This question is primarily addressed to those who have done knuckle pushups consistently for several years.

I've been doing 100+ knuckle pushups for about two years everyday, and I've developed fingernail problems where the cuticle (nail folds) and nail bed have disconnected from the nails. Is there a certain way to hold your fist or distribute your weight to avoid this type of problem and to fix it? I do my pushups on the first two knuckles on top of a firm, thick piece of rubber. After I'm done, I can see the imprint of my fingers and nails on the palm of my hand. Thanks for any help.

  • Why are you so sure that this is caused by knuckle pushups? Depending on the seriousness you might want to see a professional (eg a manicurist) who can give you advice.
    – Baarn
    Jul 11, 2013 at 9:24
  • I'd like to see the reason for the knuckle pushups if you have one included in the question.
    – JohnP
    Jul 11, 2013 at 14:43

4 Answers 4


I assume you are doing this to avoid strain on your wrists rather than to toughen up your hands for bare-knuckle boxing?

One option is to use push up "bars" or "handles" instead of your knuckles. This would have the additional benefit of getting you another 4" or so off the floor and increasing your possible range of motion. You can probably get a pair for $20 or so (cheaper than a manicure). Alternatively, you could try holding something in each hand which is roughly the size of a bar, e.g., a magic marker, to get your nails out of your palm. Gloves are another option.


My yoga instructor told me to fold my fingers over my hand with the four fingers reaching towards my wrist and my thumb goes up against the side of my pointer finger so the pad of my thumb is flat with the topside of my knuckles. This provides stability in the wristt and no injury to the fingers or nails. I sprained my wrist really bad 6 months ago and have had to switch my pushups/mountain climbers/planks, etc to doing them this way. My wrist feels good when doing them this way although it is harder on my opinion. Better than stressing my injury though.


Rest it until it heals. Then, make sure you cut your nails as much as you can (but I guess you probably did that already). If that didn't help - everyone has different nails and for some it might still 'bite' - shifting your weight forward towards the first knuckle might help.


I do the same pushups (although you have me beat on reps!) for both reasons cited:

  1. They're a lot easier on my wrists: there's no twisting, my first two knuckles carry the weight right up the radius.
  2. It's good training for all sorts of hand techniques: punching, back fist, blocking, etc. If this is not your thing, please return to point 1.

My suggestion would be to get a decent set of fingerless Taekwondo sparring gloves and try the pushups while wearing those. These will do a few things:

  1. It gives your knuckles yet more support and / or may replace your rubber pad.
  2. Depending on the gloves, there may be sufficient material / padding in the gripping area for your fingers to wrap around. It shows up in some pictures as a padded crossbar right where the fingers join the palm. This may reduce your tendency to stab yourself with your own fingernails.
  3. Some gloves have padding or webbing across the area where the fingernails naturally hit the plam.

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