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November 09, 2021 7 min read

Mobility is an often overlooked part of exercise, but it can be essential for movement and overall function. If you're lacking mobility, you can put yourself at a greater risk of an injury and limit your potential in the gym.

Shoulder mobility especially is important for pain-free movement of the arms and upper body.

When we think of upper body mobility, we might first think of arm circles. Although these can be beneficial, forearm push-ups are a less popular but great movement for strength and movement. Forearm push-ups can be good additions to your workouts for shoulder, scapular, and chest mobility. 

How to Do Forearm Push-ups 

  • Start in a low plank position with your forearms on the ground and back flat.
  • Lower your body to the ground by retracting your shoulder blades, making sure your body stays in a straight and stable position.  
  • Just like a standard push-up, when your chest touches the floor, press back up to the starting position. 

Why are Push-ups Important?

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 below.

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.

Forearm push-ups in particular can help improve upper body mobility and offer strength work for your chest.

Benefits of Forearm Push-ups

Despite the name, forearm push-ups don’t necessarily target your forearms, rather it refers to the position.

Like a conventional push-up, the forearm push-up can help strengthen your chest and shoulders to a certain degree, but they’re mostly beneficial for upper body mobility and core strength.

Because of the positioning, you may not get as much of a stretch in your pecs like you would doing push-ups on your palms, but you’re still going to feel the working happening in your chest muscles. 

In order to lower yourself to the ground, your shoulder blades retract, which is a movement you perform everyday like opening a door. Push-ups are a functional movement because they mimic movements you do outside the gym, helping to improve your quality of life.   

Why is Mobility Important?

Mobility refers to any kind of movement done with relative ease and no pain. For example, if you reach up to the top shelf to grab your breakfast cereal and your shoulder hurts, it may be a sign that you lack mobility in that area.

Something as simple as walking can be more difficult without good mobility, especially as you age.  

In fact, 31% of adults 65 and older report having difficultly walking just three blocks.  

Exercise in general can help improve mobility, but making sure you're stretching and implementing dynamic warm-up or cool down exercises can help keep you moving.  

If regular push-ups are just fine, then why do we need forearm push-ups? Conventional push-ups can help build strong strength and mobility in your chest and shoulders, but due to the positioning of forearm push-ups, you get more scapular retraction. 

This can help build the muscles, strength, and mobility in your upper back, which is important for movement, posture, and exercise performance.

Poor mobility can put you at a higher risk for injury, poor performance, and limited range of motion. Skipping mobility work before or after your workout can be tempting because it's not as fun as throwing a barbell around, but the more you practice movement, the more mobile you can become.  

Forearm Push-up Variations 

The obvious one here is the conventional push-up, but there are other variations you can try for different intensity and muscle engagement. 

Knuckle Push-Ups  

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

    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.

    How to do Knuckle Push-ups:

    • Set yourself in a regular push-up position.
    • Instead of planting your palms on the ground, ball your hands into a fist and put your knuckles on the ground.
    • Perform a push-up like you normally would.  

      Use 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, you may not want to 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. 

            How to do Fingertip Push-ups:

            • Set yourself in a regular push-up position.
            • Instead of keeping your palms flat, lift your palms off the ground but keep your fingertips there.
            • Push up off the ground using the strength from your fingers and upper body.
            • Return to the starting position. 

              Vary the Position of your Hands 

                The chest muscle activity can be 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. 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.

                    How to do Power Push-ups:

                    • From a standard push up position, lower your body
                    • 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.

                    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 can 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 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 performed with 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. Recovery days and the right amount of carbs, fat, and protein are what will help get you results. If you need more protein in your life, try our Whey-PRO for muscle growth. 

                    Remember that mobility work is just as important as your regular workout routine, rest, and nutrition.

                    Being able to move freely without pain can help you live a better life in and outside the gym. 

                    Forearm push-ups may not be as popular as some of its cousins, but they can be beneficial by just adding them in a couple times a week.