The pushup is synonymous with bodyweight training, fitness and exercise all over the world, and for good reason. They are fantastic at building upper body strength and endurance. They don’t only target the the pectorals but also triceps, shoulders, lower-back and even your core muscles. What then are pushup bars and why are they so popular?
What are pushup bars?
Pushup bars are fairly simple pieces of equipment, they are hand holds that allow you to take strain off your wrist and allow a hand position that is similar to holding a bar when bench pressing. This has a number of advantages:
Reduces wrist strain
If you suffer from wrist strain when doing pushups then pushup bars are definitely worth trying. I found that my wrists were sore after doing pushups, even after double checking that my form was correct. I think that the primary advantage of using pushup bars is that you are able to straighten your wrist while doing pushups which reduces the strain. This allowed me to continue till my muscles were fatigued rather than need to stop due to wrist pain.
By keeping your hands off the ground you are also taking any pressure off your fingers or knuckles which is more comfortable than pressing directly on the ground. Especially if you are doing pushup on a rough surface.
I also find that the position that you adopt while using pushup bars is more representative of doing a dumbbell or bench press which is much more preferable. You can increase the effort of a pushup by putting your feet on a box which places more weight on your hand. Pushup bars in combination with having my feet on an elevated surface is a great replacement for bench pressing if you are travelling or unable to get to a gym or working from home.
I use rotatable pushup bars by Pioneer. These have a wide, non-slip base and comfortable handles that are slightly angled which adds another dimension to the muscle groups that you can work depending on which direction the slant is facing. You can see the small red locking button in the photo above. This is spring loaded and when pulled out you are able to rotate the pushup bar to whatever angle you want. I’ve found that being able to rotate them is handy but definitely not an essential feature as pushup bars are small and light enough to just manually pick them up and rotate them.
Increase range of motion
Another advantage of using pushup bars is that your hands are elevated. This allows you to lower your body PAST where the floor would normally stop you when doing a normal pushup. You can of course also do this by placing blocks or books underneath your hands while doing pushups so it is not a critical feature. Still it is a nice bonus to be able to increase your range of motion. Increasing range of motion stimulates more muscle fibres and results in the muscle growing faster and getting stronger than a normal pushup. This increase is relatively small however, don’t expect to become a body builder overnight just because you are using pushup bars instead of doing pushups.
In addition to an increased range of motion, the position of the pushup bars can also work different muscle groups. You can position them vertically and closer together to work more of your triceps or wider apart to work more of your chest, much like you can do close or far grip bench pressing. Of course you don’t need to only have them horizontal or vertical but can adjust them to any angle, some of the higher end pushup bars even have adjustment knobs that allow you to easily change the angle on the fly.
Can work multiple muscle groups
It’s not just straight benching that can be emulated with pushup bars. By elevating your feet above the level of your hands you can also simulate a decline bench. And they can be used for handstand pushups as well which makes it closer to a shoulder press. In fact I found that they took even more strain off my wrists when doing handstand pushups than when doing normal pushups as your wrist is at a greater angle when doing handstand pushups.
Having to keep your wrist straight means that it also increases your wrist strength. This is good but can also mean that your wrists can start to fatigue first until they get used to the new position if you are not used to bench pressing.
While there is a large range of pushup bars, some have anti slip coatings or rotatable plates so that you can more accurately adjust the angle of the bars, they are all fairly low cost. This makes them good for people on a budget and those who are not sure if they will work for them can try them out without breaking the bank. There are even DIY versions that can be made with a few pipe connectors from your local hardware store.
Another good thing about pushup bars is that they are small and lightweight. You can even dismantle some versions for easier transportation. I don’t think that I would take them on a short weekend away but if you are going to be gone for a few weeks then a small set may be something that can help you stay in shape.
Pushup bars are not miracle pieces of equipment and won’t make you fit overnight. Just like buying a pair of running socks won’t make you into an athlete. However they will make doing pushups more enjoyable and can help prevent strain or injury to your wrist which in turn makes you more likely to do more pushups.
While they help with wrist strain they don’t do much to prevent other injuries such as shoulder strain or flare ups. At the end of the day you are still doing pushups. And of course you don’t NEED to have pushup bars, if you have hexagonal dumbbells at home you can achieve pretty much the same effect by doing pushups while gripping them.
Overall I think they are a good piece of home workout equipment that have made my workouts more enjoyable. For the cost I think that they are well worth the money.