Push-Ups Getting Stale? Try These 17 Variations

Push-Ups Getting Stale? Try These 17 Variations

If you want to hit loads of muscles in a single rep, you can’t do much better than a standard push-up. This highly-effective move builds strength in the chest, shoulders, triceps, core and glutes. And best of all? Push-ups take little-to-no equipment to do, making it a cinch to squeeze in reps throughout the day.

Keep this staple exercise fresh with the following push-up variations.

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17 Different Types of Push-Ups

Push-ups come in many different forms, making it easy to advance (or dial back) the move as needed. Here is just a handful of push-up variations to choose from.

1. Classic push-up

push up - young man on white

  • Assume a high-plank position with your feet together, your body straight from head to heels, and your hands in line with (but slightly wider than) your shoulders. Engage both your glutes and your core to lock your body into position.
  • Keeping your elbows tucked toward your body and your head neutral, lower your torso until your chest is within a few inches of the floor.
  • Pause, and then push yourself back up to the starting position as quickly as possible.

 

2. Incline push-up

push up variations - Incline Push-Up

  • Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on a bench or other stable, elevated surface, and assume a push-up position.
  • Keeping your back flat and core engaged, lower your chest to within a few inches of the bench.
  • Pause, and then push yourself back up to the starting position.

 

3. Plank push-up

  • Assume a low-plank position with your forearms, palms, and balls of your feet on the floor, and your body straight from head to heels. Your feet should be shoulder width, your fingers spread wide, and your forearms parallel.
  • Without shrugging your shoulders toward your ears, or letting your hips sag or lift, shift your weight onto your left forearm and place your right palm flat on the floor below your right shoulder.
  • Still maintaining a perfectly straight body, shift your weight onto your right palm, placing your left hand flat, and straightening both arms to assume a high-plank position.
  • Reverse the move, lowering your right forearm and then your left forearm back to low-plank position, keeping your body straight the whole time.
  • Repeat the movement, this time placing your left hand in push-up position before your right hand. After both hands are in high-plank position, lower your left arm to low-plank position before your right arm.
  • Continue the movement, alternating the initiating arm with each rep.

 

4. Diamond push-up

how many push ups a day- diamond push up

  • From a push-up position, bring the tips of your thumbs and index fingers together so they’re touching (see the diamond?). This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your elbows tucked (don’t let them flare), lower your torso until your chest lightly touches the backs of your hands. (Or as far as you can go without compromising form.)
  • Pause, and then push yourself back up to the starting position.

 

5. Single-leg push-up

push up variations - single leg push up

  • Assume a push-up position, lifting your right leg off the floor.
  • Keeping your elbows tucked toward your body, lower your torso until your chest is within a few inches of the floor.
  • Pause, and then push yourself back up to the starting position as quickly as possible.
  • Complete all reps on one side, then repeat on the other, performing equal reps on both.

 

6. Inchworm push-up

inchworm push up - push up variations

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
  • Keeping your core engaged and back flat, hinge forward at your hips and place both palms on the floor. Bend your knees slightly if necessary.
  • Walk your hands forward until you assume a high-plank position. Your wrists should be directly under your shoulders and your body should be straight from head to heels.
  • Lower your body, bringing your chest within a few inches of the floor, and then return to high-plank.
  • Reverse the movement, walking your hands back toward your feet, to return to the starting position.

 

7. Wide-arm push-up

push up variations - wide arm push up

  • Assume a push-up position, placing your hands on the floor twice shoulder-width apart.
  • Keeping your elbows tucked toward your body, lower your torso until your chest is within a few inches of the floor.
  • Pause, and then push yourself back up to the starting position as quickly as possible.

 

8. Push-up to side plank

how many push ups a day- t push up

  • Assume a push-up position.
  • Keeping your elbows tucked (not flared), core engaged, and head in line with your spine, lower your body until your chest is within a few inches of the floor.
  • Pause, and then push back up to the starting position.
  • Once you return to the starting position, shift your weight onto your left hand, stack your right foot on top of the left, roll your right hip back, and extend your right arm toward the ceiling (the only parts of your body on the floor will be your left hand and the outside edge of your left foot). Keep your body straight throughout the movement.
  • Bring your right hand and foot back down to the floor, and repeat the sequence, switching sides on the next side plank. Continue alternating sides on each rep.

 

9. Decline push-up

push up variations - decline push up

  • Assume a push-up position with your hands on the floor and your feet elevated on a sturdy bench or box.
  • Keeping your body straight and core engaged, slowly lower your chest as close to the floor as possible.
  • Return to the starting position.

 

10. Plyo push-up

  • Assume a push-up position.
  • Keeping your elbows tucked, lower your torso until your chest is within a few inches of the floor, and then push up with enough force for your hands to leave the ground.
  • Land softly, transitioning immediately into your next rep.

 

11. Staggered push-up

push up variations - staggered push up

  • Start in a standard push-up position, and then move your right hand slightly forward and your left hand slightly backward.
  • Do two push-ups.
  • Switch hand positions and repeat.
  • Continue alternating hand positions every two reps.

 

12. Spider-Man push-up

push up variations - spider man push up

  • Assume a push-up position.
  • Keeping your hips level, bring your right knee as close as possible to your right elbow. Pause, and then step back to the plank position.
  • Lower your body, bringing your chest within a few inches of the floor, and then return to the starting position.
  • Bring your left knee as close as possible to your left elbow. Pause, and then step back to the plank position.
  • Perform another push-up and repeat the sequence, performing equal reps on each side.

 

13. Mountain climber push-up

push up variations - mountain climber push up

  • Assume a push-up position.
  • Lift your right foot off the floor and draw your right knee toward your chest, making sure to keep your back flat, your butt down, and the rest of your body stationary.
  • Return your right foot to the starting position, and immediately repeat with the left leg.
  • Lower your body until your chest is a few inches from the floor, and then return to the starting position.

 

14. Modified planche push-up

push up variations - planche push up

  • Lie face down on the floor, placing your hands on the ground beside your ribs.
  • Engaging your core and glutes to ensure your body remains straight, keep your elbows tucked toward your body and push yourself up to high plank. This is the starting position.
  • Lower your body until your chest is within a few inches of the floor, and then push yourself back up to the starting position.

 

15. Burpee

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
  • Bend your knees, hinge at your hips, and squat down, placing both palms on the floor.
  • Jump your feet back to a push-up position.
  • Lower your torso until your chest is a few inches from the floor, and then quickly push back up.
  • Jump your feet back to your hands, and then explode upward, jumping into the air.
  • Land softly and immediately begin your next rep.

 

16. Stability ball decline push-up

push up variations - decline push up

  • Assume a push-up position with your toes on top of a stability ball. Brace your core and squeeze your glutes to keep your body in one straight line from head to toes for the entire move.
  • Lower your chest toward the ground, keeping your elbows tucked close to your body. They should form a 45 degree angle to your torso when viewed from above.
  • Push yourself back up to the starting position.

 

17. Medicine ball push-up

push up variations - medicine-ball-pushups

  • Assume a push-up position with your hands elevated on a medicine ball. Place the medicine ball directly underneath your chest with your hands on either side of it.
  • As this push-up variation can be tough on the wrists, place your hands in external rotation on the medicine ball — point your thumbs toward your head and your draw your fingers out to the sides (away from the heels of your hands).
  • Position your feet wide for balance. Engage your core and squeeze your glutes to keep your body straight.
  • Bend your arms and lower your torso toward the medicine ball. Keep your head down and your elbows close to your sides.
  • Pause once your chest is within a few inches of the medicine ball. Then, push yourself back up to the starting position.

 

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What Muscles Do Push-Ups Work?

At first glance, push-ups look like a chest exercise, but they’re so much more than that. “When working to create full tension during the movement, you can learn to engage nearly the full body,” says Adrienne Harvey, RKC-II, a kettlebell and progressive calisthenics instructor in Durham, North Carolina. These are the primary muscles you’ll engage during push-ups.

Chest

Your pectoral muscles (also known as your “pecs“) work to draw your upper arms toward your body. You’ll feel them during the raising and lowering portions of the push-up.

Shoulders

The deltoid muscles assist your pecs in bringing your arms toward your body during the lowering portion of the push-up, and pushing the floor away during the raising portion.

Triceps

Your horseshoe-shaped triceps muscles — located on the backs of your upper arms — work in partnership with your shoulders and chest to lower and raise your body in the push-up.

Core

When done right, the push-up will engage your rectus abdominis (a.k.a. the six-pack muscle), as well as the transverse abdominis, which is the deep core muscle that lies beneath it. Together, these core muscles work to keep your trunk stable throughout the movement.

 

Push-Ups for Beginners

The push-up can be a tough move to master. So, if you’re just starting out — or you haven’t built up to a full push-up yet — here are some strategies you can use to nail this highly effective strength builder.

Begin with a plank

“The foundation of a push-up is a solid plank,” Harvey says. In fact, you can think of the push-up as a moving plank. Practice the straight-arm plank to build core strength and stability, as well as learn proper hand placement for regular push-ups.

Elevate your hands

To develop the strength needed for regular push-ups, start with incline push-ups. This is where you perform the move with your hands elevated on a raised surface (e.g., step, bench, etc.).

“Putting your hands on a raised, stable surface will allow you to keep that straight plank set-up while lifting less of your bodyweight,” Harvey says. Lower the incline as you get stronger. Eventually, you’ll be doing push-ups from the floor!

Try knee push-ups

“Knee push-ups get a bad rap sometimes, but if done correctly, they still have value,” Harvey says. Feel free to do push-ups from your knees — especially if you don’t have a raised surface handy for incline push-ups. Just be sure to keep your body in a plank-like position.

Lauren Bedosky

About

Lauren Bedosky is an experienced health and fitness writer who specializes in running, strength training, sports nutrition, and injury prevention. She writes for a variety of companies and publications, including Men’s Health, MyFitnessPal, Everyday Health, and BlueCross BlueShield. She lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, with her husband and their three dogs. You can find here on Twitter here.

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