The diamond push-up is a bodyweight exercise considered as an advanced push-up variation. It makes use of a narrow palmar distance where the hands are positioned close together in the shape of a diamond. The diamond push-up has gained popularity as a tricep-focused exercise; however, its benefits go beyond just tricep activation.
There are several benefits that can be gained by adding the diamond push-up to an individual’s workout routine. This includes an increase in triceps activity, increase in chest muscle activity, improvement in core strength and stability, and enhancement of shoulder strength. Hence, performing diamond push-ups is beneficial not only for tricep activation but for almost the entire upper body, and even the lower extremity muscles as well.
Because there are misconceptions regarding diamond push-ups, it is important to know the real benefits of this exercise. Furthermore, learning about the common mistakes in the execution of a diamond push-up will help in optimizing gains from the workout.
What is a Diamond Push-up?
Diamond push-ups, often referred to as triangular or tricep push-ups, are a more sophisticated version of the traditional push-up. From the name itself, diamond push-ups are performed by positioning the hands in the shape of a diamond.
The diamond push-up is one of the more challenging variations of the push-up because of the narrower base of support. The load of the work is placed on the triceps due to the biomechanical disadvantage the hand position puts on the muscles that usually bear the brunt of the load in a classic push-up.
Performing a Diamond Push-up
This exercise does not necessarily require the individual to construct a diamond shape with the hands. The idea is to keep the hands closer together than one would in a traditional push-up. The actual distance may vary, but the goal is to keep the hands closer so the triceps brachii is engaged more.
The set-up is similar to a traditional push-up wherein the individual assumes a high plank with the feet parallel to the hips, and the hands on the floor beneath the chest. The hands and forefingers are brought together almost directly under the chest to make a diamond or triangular configuration. The body should be tight and straight which may be maintained through squeezing the thighs and glutes to increase support.
As the chest is lowered toward the ground, the elbows must be pointing back to the feet. The body is lowered until the arms are along the side of the ribcage, pausing for a second before initiating the upward movement. While maintaining the alignment, the body is driven upward by pushing the floor away until the elbows are straightened out.
Several muscles work together in order to execute the diamond push-up. The primary muscle is considered to be the triceps brachii while the secondary muscles include the pectoralis (chest) muscles, deltoids (shoulders), and serratus anterior.
In a classic push-up, there is greater activation of the pectoralis muscles than the triceps brachii. However, studies have found that diamond push-ups lead to an increase in activation of both triceps and pectoralis muscles in contrast to that seen in a classic push-up. This means that while individuals consider the diamond push-up as a tricep-predominant exercise, this workout actually better activates the chest muscles as well.
Aside from the upper extremity muscles, push-ups in general, engage the core, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps femoris and calf muscles as well. These muscles help keep the body tight to maintain the plank position as the activity is performed.
Benefits of the Diamond Push-up
Although the diamond push-up is a bodyweight exercise and thus does not use any equipment, it still carries with it several benefits. These benefits include an increase in triceps activity, increase in chest activity, improvement in core strength and stability, and enhanced shoulder strength.
Increased Triceps Activity
A study conducted by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) claims that diamond push-ups are the best triceps exercise being the most effective. This is followed by the tricep kickbacks and the dips.
The increase in triceps activity in this workout is due to the narrower position of the hands which places a heavier load on the triceps. This is evidenced by another study which found that there is greater electrical activity in the triceps brachii when doing diamond push-ups as compared to when executing classic push-ups.
Increased Chest Activity
There is a common belief that the diamond push-up activates the chest muscles less than the classic push-up. However, studies have shown that while there is an increase in tricep activation in diamond push-ups, there is also an increase in the activation of the pectoralis muscles. Hence, this workout is actually great for building muscle in the chest as well.
Improves Core Strength and Stability
Because of the narrow base created by the hand position in a diamond push-up, balance becomes a challenge in executing the exercise. In order to maintain balance, the exercise recruits the core muscles, specifically those that function in trunk rotation such as the external and internal obliques. Recruitment of core muscles for maintaining balance leads to an improvement in both strength and stability.
Enhanced Shoulder Strength
Placing the hands close together for a push-up places more work on the shoulders, particularly the anterior deltoid. Thus, performing diamond push-ups are able to result in stronger and more defined shoulders.
Because the diamond push-up is able to strengthen the anterior deltoid, it serves as a good preparatory exercise before progressing to workouts that place more work on this muscle. Workouts that require greater anterior deltoid strength include planche push-ups and one arm push-ups.
Common Mistakes of Diamond Push-ups
Proper form and technique must be observed when doing any type of exercise to avoid risk of injury. The following mistakes should be avoided to maximize the benefits of doing diamond push-ups.
Hands Too Forward
It is important not to allow the hands to go too far forward. When the hands are positioned superiorly than the shoulders, it may cause excessive stress on other muscles and joints. In this position, the core and gluteal muscles are not engaged properly, thus the hips appear to be higher and stick out at an angle. To correct this mistake, the hands must be directly under the shoulders when in the high plank position, and the glutes and core muscles must be engaged throughout the entire movement.
Elbows Flare Out
One of the most common flaws when doing push-ups is letting the elbows flare out, or point out to the side. The angle between the torso and the arm must be at around 45 degrees with the participant aiming to point the elbows toward the toes.
Dropping the Hips
It is important to keep the body in a straight line throughout the activity. The hips should be level with the shoulders from start to finish. Allowing excessive extension in the lumbar area “drops” the hips which puts unnecessary excessive stress on the spine. This happens because the core muscles are not properly engaged. The core muscles, especially the abdominals, must contract adequately to keep the body in a straight line.
Progressing Too Fast
The narrow hand position of diamond push-ups places more load on the elbows than a conventional push-up does. Due to the biomechanics of this push-up variation, improper progression may cause elbow pain. To avoid injury, it is vital to master a regular push-up, and over the course of a few weeks, slowly progress by bringing the hands closer together.
The diamond push-up is a great bodyweight exercise that carries with it the benefit of both greater tricep and chest activation. While it is more advanced and hence more difficult to perform than a classic push-up, adding the diamond push-up to an individual’s workout routine may be worth the effort because of its added benefits.