What angle do the forearms have while going down at push ups?

I was looking how to make push ups correctly and I find differences in the forearm position. See the following picture from an instruction video where the forearms are 90 degrees to the floor:

90 degrees

But often the angle of the forearm is much steeper as in this picture:


This completely changes the movement. In the second version with the steeper angle the shoulder are exactly above the hands, while in the first version with 90 degrees a bigger part of the body is higher than the hands. I tried both variations and the feeling is quite different.

Are that two valid variations of push ups? Actually I think this is not the case because I didn't find any source distinguishing those variants. So is one version wrong?

I feel like that the version with the steeper angle could be bad for the elbows but I am not sure. Any help appreciated.

1 Answer 1


Valid according to who?

There is no standard outlining what movement patterns are right/valid or wrong/invalid. Unless, of course, you are competing in a sport such as Weightlifting or Powerlifting with strict standards for the competition movements. I’m not aware of competitive pushups, but that might be a thing.

There is no right and wrong, there is only different.

So you’ve found two variations of the push up: neither is correct, they are just different movements. A push-up variation with a greater degree of elbow flexion (the second mentioned in the question) will require more use of the triceps for completing the rep. A variation that keeps the forearms perpendicular to the floor will use less triceps and more chest. The movements are just different, and you should select one based on the fitness adaptations you are trying to train. Do you want to train your triceps harder with your push-up? Do the narrower hand position with greater elbow flexion.

Neither movement is more or less injurious.

Neither of these push-up variations is any more or less safe than the other. However, because they are different movement patterns, the training dose of each may need to be different. Because the narrower hand position puts more training stress on the triceps, you may be at greater risk of overtraining the triceps and connective tissues of the elbow joint if you don’t account for this in your training. You can likely do a higher volume of training with a wider hand position because there is less acute stress on the triceps and elbow joint than with a narrower hand position.

  • After doing quite a few push ups in the meantime I must say that the version where the elbow is bent to less than 90 degree (lower version in my question) make trouble to my elbow joint. There is some cracking sound and if I keep doing the elbow hurts a little. I tried so many adaptions but no matter what I do as soon as I bent my elbow less than around 90 degree (as in the lower version) there is this cracking sound. So I prefer the other version where angle is 90 degrees or more. This seems to put less pressure on the ellbow. Thus, for me the lower version turned out to be more injurious.
    – LulY
    Commented Apr 30 at 6:58
  • @LulY The lower version combined with the total work you did turned out to be more injurious. Don’t blame the movement, blame the dose.
    – Thomas Markov
    Commented Apr 30 at 8:22
  • I've got pretty much the same dose of both variations. Doses are equal but the outcome is different - only the lower version makes problems. So the lower versions is more likely to make problems to the elbow.
    – LulY
    Commented Apr 30 at 8:48
  • And it may be of interest to you that the problem of the lower version can be generalized: Also other exercises where the elbow must be bent to less than 90 degrees make this cracking sound in my elbow. Take triceps overhaeds, for example. Google search for [elbow "popping" "triceps" "kickbacks"] gives 11k results but for [elbow "popping" "triceps" "overhead"] there are 54k results - and in overhead the elbow is bent further than in kackbacks. After reading on this topic I noticed I am not alone experiencing those symptoms when the elbow is bent to less than around 90 degrees.
    – LulY
    Commented Apr 30 at 8:59
  • @LulY Here’s a helpful article on crepitus: barbellmedicine.com/blog/crepitus-expectations-vs-reality/….
    – Thomas Markov
    Commented Apr 30 at 10:48

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