Push-ups, push-ups, and more push-ups—we all know it's the quintessential exercise. Not only do they give you that pumped-up feeling, but they also can target practically every muscle in your body.
Whether you're a beginner looking to build strength or an experienced professional aiming to switch up your routine, there are plenty of variations of the age-old favorite. From weighted versions to explosive plyometric moves - here are 8 must-try pushup variations for building your entire body.
Here’s How to Perform a Perfect Push-Up
Who doesn't love a good push-up? They are almost effortless to do, and best of all, you can do them anywhere. Push-ups can help work your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core muscles.
Don’t be fooled into thinking it's only for seasoned athletes; even if you're just starting your fitness journey, push-ups will help give you an excellent workout. To get the best out of push-ups, try out variations like incline or diamond push-ups to put those muscles to work.
To do it,
- Start by placing your body in a plank pose with your hands under your shoulders and your feet hip-width apart.
- Lower yourself toward the ground, keeping your elbows close to your sides.
- Once your chest meets the floor, press back up to the starting position.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps.
8 Must-Try Push-Up Variations
Here are 8 variations of push-ups if you want to modify your standard push-up exercise and add a challenge to your routine. These variations will encourage you to perform more challenging exercises and add discipline to your workout routine.
1. Incline Push-Up
Incline push-ups are one of the best variations for push-ups. This bodyweight exercise targets your chest as the primary muscle group and abs, shoulders, and triceps as secondary muscle groups and provides a great way to progress toward full-body push-ups.
It helps reduce stress on the wrists, forearms, and shoulders that conventional push-ups cause. People consider incline push-ups one of their best options for specific conditioning, improved stability, and technique. To do it:
- Start by placing your hands on a bench and pushing your feet back until your body is inclined.
- From there, lower your chest toward the surface and press upwards to the starting position.
- Keep your core engaged, and be sure not to let your hips sag as you lower down.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps.
2. Decline Push-Up
If you want to challenge your push-up game, try elevating your feet with a decline push-up. This best push-up variation will bring new effects and sweat to your workout.
Gravity pulls harder on the upper body, putting an increased load on your pecs, and activating them in new ways. You'll also develop strong scapular and shoulder girdle strength that you can't get from doing push-ups on the ground alone. To do it:
- Start by positioning yourself in front of an elevated surface like a couch or a bench with your hands shoulder-width apart.
- Raise one foot at a time onto the surface so the weight is placed on the toes.
- Bend your elbows to lower your body towards the ground.
- Push yourself to the original position.
3. Dive Bomber Push-Ups
Dive bomber push-ups are one of the best push-up variations out there. Indeed, you could go with the classic plank style, but it doesn't get any more unique or shoulder-strengthening than this move.
As a bonus, the swooping motion from the shoulder-activated pike gives your face and chest an excellent workout as you transition to the floor. This is a great way to incorporate strength-building into any exercise routine while still having fun. To do it:
- Start in a push-up position with your feet hip-width apart.
- Push your hips upwards to form an inverted ‘V’ with your body.
- Bend your elbows to lower yourself and move forward, bringing your chest near the ground.
- Curl your back and extend your arms.
- Hold, reverse direction, arch your elbows to lower yourself downwards and back, then push your hips upwards to return to the original position.
4. Diamond Push-Up
The diamond push-up is undoubtedly one of the best variations out there. Imagine packing a tricep workout and a full-body cardio session into one exercise move. All push-ups engage your chest, shoulders, and triceps to some degree, but adding your hands together gives the best boost to maximize targeting those triceps.
But beware: you may find that you give out quicker when doing these because it requires much more effort than regular old push-ups! To do it:
- Start by getting on all fours with your hands close to your chest.
- Place your index fingers and thumbs so they’re touching and forming a diamond shape.
- Then extend your arms so that your body is elevated from the ground. It should form a straight line from your head to your feet.
- Lower your chest towards your hands
- Make sure you don’t flare your elbows to the sides and keep your back flat.
- Pause before your chest meets the floor, then push back to the original position.
- This is one rep.
- Repeat the desired number of reps.
5. Clap Push-Up
Hand clap push-ups are one of the best variations to target the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Working your chest, shoulders, and arms with this variation helps to strengthen your shoulder joint and build power for pushing and pulling tasks.
Plus, having strong muscles in these body areas can also enhance your posture and lower your risk of injury. To do it:
- Start in a traditional push-up position.
- Push yourself down towards the floor, then explosively push off the ground and clap your hands together mid-air.
- Return to the starting position and repeat.
- Ensure you keep your core engaged throughout the entire movement to avoid injury.
6. Alternating Medicine Ball Push-Up
The alternating medicine ball push-up is one of the best variations of the classic exercise. It allows hitting the shoulders and chest with a greater range of motion and activating one side of your core to stay stabilized and avoid any unnecessary dips or twists during the movement.
Plus, because one hand is always on the ball, you’re constantly moving, adding an exciting twist to a once mundane routine. To do it:
- Start by positioning yourself in a standard push-up pose but keep one hand on a medicine ball.
- Perform a push-up by bending your elbows to lower your body towards the ground and pushing yourself up to the original position.
- Roll the ball to the opposite hand. Position that hand on top of the medicine ball and perform a push-up, rolling the ball back to the other hand. Repeat.
7. Swiss Ball Push-Up
If you’re looking for the best push-up variations to test your balance and stability, look no further than the Swiss Ball Push-up. Push-ups on a Swiss ball are an excellent way to engage your core and increase muscular tension.
Instead of just a flat surface that doesn't move, you now have to control what is essentially a bouncing object. You may put your feet on the core slider to maintain balance. It may take some practice, but it's worth the effort; mastering this move will give you bragging rights at any gym. To do it:
- Start in a push-up position but with your hands on the sides of a Swiss ball.
- Bend your elbows to push your body close to the swiss ball.
- Hold, and then push yourself back to the original position.
8. Weighted Push-Up
The weighted push-up is one of the best variations you can incorporate into your routine. It makes you look impressive as you hoist the extra weight quickly and significantly increases the intensity of a standard push-up to build muscle in your arms, chest, and core.
You can safely increase the challenge by wearing a weighted vest or placing a weight plate on your lower back. To do it:
- Starting placing your hands below your shoulders with your toes tucked and knees under your hips in a quadruped pose on the yoga mat.
- Stretch one leg at a time and push yourself into a push-up situation with your legs straight, elbows open, and your head in a stable position, staring at the ground.
- Retract your shoulder blades and free the elbows as you slowly descend toward the ground.
- Continue descending until your upper arms lie parallel to the ground or your chest reaches the floor, then hold for a defined length of time.
- Straighten your elbows and drive your hands into the floor to return to the beginning position.
- Repeat until you've completed the appropriate number of repeats.
Variations allow us to get ahead of the quintessential push-ups and form thorough discipline in workouts with challenging tasks. Push-ups allow the body to build strength, stability, and upper-body strength and help target multiple muscle groups.
You can try the 8 variations of push-ups; incline push-ups, decline push-ups, dive bomber push-ups, diamond push-ups, clap push-ups, alternating medicine ball push-ups, swiss ball push-ups, and weighted push-ups to develop a better and modifying routine and maximize your fitness gains. s
- Kim, You-Sin, et al. ‘Effect of the Push-up Exercise at Different Palmar Width on Muscle’. Journal of Physical Therapy Science, vol. 28, no. 2, Feb. 2016, pp. 446–49. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.1589/jpts.28.446.