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November 09, 2021 8 min read

EDIT: This was included in a previous email for everything that needs to be edited.



Forearm push ups can be good additions to all of your other chest workouts. If you bring in a few variations, forearm push ups can also help you sculpt bigger and more defined forearms.

Here is ashort video demonstrating the movement.


Below, we’ll give you some tips for how to do forearm push ups with the proper form.

Making Rapid Progress With Forearm Push Ups

Push ups offer a fundamental movement pattern that can also help mobilize your thoracic spine. It is extremely important to have enough general mobility before you attempt any kinds of new exercises. You never want to start doing any exercises that are beyond the range of motion of the muscles you are trying to train.

Push ups can sometimes work your forearms as long as you use the right technique. They are able to work the muscles of the forearm by contracting isometrically to keep your body in the right place during the entire exercise. However, you shouldn’t expect them to build much size in your forearms unless you try one of the variations that we’ll discuss later.

While push ups of most varieties might not build much in terms of forearm size, they can actually build lots of strength in and around your wrist area. This is one reason why push ups tend to be popular in martial arts exercises, especially in boxing. Many fighters have long believed that push ups, especially when done on the knuckles, build more punching power by strengthening the wrists.

Knuckle Push Ups and Massive Forearms 

The muscles in your forearms are mainly responsible for flexing, extending, and rotating the joints in your wrist. While knuckle push ups mostly work your chest, shoulders, and triceps, they also place additional stress on the wrist joints and this leads to a greater responsibility for all of your forearm muscles.

muscular man is doing push-ups during calisthenic workout on a street

While knuckle push ups can certainly be included in any forearm-specific training program, you will also need to include quite a few other exercises if you are really trying to build some massive muscles in your lower arms. But first, let’s take a look at some of the techniques you can use for doing knuckle push ups.

Performing Push Ups on your Knuckles 

Knuckle push ups are very similar to traditional push ups, except that you do them with a closed fist rather than with open hands. Here, we’ll describe the actions you can take to start completing some real knuckle push ups.

Place your closed fists on the floor at shoulder-width or slightly wider, with your palms facing each other. Rise up onto your knuckles and toes so your torso and thighs form a straight line. Bend your elbows to lower your body toward the floor, and then extend your arms again to return to the starting position and complete the repetition.

While knuckle push ups do work your forearm muscles a little, you will need to incorporate exercises that specifically target them to build significant size. In addition to isometric exercises like knuckle push ups, we recommend routinely performing three or four strength and conditioning sets of 12 to 18 reps of a selection of wrist curls, wrist extensions and wrist rotations while holding a barbell or dumbbells. 

Other Knuckle Pushup Considerations and Forearm Involvement 

Your forearm muscles are more heavily involved during those types of knuckle push ups than when you are doing traditional push ups. Your wrist flexors and wrist extensors isometrically contract while you complete the repetitions. The forearms work to keep your wrists in a stable position and prevent them from bending or even breaking. During traditional push ups, the forearm muscles don’t have the same function.

You need to already have enough forearm strength before you decide to incorporate knuckle push ups into your workouts. The exercise puts your wrists in a vulnerable position and if you don’t have the strength to control the movement, you could injure your joints. Also, always do knuckle push ups on a soft surface to reduce the amount of force placed on your knuckles. 

Pushing down into the floor on your knuckles can cause pain. Start with fewer reps and build up your tolerance gradually. This exercise really helps athletes develop the mental discipline needed to overcome pain. 

As you are beginning, you can perform knuckle push ups from the knees to allow your knuckles and forearms to adapt to the additional stress. Limit your reps at first and then gradually increase them as your forearms and knuckles get stronger. Doing push ups on your knuckles increases your wrist strength and again, it can be excellent for boxing conditioning. 

When doing this exercise, always keep your abdominals braced and your back straight. Letting your hips sag reduces the range of motion of the exercise because your pelvis contacts the floor before your chest does. Also, doing any type of push ups with an arched or rounded back may lead to back pain.

As for actual muscle mass, you won’t get great results from a push up because it is mostly a chest, tricep, and shoulder exercise. If you have good forearm genetics, you might get some minor lower arm gains while doing push ups. However, this development won’t really be because of the push ups. Your fitness diet and lifestyle will help bring out those forearm genetics that were already there before you started lifting. 

You will find other exercises like dips or pull-ups (chin-ups) to help you quickly strengthen your  triceps and pecs together by using 100 percent of your body weight, which isfar more than what you would ever lift during a floor press session of regular push ups or knuckle push ups. Even though they generally require you to lift more weight, many beginners find dips a little easier to do than even regular push ups.

How to Increase Forearm Activation During Push Ups 

As we just established, the regular push up position is not very good if you are looking for forearm development. But these five variations of technique can take your body through a different range of motion, really focus on your lower arms, and engage those muscles to work as hard as they can.

    Do Knuckle Push Ups 

      Doing push ups on your knuckles is a classic boxing exercise because it strengthens the wrists in their natural punching position. Your forearms have to contract hard isometrically to keep your wrists firm and straight. Although this variation might hurt your knuckles at first, it is ultimately better for the wrists than regular push ups because they stay in a neutral position. Also, try these on a gym mat at first and only attempt a few reps. Doing this demanding drill on a bare floor is very hard, but it will really help condition your knuckles. 

        Use Some Push Up Handles 

          Push up handles might feel unnatural if you are not used to working out with equipment. Holding onto the handles while you pump up your chest creates a burn in your forearms. This is because a lot of your body weight is going through the handles, and your wrists and forearms are actually keeping your body stable and in the correct direction (pointing straight down and not swaying from side to side). 

            Try Fingertip Push Ups 


              If you are new to weight training, definitely don’t try fingertip pushups for a long time. It is a very advanced movement and it requires some major wrist and forearm strength. Once you are strong enough to do this exercise, though, it is excellent for working the hands and fingers, which is where many of the forearm muscles actually insert into. 

                Vary the Position of your Hands 

                  study published in the February 2016 issue of theJournal of Physical Therapy Science found that the chest muscle activity was greater when push-ups were performed with the hands placed halfway inward from their normal position. Hands that are placed outward usually work the triceps more. Incline push ups are also a great way to vary the position of your hands and work different muscles.

                    Try Power Push Ups

                      Power push ups are a plyometric exercise that allow you to build greater strength, power, and definition in your upper body. From a standard push up position, lower your body and then quickly push yourself upwards, allowing your palms to leave the ground. Fall back to the ground into a push up decline before quickly pushing upward again. Although these stimulate your whole upper body, they add extra stimulation to your forearm muscles because they require greater stabilization and impact resistance from these muscles.

                      So, push up variations do work the forearms but they don't work them particularly well unless you do them on handles or on your knuckles. Overall, doing different types of pushups for forearms in terms of strength is a great idea. But to increase the muscle mass of your lower arms, you will also need to include some kind of grip work because that is what the forearm muscles are actually made to do—to pick up and release objects.

                      How Often Should You Do Forearm Push Ups? 

                      Beginners (with a year or less of training) should usually aim for about 12 weekly sets. A novice trainee (with two to four years of training) can increase the volume of sets to 16 per week, and veterans (four or more years of training) may be able to get in up to 20 weekly sets. Because you are also working your chest with forearm push ups and it is one of the larger muscles in the upper body, you can train it a little more often than some of your other muscle groups. 

                      However, your chest training frequency also depends on your personal workout split. If you are a bodybuilder who only chest trains once a week with a bench press, then you might find 20 HIIT sets to be a little bit too much for a single session. However, if you follow a full-body split, six sets of chest per session three times per week will allow you to do 18 sets in total but with less fatigue per workout.

                      Powerlifters, who often need to focus on straight up maximum chest strength, may decide to do one low-rep, strength-focused session and then one higher rep, hypertrophy-focused workout that often includes deadlifts or squats.

                      For those athletes, 20 sets is not too hard to reach in their strength training workout, but their muscles will generally need a long time to recover properly and avoid lower back pain. Recovery time is often at least 48 hours and up to 72 hours.

                      If you are training for general health and strength, then doing these types of push ups about twice a week will elicit solid results. It is quite common to pair your chest with your triceps and the other muscles of your upper arms because those muscles all work together in many other types of lifts. You might also decide to train your entire upper body on one day (chest day) and then your lower body (leg day) on another day.

                      Getting Some Real Results

                      All of these exercises are good ways to build a bigger chest, and some of them can be used for bigger forearms, biceps, and triceps. All of them can be performedwith a range of  reps and sets to help you produce rapid muscle and strength gains.

                      Always warm up properly before beginning your overall workout routine to reduce the risk of injury. Always include a comprehensive overall nutrition plan and a lot of rest in your overall workout program. Your actual results will greatly depend on these few factors, and also on how well you are able to recover after working out.