Push-Up Alternatives Needed
April 23, 2012 10:14 AM   Subscribe

I like doing push-ups. They are great for my upper back and upper body strength, and for opening the collar bone area. The only problem is that push-ups aggravate a ganglion cyst in my wrist. This is even when I use fancy push-up handles. Is there an exercise that does not put pressure on my wrists that has the same benefits?
posted by Atrahasis to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Do the push-ups bother you every time you do them?

I have that issue as well, and when the cysts are bothering me I just don't do push-ups and do planks instead.
posted by fromageball at 10:30 AM on April 23, 2012

Does this hurt when you are putting your weight on your wrist, or also when you are gripping something? I ask because if you can get to a gym, a Pec Dec machine focuses on similar muscles, but it's a different motion, especially in your hands/wrist. Some machines will even let you bear some of the weight along the length of your forearm.
posted by Patbon at 10:30 AM on April 23, 2012

One option that may work for your wrist: place hand weights on the floor under your shoulders and hold onto them while doing the push-ups (this will keep your wrist straight rather than bent back). You can alternate bending one elbow at a time and lifting the weight to touch your shoulder between push-ups.
posted by dreamphone at 10:32 AM on April 23, 2012

This is probably something obvious enough that you've tried and rejected, but in case: Do knuckle pushups cause the same problem?
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 10:54 AM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Do your push-up with the handles parallel to one another--your palms facing one another, like the way that male gymnasts grip parallel bars.

This will place the wrist, elbow, and shoulder in a straight line. To maintain this line, make sure you keep your elbows tight into your sides when going up and down.

Also, push-ups don't work your back muscles. They work the pectorals (chest), deltoids (shoulder), and triceps (back of upper arm). If you want to work your back at home, do pull-ups.
posted by BadgerDoctor at 12:07 PM on April 23, 2012

I'm not sure which muscles you are trying to work (as BadgerDoctor pointed out). But I believe push-ups are primarily for the pectorals, which are also worked by bench presses. Push-ups hurt my wrists, so I don't do them regularly. Bench presses don't hurt my wrist because the wrist is straight, not bent, so I do bench press instead. If you miss the ab workout you get from the pushup position, planks will take care of that for you without bothering your wrists.
posted by Tehhund at 1:29 PM on April 23, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far. I do push-ups for my posture rather than to build muscle, so any exercises that push the chest forward and straighten the upper back are especially welcome.
posted by Atrahasis at 1:42 PM on April 23, 2012

Not to be Doctor Obvious, but how about getting that ganglion removed?
posted by karlos at 1:47 PM on April 23, 2012

Response by poster: Karlos - That would be my first option. I had surgery to remove it three years ago, and it came back, a little smaller, in the same spot. Not sure I want to do surgery again, especially since it's the same area.
posted by Atrahasis at 3:13 PM on April 23, 2012

I had a ganglion cyst, removed it with surgery, and had weak wrists years later (slacked after the mandated PT). The best thing I've done for them was start (slowly!) with Convict Conditioning. The pushup progression did wonders to rehab my wrists.

It seems silly - you start out doing inclined presses against the wall - but slowly and with great concentration on posture and muscle activation. After about two weeks on just the first "rung" of that progression, I noticed a significant improvement in my wrists.

Also check out Scapular Wall Slides.
posted by bookdragoness at 4:17 PM on April 23, 2012

Further vote for knuckle pushups. I get ganglion cysts in my wrists, any hand flat on floor activity annoys them (push ups, yoga downward dog etc) but knuckle push ups do not. Use the knuckles of the first and second finger.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 5:19 PM on April 23, 2012

Will it bother your wrists if you go in the other direction? I've recently starting using the TRX system at my gym, and this inverted row works a lot of the same muscles as a pushup with no pressure or flex in the wrist. I'm sure they charge a fancy price for this equipment, but it's just a web strap with handles, so pretty hackable.
posted by apparently at 6:07 PM on April 23, 2012

IANHS (I am not your hand surgeon), but if you've had one removed and you are still having pain years later, you should have it looked at again. Sometimes a recurrence is quite obvious just by looking and touching it, but sometimes what you are feeling is just scar tissue following the excision. I have had patients that had overzealous excisions (not by me) that actually ended up with scapholunate instability which was the source of their pain. Don't blow it off until you are sure it is just a recurrent ganglion. And yes to the knuckle pushups, as mentioned by a few upthread.
posted by karlos at 7:23 PM on April 23, 2012

Try the dumbbell bench press. Your wrists are supposed to be flat, not flexed (as Tehhund mentioned), which should help a lot. Regular bench press is probably also fine, but personally I like DBs better because my elbow is a bit fucked up and the extra degrees of freedom seem to help.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:05 PM on April 23, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you all! I really appreciate all your suggestions. I will try all the different exercises to see what works best.

Karlos - you probably are not my hand surgeon, but in case you were, hi! Thanks for your thoughts. I had zero pain or mobility issues for over two years, but then got a small, painful, waxing/waning bump in place of the old cyst. So, the cyst probably is back, but if it gets any worse, will have it looked at thanks to your advice.
posted by Atrahasis at 9:46 AM on April 25, 2012

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