Expert Answers: 4 Exercises for Pain-Free Pushups

Learn how to fix wrist and shoulder pain when performing a pushup.


Wrist and shoulder pain during pushups have different causes and cures.

Wrist pain often indicates a mobility issue, says Molly Galbraith, CSCS, cofounder of Girls Gone Strong. She suggests the following warm-up moves to support your wrists:

  • Forearm Foam-Roll — Kneel on the floor and, using a foam roller, roll your forearms from elbows to wrists using steady, even pressure. Roll the front, back, and sides, focusing on areas that are especially tight.
  • Wrist Stretches — Extend one arm straight out in front of you, palm facing forward. Use your other hand to gently pull the fingers toward your body. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat with your wrist bent so your palm faces toward you. Perform on both sides.

Shoulder pain is a matter of hand and elbow positioning, says Galbraith. When your hands and elbows are placed too close together or too far apart, it strains the shoulder joint. The ideal positioning is for elbows to track 35 to 45 degrees away from your body. “If you were looking at your body from an aerial view, your body and elbows would form an arrow,” Galbraith says.

She recommends two modifications to make the pushup easier while practicing proper form:

  • Hands-Elevated Pushup — Elevate your hands on a box, bench, step, or bar in a Smith machine.
  • Band-Assisted Pushup —Secure a resistance band to an anchor above you so it forms a loop. Step into the loop, then get into a plank position and perform a pushup. The thicker the band, the easier the pushup will be.

is a Minnesota-based health-and-fitness writer.

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