Like the rest of the world this past spring (aka when the coronavirus pandemic began), I started experimenting with at-home workouts, taking advantage of the freedom and flexibility (and generous free trials) that so many online workouts offered.
I quickly realized that even with a yoga mat, my living room carpet simply didn’t offer the same protection or cushioning that a fitness studio floor might — and it wasn’t just your typical muscle soreness I was dealing with post-workout. My wrists, hands, and fingers quickly began feeling achy and sore during and after my workouts. Even doing a relaxing downward dog stretch became downright impossible without pain — not an ideal scenario for someone who relies on mat-based workouts nearly daily. (Related: Is Working Out When Sore a Bad Idea?)
After a little bit of research (and many failed attempts trying to modify the moves on my own), I stumbled upon a $16 tool that not only saved my wrists from pain but actually strengthened my entire workout routine: Redipo Push Up Bars (Buy It, $16, amazon.com). Basically, you grip the bars instead of placing your hands flat on the floor, allowing for a better range of motion and alleviating the stress on your wrists by absorbing some of your bodyweight as you move. (BTW, these push-up bars aren’t quite the same as parallette bars, though they’re somewhat similar.)
Buy It: Redipo Push Up Bars, $16, amazon.com
Video: You Can Do This 10-Move Arm Workout At Home—No Weights Required (Health.com)
These push-up bars take about 20 seconds to assemble, and they’re super lightweight and compact, so you can take them anywhere. The only drawback to this particular set is that they tend to slip when used directly on the carpet. But putting them on a yoga mat keeps them firmly in place. (Psst, this eco-friendly yoga mat can handle your sweatiest downward dog.)
The 500 five-star Amazon reviews echo my experiences. Shoppers love the push-up bars not only because they can ease wrist pain when doing floor workouts, but also because they actually help improve your range of motion for certain exercises, such as push-ups. In my experience, I went from tuckering out with tired wrists after a small handful of burpees, to being able to do them flawlessly for minutes at a time — ditto for planks, push-ups, and, of course, stretching in a down dog once it’s all over.
“These types of push-up bars are great as they allow you to perform a push-up or a dip with your wrists in a neutral position, also known as a straight wrist position,” says Grayson Wickham, P.T., D.P.T., C.S.C.S., founder of Movement Vault.
Basically, when you perform a standard push-up, plank, or another exercise in which your hands are flat on the ground supporting your bodyweight, your wrists are “maximally extended,” explains Wickham. “For a lot of people, supporting their bodyweight while their wrists are maximally extended can be painful,” which can lead to modifying with hands in fists to alleviate pain — often causing more pain and discomfort, particularly in the knuckles, he says. “The way around this is to use a push-up bar device that allows your wrists to remain in a neutral position, which is also your wrist’s strongest position,” he explains. (Scope out the best recovery tools for when your muscles are sore AF.)
Wondering why you have that wrist pain in the first place? Of course, a lot of factors could be at play, depending on your history of injuries (among other things), and it’s best to talk to your doc about it before making any changes in your fitness routine. But Dr. Wickham says the main reason is often “a lack of wrist mobility and stability due to not moving and using your wrists enough throughout your day.”
“Working at desks and computers is a significant factor that leads to non-mobile, tight, weak, painful wrists,” he explains. “This can get multiplied over months, years, and decades, leaving you with reduced-functioning, painful wrists.” (Related: What Is Carpal Tunnel, and Are Your Workouts to Blame?)
“Push-ups bars are also nice even if you don’t have pain, but want to add in different exercise variations you might not be able to [do] without [the push-up bars],” he adds.
Need somewhere to start? These push-up variations will help you finally master the move.