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Hand Release Push Up: Videos & Variations

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Want to know how to do a hand release push up? Of course you do! 

This is a brilliant twist on a classic exercise with all of the muscle building benefits for your upper body, and some benefits unique to hand release push ups.

Below is a full guide to this exercise, complete with a video tutorial, advice on getting the correct form, and two brilliant variations that you need to try.

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How To Do A Hand Release Push Up

Setup: To set up for this exercise you will need plenty of space and you may want to grab an exercise or yoga mat since you will be working on the floor. 

If you’re using shared equipment in the gym be sure to clean it before and after use!

Starting Position:

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  • Set out your exercise mat and then get onto the floor in a plank position.
  • With your legs stretched out behind you, make sure that your feet are a hip-width apart and your weight is placed up on your toes.
  • Your arms should be extended straight out in front of you, with your hands directly under your shoulders and your palms positioned so that your fingers are facing forward.
  • Engage your core and make sure that your body forms a straight line from your head all the way to your heels.

Execution:

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  • To execute the hand release push up, start by bending your arms to lower your body towards the ground.
  • Lower yourself completely to the ground so that your chest is on the exercise mat.
  • At this point, release your arms and pull them upwards whilst squeezing your shoulder blades together. 
  • Place your hands back on the exercise mat and then drive your weight through your palms to push yourself back up.
  • Extend your arms until you return to the starting position and that is one rep done!

Hand Release Push Up Muscles Worked

Primary Movers: Pectoralis Major (chest).

Secondary Movers: Deltoids, Triceps, Trapezius, and Core muscles.

Common Mistakes Made With Hands Off Push Ups

Hand release push-ups common mistakes graphic

Now that you know exactly how to do a hand release push up (also referred to as hands off push ups), there are a couple of other things that you should know!

So before we go on to discuss all of the brilliant things about this exercise, we thought that we would quickly cover some common mistakes that a lot of people make with this exercise and explain exactly how you can avoid them.

Looking for more chest exercises? We think you'll love our guide to the landmine press.

Keep Your Form

When performing a set of hand release push ups, it’s really important that you keep the correct form throughout every rep and every set!

All too often you will see peoples form slip as they progress further into their set. 

Usually this will be losing that straight line from your head to your heels, either because they fail to engage their core or because they stop squeezing their glutes to prevent their hips from sagging.

Making this mistake will not only take away from the benefits of hand release push ups, but it will also add an unnecessary strain on your erector spinae (the muscles in your lower back).

Suffering with pain in your lower back? These are the best foam rollers to try

Don’t Rush The Exercise

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Another mistake that we see repeatedly with the hands off push ups is people flying through their set rather than performing this exercise in a controlled manner.

If you’re thinking that this is an easy exercise, then you are almost definitely making this mistake!

By lowering yourself to the ground too quickly, you take away a lot of the effect that this push movement has for working your chest, shoulders, and upper arms because you are not holding your bodyweight for as long as you should be.

This makes the exercise seem a lot easier than it should be but that isn’t a good thing!

If you don’t feel the burn in your upper body, you aren’t going to get the hand release push up benefits!

Avoid Locking Your Elbows

One final thing to absolutely avoid with this exercise is locking out your elbows at the top of the movement.

Whether you’re in the starting position, or you’ve just pushed yourself back up from a rep, you should never fully lock out your elbows.

Ignoring our advice on this could cause damage to joints and over time, this could lead to an injury.

Benefits Of Hand Release Push Ups 

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Very soon, we’ve shared two great alternatives to this exercise so that you can switch up your upper body routine, or try out all three together as part of a superset workout.

Wanting to try this exercise at home? Check out the OriGym guide to planning a great home workout.

Forces You To Do The Full Rep

Probably our favourite out of all the hand release push ups benefits is that this exercise forces you to do the full press up rep.

Because hands off push ups require you to take your hands off the ground (hence the name!), there is no way of getting out of lowering your body completely to the ground.

This means that unlike with a regular press up, where a lot of people put less and less effort in as the workout goes on, it's pretty much impossible to cheat a hand release press up.

This forces you to do the full rep, giving you a better range of motion, meaning that you truly get the most out of this exercise.

A Push & Pull Exercise 

Hands off push ups benefits

Whilst a classic push up is a push exercise (its name is a big giveaway!), taking your hands off the ground and pulling your arms back means that this is a pull exercise, too!

For this reason, one unique benefit of this exercise is that your trapezius and deltoids are really involved in the hand release press up muscles worked.

Push & pull exercises are great because they benefit your anterior and posterior, helping maintain a healthy muscle balance.

This in itself has both aesthetic benefits and advantages for functionality, too. 

All too often people focus their exercise plan around building their mirror muscles (chest, biceps, abs) so that they can look good, but this actually causes muscle imbalance and increases the chance that you’ll injure yourself when performing compound exercises.

Another great pull and push exercise is the press up row! Want to learn how to do this exericse? You can find our full guide to press up rows here.

It's Popular In CrossFit

If you don’t want to take our word that hand release push ups are a brilliant exercise, the fact that this is a really popular exercise among Crossfitters should speak for itself.

CrossFit is known for being a high-intensity type of training made up of a variety of plyometric and explosive exercises, so you know that any exercise approved by Crossfitters is going to get you some serious results.

Crossfitters love this exercise because taking your hands off the floor removes all of the momentum from the exercise, forcing your arms to exert the effort to regenerate momentum every time you push yourself back up off the floor. 

As a result of this, hand release push ups work your upper body even more than the original exercise.

Already consider yourself a bit of a pro when it comes to CrossFit? You’ll love our guide to getting better at CrossFit. 

Hand Release Push Up: Two Variations You Need To Try!

Now that you’ve mastered how to do a hand release press up, we thought we’d share some similar exercises that we think you’ll enjoy just as much.

Learn how to do these two brilliant exercises below, or check out the 13 very best press up exercises to build your upper body over on our recent blog post!

How To Do Push Up to Side Planks

Set Up: For this exercise you won’t need any equipment, just plenty of space and maybe an exercise mat for extra comfort!

Starting Position: 

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  • Begin in the push up position on the floor with your legs extended behind you and your arms straight out in front of you.
  • Your hands should be directly underneath your shoulders with your fingers facing forwards.
  • Squeeze your glutes and brace your core so you can fix your body into the correct form.

Execution: 

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  • First, perform a push up, lowering your body towards the ground until your chest is just above the floor.
  • Pause briefly at the bottom of the movement and then press through your hands to push yourself back up to the starting position. 

Hand release pushups side variation

  • Shift your weight on to your left arm by rotating your body to your left. 
  • As you twist your body, place your right foot onto the side of your left foot, and bring your right arm off the ground and raise it towards the ceiling.
  • Hold this position for a count and then rotate your body back to the starting position.

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  • Once both of your arms are on the ground, perform another press up and then repeat the side plank on the opposite side of your body.
  • Repeat this for as many reps as you desire!

Push Up To Side Plank Muscles Worked

Prime Mover: Pectoralis major (chest) and Obliques.

Secondary Muscles: Triceps and Shoulders.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

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As with hand release press ups, there are a couple of common mistakes that people make with this exercise. 

Fortunately for you, when it comes to bad exercise form, we’ve seen it all! Here are some things to look out for with this exercise in particular.

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Not Performing The Full Exercise

Before we move on to the benefits of this variation, there’s one more thing that we see all too often with this exercise, and it’s cheating!

Whilst one of the benefits of hand release push ups is that you physically have to lower your chest all the way to the ground to the exercise properly, that's not the case with this exercise.

We’re going to be straight with you here, this move is not easy, so we can understand why you might be tempted to try a half rep push up instead of lowering your body all the way to the ground.

But, doing this will only get in the way of your own gains and slow down the process of you achieving your exercise goals.

Regardless of how enjoyable exercise is for you, we all workout because we want something out of it. So, get your chest all the way to the floor and stop cheating yourself!

Engage Your Core

Not maintaining a strong core and spine as you perform this exercise is one way to cause yourself an injury and compromise any benefits of building muscle, so it's best avoided at all costs!

To protect the muscles in your lower back and ensure that this exercise is effective, squeeze your glutes and brace your core muscles for the entire duration of the set!

Check out our blog post to learn the how and why behind engaging your core muscles.

Benefits Of Push Up To Side Planks

Very soon we’ll explain how to do one more hand release push up variation that will help you to build chest size and strength.

But first, here are the benefits of the side plank and push up!

Looking for different chest exercises to try in the gym? The TRX clock press is another brilliant chest dominant exercise that provides extreme results. 

Killer Core Workout

Hand release push up muscles worked

One benefit that sets this exercise apart from the hand release push up is that it's a killer workout for your core whilst still working your chest.

Incorporating the side plank really gets your abdominals and obliques involved so if your goal is to get a chiseled six pack, this exercise is definitely one to try.

Improved Stability & Balance

Push up to side plank benefits

Another benefit of adding this exercise into your regular workouts is that it's a great move to work on your core stability and improve your balance.

This has transferable benefits for tons of other sports and physical activities, and it can help to improve your posture and aid a healthy back, too.

Here’s what an article from Harvard has to say about the benefit that building your core muscles has for every day activities:

“Bending to put on shoes or scoop up a package, turning to look behind you, sitting in a chair, or simply standing still — these are just a few of the many mundane actions that rely on your core and that you might not notice until they become difficult or painful. Even basic activities of daily living — bathing or dressing, for example — call on your core.”

Feel like your posture has suffered from sitting behind a desk all day? Our guide to office fitness can help you reverse those effects

How To Do An Isometric Push Up

Looking for another challenging alternative to hand release press ups? Check out the video tutorial below to find out how to do an isometric push up.

Set Up: For this exercise you don’t need any equipment as it's a complete bodyweight exercise. All you will need is plenty of space, and maybe an exercise mat for extra comfort. on your own strength.

Starting position:

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  • Get on the floor into a push up position.
  • Place your arms out in front of you and space them so that your hands are in line with your shoulders.
  • Your legs should be stretched out behind you so that you are resting on your toes.
  • Place your feet around hip-width apart.
  • Engage your core and brace your glutes to keep your back flat.

Execution: 

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  • Lower yourself as you would do in a traditional push up.
  • When your chest is roughly 2 inches from the floor hold this position for 2 counts before pushing yourself back up.
  • Do not 'rest' between reps, repeat the exercise for your intended number of reps and then take a rest break before doing another set.

Isometric Push Up Muscles Worked

Prime Mover: Pectorals & Deltoids.

Secondary Muscles: Triceps & Core muscles.

Common Mistakes To Look Out For 

Keep Your Back Flat

As with most push up variations, the number one mistake that people make is rounding their back or letting their hips sag towards the floor.

This puts a lot of pressure on your lumbar muscles which can lead to lower back problems over time.

The correct way to perform this exercise is to keep your back flat throughout every single rep and set. Want to know if you’ve got this part of the exercise form right? Try doing this exercise in front of a mirror in the gym and check that your body forms a straight line from the top of your shoulders all the way through to your heels.

Benefits Of Isometric Push Ups

Finally, we couldn’t talk about this exercise without explaining its benefits! Check them out below or complete your upper body workout with one of the best tricep exercises for building muscle strength & size.

Works Well As Part Of A Superset 

One thing that we love about this move is that it works well as part of a superset.

Typically, a superset involves performing 2 exercises back to back followed by a short rest before jumping straight back in.

Whether you prefer the sound of hand release push ups or isometric push ups, either of these chest building exercises would work great paired with a great exercise like the pendlay row or a renegade row!

Isometric push ups benefits

Here’s what White & Hikida (2011) have to say about the benefits of superset training:

“The results suggest that superset training is a more time efficient method of resistance training that elicits thigh muscle strength and endurance gains similar to or above traditional training in young women.“

You can find their full study here.

Improve Your Push Up Game

Because this puts a challenging twist on the classic push up, it works your chest and upper body even harder than the classic exercise.

Pausing at the bottom of each increases the amount of time that your chest muscles spend under tension, meaning that this exercise builds muscle strength and definition even more than the classic press up.

This benefits your ability to perform other various exercises, and makes it much easier to do regular push ups, too!

Before You Go!

Now that you've mastered how to do hand release push ups, why not step up your game and try out some of these brilliant push up variations.

Think you have what it takes to become a personal trainer? Enquire about our personal training diploma and turn your passion into a career!

Alternatively, you can learn more about our courses and qualifications by downloading our course prospectus.  

References

Harvard Publishing. (2020). The real-world benefits of strengthening your core. Retrieved September 29, 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/the-real-world-benefits-of-strengthening-your-core

White, J. B., & Hikida, R. S. (2011). Compound Supersets versus Traditional Strength Training: Muscle Adaptations, Body Composition, and Recovery in Young Women. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 43(Suppl 1), 835.

Written by Abbie Watkins

Fitness Content Executive, OriGym

Join Abbie on Facebook at the OriGym Facebook Group

Holding an MA Marketing Communications and Branding as well as a BSc Psychology from the University of Liverpool, Abbie’s experience encompasses the retail, hospitality and fitness industries. Since joining OriGym, she has become a qualified Personal Trainer and gone on to complete a specialist qualification in advanced Sports Nutrition. Abbie’s main focuses cover staying up to speed with YouTube fitness influencers, identifying successful and innovative content formats. She has contributed to various publications, including the Daily Express. Beyond OriGym, she describes herself as a ‘work-hard, play-hard’ type going on scenic runs and upbeat exercise classes, and often found on the front row of a Saturday morning spin class. 

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