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Push-ups are a bodyweight exercise that build strength and muscle in the upper body, but they can cause wrist pain when performed at a high volume. One way to alleviate this is to use push-up handles, which also offer many other benefits.
Is it better to do push-ups with handles? For people with a history of wrist injuries or anyone else who suffers from wrist pain when doing push-ups, doing push-ups on handles is better because it reduces pressure on the wrists. It also increases the range of motion and works more of your chest than regular push-ups.
While push-up handles can be a great tool to have in your fitness arsenal, they have their drawbacks, and they’re not ideal for everyone. To help you decide if you can benefit from using push-up bars, I’ll discuss the following in this article:
- The muscles worked when doing push-ups on handles
- The benefits of doing push-ups with handles
- The drawbacks of doing push-ups with handles
- Whether you should do push-ups on handles or regular push-ups
Push-Ups With Handles: Muscles Worked
Doing push-ups on handles works many of the same muscles as regular push-ups, including:
- Anterior deltoids
The primary muscles involved when doing push-ups on handles are the pecs and the triceps.
The pecs aid in shoulder flexion and allow you to push your arms forward while the triceps aid in elbow flexion and allow you to straighten your arms. The anterior deltoids at the front of the shoulder support the pectoralis major during pushing movements.
While push-ups on handles are primarily an upper-body exercise, your core and legs are also used to some extent. Your core helps prevent your body from twisting while your quads help to keep your legs in line and your feet stable on the ground.
8 Benefits To Doing Push-Ups With Handles
1. It Puts Less Pressure on Your Wrists
Wrist pain is a common complaint of people who do a lot of push-ups. Many people will do push-ups with their hands in fists to avoid wrist pain, but that can be uncomfortable on the knuckles.
Push-up handles alleviate both of these issues by keeping your shoulders and arms in better alignment, which is a more comfortable position for your wrists, and preventing you from having to put your knuckles on the floor.
My favorite push-up handles are the ones from Perfect Fitness, which rotate in order to provide your wrist with the most comfortable position.
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2. It Works Your Chest More Than Regular Push-Ups
When you do push-ups on handles, your chest has further to travel to touch the ground. This increased range of motion engages even more of your pecs than regular push-ups.
3. If Regular Push-Ups Are Too Easy for You, the Handles Add an Extra Challenge
If you’re already proficient with push-ups and find regular push-ups too easy, doing them on handles can make them more challenging. The handles allow for greater muscle engagement and give your body a further distance to travel, which makes the push-ups more difficult to perform.
4. You Can Get Handles With Different Thicknesses To Train Different Muscle Groups
Push-up handles are available in a variety of thicknesses, and different thicknesses can target your muscles in different ways.
According to a 2015 research study, push-up handles at 0%, 50%, 75%, and 100% thickness of each participant’s hand size resulted in different muscle recruitment patterns in the deltoids, serratus anterior, pecs, and infraspinatus. The greatest results were seen with push-up bars at 50% and 75% thickness.
5. You Can Also Use Low Parallettes, Which Are a Versatile Tool To Add to a Home Gym Collection
Instead of using push-up handles, many people use low parallettes (a type of portable dip bar). The parallettes offer all of the same benefits of doing push-ups on handles with the added advantage that you can use them for dips, deficit handstand push-ups, L-sits, and other bodyweight exercises.
Here is an example of a parallette bar from JFIT:
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6. Push-Up Handles Strengthen Your Grip
When you do push-ups with your palms flat on the ground, there’s no way for you to train your grip because your hands aren’t holding onto anything. But when your hands are gripping push-up bars, it challenges your grip more and can help increase your forearm strength.
7. You Can Use One Handle at a Time To Do Staggered Push-Ups
Elevating one hand on a push-up handle and leaving the other hand on the floor works more of your core and further challenges the triceps, shoulders, and pecs on the working side.
It can also help you improve weaknesses in your non-dominant side and work towards a one-arm push-up.
8. Push-Up Handles Can Keep Your Hands From Slipping on the Floor
Depending on what kind of surface you do push-ups on, your hands can slip when they get sweaty. Many push-up bars have non-slip surfaces on the bottom and foam padding on the handles, so you don’t have to worry about your hands giving out from underneath you.
4 Cons To Doing Push-Ups With Handles
1. Doing Push-Ups on Handles Puts More Strain on Your Shoulders
While the increased range of motion is good for building strength and muscle mass in your chest, it puts your shoulders in a more compromised position. People with previous shoulder injuries or inadequate shoulder strength may experience discomfort when doing push-ups on handles.
2. You Can’t Do Plyometric Push-Ups on Them
Plyometric (or clapping) push-ups are a great way to build explosiveness in the upper body, but it’s not recommended to do them on handles. It’s harder to generate power from the handles to get your body high enough in the air, and it can be difficult to regrip the handles when your body is descending quickly.
3. They May Not Be More Effective Than Regular Push-Ups for Developing Muscular Endurance and Hypertrophy
Some research studies suggest that push-up bars — specifically a brand of push-up bars called the Perfect Pushup — aren’t significantly better at increasing muscular endurance and hypertrophy in the upper body.
In a study published by the Missouri Journal of Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, researchers found that the chest circumferences, number of push-ups performed, lean body mass, and cross-sectional areas of the arm were all similar between the subjects who did regular push-ups and those who did push-ups on the Perfect Pushup bars.
4. You May Not Be Able To Do As Many Reps
Push-ups on handles are more difficult due to the increased range of motion and the longer distance your chest has to travel to reach the ground. As such, you may find that you fatigue sooner than when you do regular push-ups, which makes it more difficult to accumulate a lot of volume.
Push-Ups With Handles vs Regular Push-Ups: Which Should You Do?
Do Push-Ups With Handles If
- You do a lot of push-ups and want to give your wrists a break.
- You want to make push-ups more challenging.
- You have poor wrist mobility.
Do Regular Push-Ups If
- You have a history of shoulder injuries.
- You’re trying to increase your muscular endurance.
Do Both If
- You want to add more push-up variations to your training.
- You want to strengthen your wrists without subjecting them to overuse.
Push-up handles are a versatile, beneficial tool to add to your training regimen. They work the triceps, pecs, and anterior deltoids as well as the core and quads to a lesser extent.
There are some drawbacks to using push-up bars such as increased strain on your shoulders. But they can also alleviate wrist pain, work your chest more, offer more of a challenge for people who are already proficient with push-ups, and strengthen your grip.
Additional Push Up Resources
- Why Do I Feel Push Ups In My Shoulders? (4 Reasons)
- Is It Better To Do Push-Ups Fast or Slow?
- Do Push-Ups Help Bench Press? (Yes, Here’s How)
- Is It Better To Do Push-Ups In Sets Or All At Once?
- Why Do Your Lats Get Sore After Push-Ups? (4 Reasons)
- Dips vs Push Ups: Pros, Cons, Which Is Better?
- Diamond Push Up: How To, Benefits, Muscles Worked
- 12 Best Bodyweight Tricep Exercises (At Home & No Equipment)
About The Author
Amanda is a writer and editor in the fitness and nutrition industries. Growing up in a family that loved sports, she learned the importance of staying active from a young age. She started CrossFit in 2015, which led to her interest in powerlifting and weightlifting. She's passionate about helping women overcome their fear of lifting weights and teaching them how to fuel their bodies properly. When she's not training in her garage gym or working, you can find her drinking coffee, walking her dog, or indulging in one too many pieces of chocolate.