Tingling Arms During Push-Ups? Here’s What Might Be Causing It (and What to Do!)

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The most common reason you get a tingling in your arm when doing push ups is typically a nerve issue. When it comes to push ups, this is likely to be ulnar nerve. This is a nerve that runs from your neck down to your wrist, and if pinched or trapped, it can cause discomfort anywhere from your collarbone, down your arm, to your elbow or wrist. That being said, it will most often cause a tingling sensation on the inside of the elbow or the tricep.

Tingling Could Indicate a Nerve Issue

Kelly Starrett: "Push-ups are a great way to assess and improve your posture. They can also help you identify any imbalances in your left and right sides."

Forget push ups for a moment, tingling typically indicates an issue with your nerves.

So, in effect, you could be looking at a trapped or pinched nerve.

Plus, exercise in general places stress on the body, and this could even involve putting excessive pressure on a nerve.

I will also say that if you regularly perform push ups, then you could be exacerbating the problem, especially if you’re doing a high volume of push ups.

There are actually three common areas where nerve impingement can occur when doing push ups.

However, the most common of these is definitely the ulnar nerve.

🚨 Understanding Nerve Compressions During Push-Ups 🚨
Nerve Compression Where It’s Felt Potential Solutions
Ulnar Nerve Elbow, Tricep Area Rest, Gentle Massage, Specific Stretching
Carpal Nerve Compression Wrist Area Rest, Wrist Splints, Ergonomic Adjustments
Cervical Spine Compression Upper Arm, Neck Stop Push-Ups, GP Consultation
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Ulnar Nerve

The ulnar nerve runs from your neck down to your hand, and is one of the main nerves located in your arm.

Furthermore, the ulnar nerve can often become constricted, especially through exercise.

This is typically noticeable beneath the collarbone, at the wrist, but most frequently on the inside of your elbow.

Just as an aside, I have previously spoken about “collarbone popping from push ups”, which in some ways is related.

So, if you’re feeling the tingling sensation around the elbow or tricep area, it’s most likely to be your ulnar nerve.

The best way to treat this is through rest and gentle massage of the affected area.

Plus, you can perform a specific stretch in order to target the ulnar nerve.

Extend your arm out in front of you with your palm pointing straight ahead, as though you’re stopping traffic in front of you

Then with your other hand, bend the hand/wrist gently backwards and hold for 15-30 seconds.

Repeat this multiple times a day.

Other Potential Nerve Problems

If the tingling is more centralised around the wrist area, then this is likely to be carpal nerve compression.

This is typically caused by pressure on the median nerve and is commonly associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.

Some factors that may lead to carpal tunnel syndrome include computer work, use of vibrating tools, previous wrist dislocations or breaks, etc.

That being said, you have to take into account that the wrists are placed under a huge amount of stress when performing push ups.

This is often exasperated by poor form, such as sagging hips or a rounded back.

So, if you’re doing lots of push ups, or trying to build up your push up endurance, on a regular basis, this could provide an overuse explanation.

Finally, if you’re feeling the tingling in your upper arm and on towards your neck, this would indicate a cervical spine issue.

If you’re suffering a cervical spine nerve compression, then it’s likely you’ll be in a fair amount of pain.

So, it is wise to completely stop doing push ups for a while, and have your GP assess your condition.

Tingling Could Indicate Poor Blood Circulation

Something else to consider is poor blood circulation.

Now, quite clearly, exercise in general is great for your blood circulation.

However, a lack of exercise can also lead to poor blood circulation.

That being said, as you’re feeling a tingling in your arms during push ups, I’ll hazard a guess that you exercise fairly regularly.

Therefore, there could be a wide variety of other reasons for poor blood circulation.

Rather than trying to explain this or even self-diagnose, I would suggest that you speak with a medical professional.

The most common reasons for poor circulation include, heart and arterial issues, diabetes, obesity, blood clots, etc.

I’m sure you’ll agree that this looks like a very scary list, although the problem could be something completely untoward.

So, rather than overly worrying about what could be something or nothing, visit your doctor for a professional diagnosis.

You’re Performing Push Ups With Poor Form

The final reason that you’re potentially feeling a tingling in your arm when doing push ups is down to poor form.

In fact, if your form isn’t on-point with just about any exercise, you’re going to run into problems.

Additionally, push ups do place stress on shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints, as well as the connective tissues.

One of the main cues for performing push ups is to retract your shoulder blades.

So, before you even perform your first rep, you’ll want to pull your shoulder blades back and down.

Unfortunately, way too many people allow their shoulders to internally rotate during push ups.

Mike Boyle (Sports Performance Coach): "Push-ups are a great exercise, but only if you do them right. Slouching your shoulders or letting your hips sag throws your entire body out of alignment and increases your risk of injury."

This not only puts your shoulder joint in a precarious position, any discomfort or pain is likely to travel down your arms to both your elbows and wrists.

Your hand placement during push ups can also cause your shoulders to become internally rotated.

Personally, I like to place my hands on the ground and then literally twist my hands until they’re pointing outwards slightly.

My index fingers will be pointing straight ahead, whereas my other fingers are splayed out to the sides.

Even though this won’t affect your tingling arms, you should also contract your core, glutes, and quads when doing push ups.

This allows to maintain a tight body throughout, which will lead to better form, plus greater potential for muscle and strength growth.

Preventative Measures & Alternatives

Okay, so you’re aware that the tingling sensation is typically related to nerve compression, poor blood circulation, or poor form.

I’ve touched on potential solutions for each of these, but I know also want to discuss some preventative measures, as well as possible alternatives if you’re struggling with push ups.

Warm-up Exercises

I guess this does very much depend on your level of training experience, and your overall strength and conditioning.

As an example, I would typically use push ups as part of my warm-up routine.

Basically, I’ve been performing push ups for many years, including going through periods of extremely high-volume push ups on a daily basis.

Rich Piana: "Don't underestimate the power of bodyweight exercises like push-ups. They can be just as effective as weightlifting for building muscle and getting shredded."

That being said, for most trainees, it makes sense to actually warm up prior to doing push ups.

And I have also done this myself.

I like to start with dynamic stretches that target the arms, shoulders, and chest. 

Arm circles, shoulder shrugs, and wrist rotations can increase blood flow and improve the flexibility of the muscles and joints involved in push-ups. 

Another effective warm-up is performing push-ups against a wall or on an incline, which reduces the strain on your arms while still engaging the necessary muscle groups. 

In fact, dynamic stretches such as push up shoulder taps, inchworm progressions, and even plank variations will mimic the push up movement in a more controlled manner.

These warm-ups may help to prevent tingling sensations by ensuring your body is properly prepared for the workout ahead.

Alternative Exercises

If push-ups lead to discomfort or tingling in your arms, it’s wise to explore alternative exercises that can strengthen the same muscle groups without causing nerve compression.

You would typically perform push ups to build your chest, but unfortunately, there aren’t that many other bodyweight exercises you can use for chest development.

Furthermore, be wary of chest-pressing type exercises, including using barbells and dumbbells.

You may find some relief from these exercises, but you are also using the same movement pattern, so you may still feel the same tingling sensations due to nerve compression.

That being said, as chest press exercises usually involve a bench to support your body there will be less core involvement, which essentially makes the movement slightly easier than push ups.

Then again, another chest-building alternative, the dip, will once more affect the pushing muscles in the same way.

However, exercises like fly variations with dumbbells and cables will certainly train your chest, although they do remove shoulder and tricep involvement to a large extent.

Additionally, I would also suggest that you incorporate exercises that strengthen the wrist and forearm, such as wrist curls and extensions, which can improve your arm’s resistance to the stresses of push-ups.

Recovery Tips

Ronnie Coleman: "Push-ups are a great way to build upper body strength and size. They're simple, effective, and can be challenging even for advanced lifters."

After a workout, especially if you’ve experienced any form of discomfort, recovery practices are as important as the exercises themselves. 

Stretching plays a key role in recovery; gentle stretches targeting the arms, chest, and shoulders can alleviate muscle tightness and promote blood flow. 

Implementing a cool-down routine with these stretches can significantly reduce the risk of tingling sensations post-exercise. 

Additionally, I always stress the importance of rest and proper hydration. 

Giving your body time to recover between workouts prevents overuse injuries while staying hydrated helps maintain nerve and muscle function.

However, if tingling persists, it might also be beneficial to consult with a physical therapist who can provide targeted exercises and advice tailored to your specific needs.

Final Thoughts

So, I hope you understand that there are various reasons why you get a tingling in your arm when doing push ups.

However, the most likely source is your ulnar nerve.

Perhaps, the nerve has become trapped or pinched, and this is causing the tingling sensation.

Then again, the tingling feeling you get during push ups could be down to poor blood circulation.

And of course, if you perform push ups with poor form, you’re more likely to experience weird feelings, pain, or soreness.

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If so, make sure you check out the Warrior Zero Bodyweight Challenge workout program.

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