, with the palms on the floor, you will have significantly better stability and balance.

The smaller surface of the knuckles does make a noticeable difference in the balance, which at first will feel very strange. This reduced level of balance is also going to make the knuckle push-ups a little more difficult.

The Type of Surface

Knuckle push-ups are best done on carpet or some soft surface.

In the martial arts, people frequently do them on harder surfaces like concrete to condition their knuckles. I have been doing the same thing, and I can say that it is not something I would recommend to a beginner. Hard surfaces can injure your knuckles.

A softer surface will provide you with more comfort and padding, making knuckle push-ups a tad easier on your knuckles.

If you don’t have a carpet, you can always use two towels or any old clothes you may have.

Are Knuckle Push-Ups Better Alternative to Regular Push-Ups?

Knuckle push-ups are a better alternative to regular push-ups because they can stimulate the chest muscles more, and at the same time, they are a lot easier on the writs.

Knuckle push-ups are not necessarily harder in terms of technique or skill.

Nor should they be considered superior to the regular push-ups. The different feel to them may throw off some people who may end up not feeling their chest or triceps work the same way they do with regular push-ups. 

But knuckle push-ups are a little more difficult, undoubtedly, and will, therefore, lead to better strength and muscle gains.

For some extra challenge, you can always add more weight on your back just like you would normally do with a regular push-up.

Advantages of the Knuckle Push-Ups

I have done probably thousands of push-ups over the last years. And I have done almost any push-up variation that can spring to one’s mind.

There are always going to be some advantages and disadvantages associated with the different types of push-ups. 

The same thing applies to knuckle push-ups, too.

Reduce the Strain on Your Wrists

A few years back, when I injured my wrist, I wasn’t really able to do regular push-ups.

In fact, this is the exact reason why I do not recommend regular push-ups anymore. They place too much strain on the wrists.

After I hurt my wrist, I was looking for an alternative that will still allow me to train my chest but not strain my wrist.

Knuckle push-ups, I found, are a lot easier on the wrists. 

When doing knuckle push-ups, your wrists are in a much more natural position. That way, you will avoid placing them under any unnecessary strain in the long run.

Increase the Difficulty of Push-Ups

One of the main aspects of physical training is the principle of progressive overload. In other words, if we want to progress, we need to make sure we gradually increase the work we do. This can be done in several different ways, one of which is by doing harder exercises.

If you feel that you have outgrown the regular push-ups, maybe it is time to look for a different push-up variation—one which offers a bigger challenge.

Knuckle push-ups create a more demanding experience and require slightly more advanced techniques. Granted, it is a small step, but a step in the right direction, nonetheless.

One of the best things about knuckle push-ups is that they will teach you how the implementation of a small change into your workout can lead to new results and gains.

Conditioning of the Knuckles

Knuckle push-ups may be the way to go for many people that are into martial arts.

Doing push-ups on your knuckles is a method that is frequently used as a way to strengthen, develop, and prepare the knuckles for the hits and punches which martial artists perform on a daily basis.

This kind of conditioning can be done with some easy exercises, one of which is the knuckle push-up.

They Can Make Your Punches Harder

Knuckle push-ups can increase your punching power in two ways. First, it increases your strength in a wider range of motion, and secondly, it develops your knuckles, making them a lot tougher.

This is why so many martial artists recommend doing knuckle push-ups on concrete, sand, and other similar surfaces. 

This develops the calcium deposits on the top of your knuckles and around the phalanges.

The combined effect of both is more punch power and a heavier hand.

Knuckle Push-Ups Add Some Variety

Every now and then, it is a good thing to have some variety. 

Switching to knuckle push-ups, however small that change may seem at first, can provide you with some variety.

The knuckle variation can keep things interested, and it can also force your muscles to adapt to a new and different stimulus.

If you really want to build up from the regular push-up and tackle new challenges, I would also suggest exploring fingertip push-ups.

Disadvantages of the Knuckle Push-Ups

When it comes to why you shouldn’t do knuckle push-ups, there aren’t that many things. However, there are a few aspects that you need to consider first.

Weak Wrists

Knuckle push-ups are easy on your wrists, and therefore they are great for people that suffer from wrist pain.

Conversely, knuckle push-ups may not be best for people with weak wrists.

You see, there is a fine line between the two things.

For complete beginners that may not have had enough time to condition their wrists and build some wrist strength, knuckle push-ups may be a bad idea.

While you are doing knuckle push-ups, you are using them to stabilize yourself. If your wrists are weak, you can potentially lose your balance and sprain your wrists as you fall down.

I would not recommend doing knuckle push-ups unless you can safely do regular push-ups.

May Be Bad for Your Hands

And last but not least, knuckle push-ups are used a lot by the martial artists to condition and toughen the bones on their knuckles. 

That way, they can also make their punches feel a lot heavier. 

So yeah, there is a good side to knuckle push-ups, but there may be one concern here.

If you do knuckle push-up long enough, you can overdevelop the bones in your knuckles to the point where you may end up having restricted range in motion in your fingers, or you can develop arthritis from all the unnatural stress on the knuckles.

As a result, this can lead to impaired ability to fully open your hands and fingers.

Can You Do Knuckle Push-Ups Every Day?

Knuckle push-ups have their place and purpose.

However, as you saw, doubling down on doing them may lead to some potential adverse effects with time. Admittedly you may be able to do them for a decade without seeing any adverse effects, but nonetheless, moderation is the key.

Don’t do knuckle push-ups every day, as this may cause repetitive strain injury and overtraining.

How often you should do them depends on your personal training program that you follow, how quickly you recover, and more.

Generally speaking, doing knuckle push-ups three times a week for three to four sets of 12 to 20 reps is more than enough.

Of course, these numbers are just an example. For some people, 20 reps may be too little, and they may want to add extra weight in order to make things more challenging.

Miro Ste

Hi fitness enthusiasts, my name is Miro, and I am the person behind everphysique.com. Here I share my tips and trick about how to achieve the best physique possible. I focus primarily on old school bodybuilding methods that have been tried and tested. With a huge focus on calisthenics and street workout.

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