Most people use push-up handles and elevated hand placement as a means of performing push-ups with a greater stretch and larger range of motion. The problem? Faulty mechanics.
Push-ups done with a large stretch where the body drops significantly below the level of the hands represents dysfunctional mechanics and leads to:
- Inefficient recruitment pattern
- Overly relaxed musculature
- Inhibited proprioceptive feedback
- Lack of core innervation
- Crappy postural alignment
Instead, push-up handles should be used either to take stress off of the wrists, or to place the hands in a more neutral position (palms facing one another), which tends to optimize shoulder mechanics. This is because the neutral grip tends to facilitate better external rotation, depression, and scapular retraction as compared to a pronated grip position.
The Ideal Range of Motion
The ideal end range of motion at the bottom position of a conventional push-up is either just above the floor, or ever so slightly grazing the surface with the upper body.
The elbows and triceps shouldn't be allowed to go significantly beyond the plane of the torso. This causes excessive stretching of the shoulder capsule and places undue stress on the glenohumeral joint.
If you use push-up handles in order to use a neutral grip, they should produce nearly the same exact range of motion and push-up mechanics as you'd get when performing them on the floor.
If you're somehow able to get a larger stretch and produce significantly greater range of motion when using push-up handles, you'll want to examine your form as various factors are most likely amiss.