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Keep your wrists in a locked position during knuckle pushups.
The muscles in your forearms are responsible for flexing, extending and rotating your wrist joints. While knuckle pushups primarily work your chest, shoulders and triceps, they also place additional stress on the wrists and thus force a greater responsibility on the forearm muscles. While the exercise can be included in a forearm-specific training program, you'll need to include other exercises if you're interested in building massive muscles in your lower arms.
Performing Pushups on your Knuckles
Knuckle pushups are similar to traditional pushups, except you perform them with a closed fist rather than open hands. Set your closed fists on the floor at shoulder-width or slightly wider, with your palms facing each other. Rise up onto your knuckles and toes so your torso and thighs create a straight line. Bend your elbows to lower your body toward the floor, then extend your arms again to return to the starting position and complete the rep.
Your forearm muscles are more heavily involved during knuckle pushups than traditional pushups. Your wrist flexors and wrist extensors isometrically contract while you complete repetitions. The forearms work to keep your wrists in a stable position and prevent them from collapsing. During traditional pushups, the forearm muscles don't have to work in the same manner.
Building Forearm Muscles
While knuckle pushups do work a collection of forearm muscles, you'll need to incorporate exercises that specifically target them to build significant size. In addition to isometric exercises like knuckle pushups, strength and conditioning professional Jason Ferruggia recommends routinely performing three or four sets of 10 to 20 reps of an array of wrist curls, wrist extensions and wrist rotations while holding a barbell or dumbbells.
Knuckle Pushup Considerations
You should already possess forearm strength before incorporating knuckle pushups into your workouts. The exercise places your wrists in a vulnerable position and if you don't have the strength to control movement at the wrists, you could injure your joints. In addition, perform knuckle pushups on a soft surface to reduce the force placed on your knuckles. When starting out, you can perform knuckle pushups from the knees to allow your knuckles and forearms to adapt to the additional stress. Limit your reps, and gradually increase them as your forearms and knuckles get stronger.