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 when the transition to them. It is an interesting question as on first look they do not look too much different, right? 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-Up 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. They are noticeably harder.

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

What I found out was that knuckle push-ups are about 10 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.

You can 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 saw.

Keep in mind that you need to warm up properly before you start otherwise the first set is going to be super tough while the second will feel significantly easier.

Additionally someday you may feel a lot stronger than others, so there will be a lot of variance in these numbers.

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 2-3 inches that you will have are going to lead to an increased range of motion.

This is not necessarily bad, as we will see in a bit; however, this will lead to them being a little harder compared to the smaller ranger of motion with regular push-ups.

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

The Difference in Balance

When I first started doing knuckle push-ups, one of the things that felt different, although I couldn’t put my finger on the exact thing, in the beginning, was the difference in balance.

When you are doing regular push-ups we place our whole palms on the floor which then we use as a stabilizer. The palm has a lot more surface than the knuckles, so naturally, with the palms on the floor, we have better stability and balance.

And the less surface of the knuckles does make a noticeable difference, in the beginning, making knuckle push-ups a bit harder.

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 in order to condition their knuckles. I have been doing the same thing, and I can say that it is not recommended for beginners or people that are not into martial arts. Hard surfaces can damage your knuckles.

A softer surface will provide you with more comfort and padding, making knuckle push-ups easier.

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 harder in terms of technique or skill.

Knuckle push-ups may not necessarily be considered superior to 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. This may potentially lower their training results.

But they are more difficult, undoubtedly, and will, therefore, lead to better strength and muscle gains.

Knuckle push-ups can lead to a better understanding of how your body acts and feels and improve your training.

Additionally, you can still 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. I have been doing almost any push-up variation that can spring to anyone’s mind.

There are always some advantages and disadvantages associated with every type of push-up. And the same thing applies to knuckle push-ups.

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, something that we definitely do not need in our training routine.

When I hurt my wrist I was looking for alternative that will allow me to train my chest but not strain my wrist.

Although, overall, harder, knuckle push-ups are a lot more easy on the wrists. While doing them, your wrists are in a much more natural position, which will not place them under a lot of strain.

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 have progress both muscle and strength-wise, 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, which is harder.

Knuckle push-ups create a more demanding experience and require slightly more advanced techniques.

One of the best things about knuckle push-ups is that they will teach you how just a little change in the way you perform certain exercises can lead to a drastic change in the end results.

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.

And this 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 harder.

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 are more punch power and a tougher hand.

Knuckle Push-Ups Add Some Variety

Every now and then, it is a good thing to have some variety. Even by switching to knuckle push-ups, however small that change may seem at first can provide you with some benefits.

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

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 certain aspects that you need to consider first.

Weak Wrists

Knuckle push-ups are easy on your writs, and they are great for people that developed wrist pain on injuries.

But 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 conditioned their wrists yet 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 do safely 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. This makes their punches feel like a hammer. 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 have restricted range in motion in your fingers, or you can develop arthritis from all the unnatural stress on the knuckles.

As a result, you may end up having a hard time opening your hand 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 down the line. Admittedly you may need to do them for a decade before you start to see the negative results, but still, moderation is the key.

Don’t do them every day.

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 do them 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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