Why do planks and pushups cause wrist pain?

Why do planks and pushups cause wrist pain?

Are planks and pushups causing you wrist pain? It takes time to build strength in the wrists during mat work. At first, supporting your body weight may feel tiresome to the wrists. It may be a matter of a few pointers to prevent wrist pain during mat work, or possibly your wrist extension range of motion needs to improve before supporting your weight in this position. Please be advised that if you suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or have a past injury to the wrist that is causing pain, you may need to eliminate plank work on the hands completely and instead perform forearm plank or downward-facing dog on the forearms (dolphin pose). Take rests as needed or alternate forearms and hands until you feel no pain in the wrists. Please read the pointers below to help prevent pain in the wrists while building strength and flexibility at the same time. Remember, listen to your body!

    1. Make sure you are not on carpet or a thick foam mat. This will cause too much extension at the the wrist. Use a good yoga mat on a hard wood surface.


    1. Avoiding cupping of the palms or lifting of the fingers during planks and pushups. Press through the index finger,  thumb, and the palm of the hand to alleviate pressure. It is very common for the fingers to lift off the floor while the heel of the hand takes all of the force and this will cause pain.


    1. Keep the shoulder and wrist aligned over one another to avoid straining the shoulder joint and the wrist during the planks and pushups.


    1. If you are beginning mat work for the first time, take breaks as needed and stretch out the wrists in between exercises. You can alternate from forearm to hand for exercises. Set a goal of 4 reps on hands and 4 reps on forearms to build strength and learn the proper technique.


    1. Activate your muscles by connecting your mind to the muscles supporting your body and performing the exercises. For example, in side plank don’t fall into the arm, press away from the floor. Take the modifications to get the form correct and to get the most of the exercises. You will get more out of an exercise performed correctly in a modified version than performing the advanced version poorly.¬†Recruit not only the shoulders but the back, core, and biceps/triceps. Think of activating every muscle!


    1. Advanced exercisers should take the modifications sometimes as well to continually work on form in all positions. For example, your arms may be strong to hold you in side plank but you are having difficulty keeping the abdominals fully engaged (pushing the belly out during plank). Go back to the modified version to connect the naval to spine and once you can keep the abs zipped up, you can move into the full version of the plank exercise.


    1. Perform flexion/extension stretches for your wrists in addition to rotational movements (circle the hands).


  1. These pointers should help get you stronger on the mat, for your planks and pushups. Give yourself time to adapt and progress. Listen to your body. And, as noted above, if you have a previous injury or a condition that causes pain like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, you can still get the benefits of planks on the forearms. Go to free downloads to watch a demo on forearm side plank for form pointers.

Did this answer your questions about planks and pushups? I hope so! Tell us about your experience on our Facebook page, we want to hear from you!