The standard push-up is a very effective movement for building muscle and strength that is often overlooked by intermediate and advanced lifters. Past the beginner stage, conventional push-ups by themselves just aren’t difficult enough to really help build strength or muscle, which is too bad because mechanically speaking, it’s a fantastic movement. Instead of bench press where your back and scapula are smashed against a bench and kept from moving, the push up allows good movement for a safer and more mechanically correct movement. So how can a lifter incorporate Push-Ups into their routine in a way that maximizes chest activation and muscle growth?

Enter the Hand Release Push-Up. The movement has actually been around for a long time, but has recently gained popularity through CrossFit, I knew it had to be good for something. They needed a way to standardize the push-up movement and prevent cheating, I’d love to see a kipping push-up… How does one judge push-up depth when dozens of reps are supposed to be done in 30 seconds? You make each push-up start and end with the body (chest, abdomen and quads) resting on the floor and the hands completely off it. Range of motion issue solved. For the most part anyway. You can raise the chest first, then the hips and make the exercise much less effective for building muscle. So be disciplined and keep your hips up.

A proper hand release push-up will give you a much stronger pectoral contraction than a regular push-up.

How to Do A Hand Release Push-Up

  1. Lie face down on the floor with your head neutral. Keep the lower half of your chest, abdomen, pelvis, and quads touching the floor. Your ankles should be flexed so that your toes are touching the floor.
  2. Create tension in the abs, glutes, and quads.
  3. Keep everything tensed, take your hands off the floor, and pull your shoulders back.
  4. Bring your hands back down to the floor and push yourself up.
  5. Push until your arms are fully extended and locked.
  6. Slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position.

Why Hand Release Push-Ups are Better at Building Muscle

  • Each rep starts from a “dead” position which forces a much stronger initial contraction to get things moving.
  • They’ll give you roughly 10% more range of motion than regular push-ups.
  • The hand release action opens your chest into position before pushing.
  • They improve core rigidity.
  • They help with bench press mechanics. They train you to set your back (retract the scapula, keep the back tight, raise the chest) prior to pressing.