Pushups are, undeniably, one of the best exercises for building a rock-hard core and improving total-body conditioning. But as any military grunt or CrossFit devotee can tell you, if you’re going big on pushups, you need to take care of your wrists or you could be in for a world of pain. 

Here are four ways to keep aching wrists from ruining your pushup regimen.

1. Check your form

If you don’t have carpal tunnel or an acute injury yet doing pushups causes wrist pain, form may be the culprit. Here’s how to fix it.

● Assume the proper position: hands (flat, not tented) under the shoulders at the top of the pushup and alongside the pecs at the bottom.

● As you lower, pitch your chest forward and keep your elbows tucked in, making an A-frame with your head.

● As you come down, press into the ground and slightly shift your knuckles toward your thumb. This rotates the forearms and creates room in the wrist joint for flexion.

2. Use dumbbells

If your form is corect but your wrists still hurt, place a pair of dumbbells (kettlebells also work) shoulder-width apart on the floor and grip them as your “base.” This holds your wrists straight rather than bent, taking the onus off the wrists.

The elevated hand position also lets you dip lower, working your chest and triceps even harder.

3. Switch to knuckle pushups  

No ’bells nearby? Make fists and push up on your knuckles instead, which strengthens your wrists and improves the bone density in your hands.

4. Up your wrist mobility  

Finish with these moves to make your wrists more flexible:

Wrist circles: Rotate 20 sec. in each direction.

All-fours flexion: While on your hands and knees, lean forward into your hands and hold for 30 sec. Then rotate your hands—fingers pointing toward your legs—and lean back for another 30 sec.

Counter-stretch: Still kneeling, place backs of hands on floor, fingers toward legs; lean back slightly for 30 sec.