When trying to improve your health on a small budget, pushups can become a quick way to workout without having to invest in exercise equipment or a pricey gym membership. Many people believe that pushups are just an upper-body workout, targeting the arms and chest. The truth is, a pushup is a total body workout.
While the arms and chest provide the strength to raise and lower your body, your core, gluteus maximus and legs also get a workout while holding the plank position of a pushup. However, like any type of strength-training exercise, there is some risk that pushups can cause pain, especially if they're performed incorrectly.
Arms Sore After Pushups
If your arms are sore after pushups, this is normal. It is commonly caused by delayed-onset muscle soreness or DOMS. The mechanism behind DOMS is not fully understood, but it is believed that when you perform pushups, it causes tiny tears in the muscle fiber, which causes some inflammation and soreness. The soreness starts several hours after your workout and begins to dissipate after a couple of days.
Although this muscle soreness is uncomfortable, you can treat it at home with rest, light stretching and movement, and over-the-counter pain medications.
Other Causes of Pain
Pushups are a repetitive motion that can cause injury to the joints, especially the shoulder and wrists. Injury or pain may also be caused by performing the exercise incorrectly.
If you experience shoulder or wrist pain during pushups, stop the exercise immediately. You can try modifying the exercise to an easier version, but if pain persists or is severe, consult your doctor. While soreness is normal, chest pain after pushups may also indicate a more serious condition.
Continuing to exercise and do pushups with an injury like rotator cuff tendinitis may result in delayed healing times and long-term pain.
Proper Pushup Form
Performing pushups with proper form will reduce the chances of injury and pain from the exercise:
- At the top of the pushup, your hands should be placed directly under your shoulders with palms flat to the ground and fingers facing forward, advises Breaking Muscle.
- As you lower your body, your elbows should be kept at about a 45-degree angle. Flaring your elbows out to the side may feel easier, but it may also cause injury and pressure on the joints.
- Finally, your body should be straight throughout the pushup. Do not allow your back to arch or sag or your hips to raise as you perform the movement.
Pushups are a challenging exercise. If you cannot perform them with proper form, try an adaptation or fewer repetitions as you build your strength.
Pushup Variations and Adaptations
Wrist pain from pushups may be due to overextension of the wrist joint. You can perform the pushup without bending the wrist by placing two dumbbells on the ground directly under your shoulders and grasping them when performing the pushup.
If you do not have the strength to perform a regular pushup, try lowering your knees to the ground to make them easier. This will also decrease the chance of your arms being sore after pushups.
If this is still too challenging, start with a wall pushup. Wall pushups help build strength and also reduce the pressure on your joints and muscles.
To do a wall pushup, face the wall and place your palms on the wall at shoulder height and a shoulders-width distance apart. Keeping your torso and legs straight, bend your elbows to lower your chest to the wall, then straighten your arms to return to the original position.
- National Kidney Foundation: Understanding Muscle Soreness – How Much Is Too Much?
- PhisioWorks: DOMS - Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
- Silver Sneakers: What to Do If Pushups, Planks, and Other Exercises Hurt Your Wrists
- Breaking Muscle: Avoid These Push Up Mistakes to Protect Your Wrists
- Medical News Today: Which Muscles Do Pushups Work?
- Drugs.com: Rotator Cuff Injury Guide