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.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.