You’ve been doing push-ups your whole life. Now’s the time for you to take it to the next level and hit your body from all angles for greater results!
Push-ups are one of the most versatile exercises you can use for achieving a strong upper and lower body.
But, it depends on what type of push-up you’re doing. It can be used for strength training, resistance training, and some people even include them into endurance workouts. You can train with push-ups anywhere you like. No equipment or weight is required, but if you want more resistance than bodyweight you need a spotter to place weight in the middle of your back.
Push-ups require muscles throughout your body to work together with execution, form and balance. So you do get a great upper body and core workout, but your legs get a little training in as well.
Why? No one seems to care about using good form when doing them. They don’t need any added weight, so it’s just a warm-up. The truth is if you can push-up properly, then your max potential when bench pressing increases as well. You can develop a well-defined body with the following push-up variations.
20 Different Variations of Push-Ups
#1 Normal Push-Ups
This is the bread and butter to your foundation for proper form with all push-up variants. The different variations do change your stance slightly, but the overall movement is similar. Naturally knowing how to do a normal push-up makes the others much easier to learn. Spend time doing these to get proper form and execution down to perfection.
Lay face down on the floor and place your hands and feet shoulder-width apart. Your hands should be in line with your chest. Press your body off the ground to get in the starting position. Your midsection should be taut while your back and neck should be straight. Tilt your head back until you are able to look about 10 to 12 inches in front of your hands. Lower your body down while keeping your neck, back and midsection as straight as possible. Touch your chest lightly against the floor and drive your palms down to press your body back up.
This push-up variation is great for placing more focus on your shoulders and triceps, but it also gives a nice workout for your chest muscles. The awkward balance you have to use makes it more difficult to perform, so do not be worried when you can’t do too many.
Lay face down and bring your index fingers and thumbs semi-together making a diamond with your hands. The closer your hands are, the more triceps training occurs. Slide the diamond just above your upper chest and place your feet shoulder-width apart. Press your body off the ground driving your toes down and back to prevent sliding. Lower your body and touch your chest in the middle of your hands. Push your body back up and repeat.
#3 Wide Grip
Wide grip push-ups are for placing more emphasis on your upper chest muscles, which helps build more mass. The wider your hand placement is, the more difficult of an exercise you’ll be doing. Your shoulders and traps will feel a nice contraction, but be sure not to exaggerate the wideness too much to prevent shoulder injury.
Lay face down and press your body up like a normal push-up. Adjust your hands one at a time to where they are elbow-width apart. Your feet should be placed shoulder-width apart. Lower your body down as far as possible attempting to touch your chest to the floor. Press your body back up by contracting your chest muscles.
Military push-ups are a preferred style over normal push-ups because it puts a nice emphasis on your chest, shoulders and triceps instead of throughout your whole upper body. They are also one of the easiest push-ups to perform because of the closer hand placement.
Lay face down and adjust your hands right below your shoulders. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart. Press your body from the floor and adjust your shoulders so they feel loose. Lower your body until you touch your chest to the floor. Press back up and repeat the exercise.
Incline push-ups can be used either for better emphasis on the upper chest (just slightly) or for giving your body a slight rest. The more elevated your body is, the easier it is to perform this push-up variation.
Use a box, chair, wall or staircase to elevate your upper body above your feet. Your hand and feet placement are shoulder-width apart or just like normal push-ups. Do the exercise like a normal push-up ensuring your hands don’t lose grip.
This push-up variation is good for placing emphasis on your lower chest and upper back. Your feet basically have to be above your shoulders for them to be effective.
Elevate your feet above your shoulders. Use a chair, box or stairs to accomplish this. Your hands and feet should be shoulder-width apart. Do this exercise as if you were performing regular push-ups.
#7 Elevated Push-Up
Now we are moving into more difficult push-up variations. This one is not the same as the decline push-up. Why? Your feet are going to be elevated in line with your back and midsection. This puts your whole upper and lower body directly in line with each other.
Elevate your feet about a foot off the floor trying to get your body as parallel with the floor as possible. Your feet should be close together and your hands should be shoulder-width apart. Lower your chest just below your elbows. You shouldn’t be touching chest to floor. Press your body up to complete the movement.
#8 Tiger Push-Up
Tiger push-ups are unique and allow more emphasis to be placed on your shoulders and triceps while also working your core and leg muscles. You have to watch your balance with this exercise to make sure you don’t fall face first.
Lie down in the push-up position and press your butt into the air. Your body will make a V shape. Slide your hands in and make a diamond shape with your index fingers and thumbs close together. Lean into the movement as you lower your body. Aim your head to go into the diamond. Lower your body until your head is close to the floor.
#9 Pike Press
This is similar to the tiger push-up, but, instead of making a diamond shape, your hands are shoulder-width apart. Your shoulder and leg muscles play the biggest role in this movement. Ensure that your hands can’t slide out from you since you are placing a lot of force forward.
Lie down in the push-up position and press your butt into the air so that you form the V shape. Keep your feet and hands shoulder-width apart. Lean into the movement as you lower your body to the floor. Lower your body until your head is close to the ground. Use your shoulders to press your body back up.
#10 Leg Up Push-Ups
This push-up is intended to help increase the use of stabilizer muscles by removing one foot from the floor making you unstable. You will have to either alternate between legs after each rep or have a separate set for each side. Perfect the form before adding a lot of reps.
Lie down in the normal push-up position. Press your body off the ground and straighten it out. Take one foot off the floor and perform a normal push-up. Alternate foot after this rep or continue with the same movement.
#11 Spiderman Push-Ups
This has a pretty catchy name that suits this push-up variation well for the movements involved. This exercise is similar to leg ups since you are taking easy balance away, but instead of just lifting your foot, something else goes on. You will bring one knee up as close to the elbow on the same side. This is going to help target core muscles and your hips along with your upper body.
Get into the normal push-up position. Lower your body and bring your knee as close as possible to your elbow. Place your foot back to the floor as you press your body back up.
#12 Canyon Push-Ups
Canyon push-ups are similar to elevated push-ups, but the difference is that you elevate your hands off the floor so you can get a deeper chest workout in. You can use blocks, boxes, books or even kettlebells for this movement.
Place hands on the blocks or whatever you have chosen and then build your normal push-up form with it. Lower your chest as far as possible. Activate all your upper body muscles to press your body back up.
#13 Uneven Canyon Push-Ups
The same concept applies as regular canyons, but you get to place a higher intensity on your upper body muscles. Having an uneven area makes them similar to doing a single arm push-up with support. You will perform the same motions as a canyon push-up, but instead have one elevated side higher than the other.
#14 Plyometric Push-Ups
Plyometric exercises are intended to increase your max strength output by performing short bursting activities. We are now in the more advanced push-up positions, so use caution when performing these.
Get in the normal push-up position starting point. Lower your body and touch your chest to the floor. Explode up and attempt to get both hands and feet off the floor. Lower your body to catch the descent and repeat the activity.
#15 Clap Push-Ups
We see this version quite often, but most never realize how difficult they are. Clap push-ups give you great explosive strength that carries over to performing movements such as the bench press.
Get in the normal push-up position starting point. Lower your body and touch your chest to the floor. Explode your upper body up keeping your feet on the floor. Clap your hands before landing in normal push-up stance and repeat.
#16 Single Arm Push-Ups
This is a pretty difficult exercise to perform and perfect. Enter into them with caution so you don’t injure your shoulders or create too much strain on your chest.
Start off in normal push-up position on the floor, but with your feet spread wider than shoulder-width apart. Place one hand behind your back and exaggerate that side by raising your side slightly. Lean into the push-up and be sure to concentrate on placing all your energy onto that side of your body. Press your body up and repeat.
#17 The Grasshopper
These are similar to the Spiderman push-up, but you will be driving your knee to the opposite elbow this time. Be careful and pay attention to your balance because it will definitely hurt your body if you do this with improper movements.
Get in the normal push-up position. Lower your body and bring your knee to the opposite elbow. Place your foot back to the floor as you press your body back up.
#18 Handstand Push-Ups
This exercise places most emphasis on your shoulders and triceps, but is hard to do on your own unless you have great balance.
Place your body vertically upside down against a wall. You can also have some help of a friend. Lower your body stopping just before your head touches the ground. Activate your shoulder muscles to press your body back up.
#19 Crossover Push-Ups
These are great for changing resistances during movement. You will need an item such as a speed stepper to elevate your body, but remain stable.
Place the item you will elevate from on the floor. Get in the push-up position with one hand on the box. Press your body up and crossover to where the opposite hand is now on the box. Perform another rep and do the same thing back to how you started.
#20 Box Jump Push-Up
The box jump push-up needs something similar to the crossover push-up such as a box. You basically do a close hand push-up on the box, then down to the floor and make your way back up.
Place your hands on the box and lower your body into the push-up position. Press your body up and then throw hands out to shoulder-width landing on the floor. Touch your chest and press yourself back up to starting point (from floor to box).
These 20 push-ups can be used in whatever order you like with as many repetitions as you want to do. Mix them in with weight training to get a great workout in. Your upper body and core will get a great workout and even your legs will benefit from your efforts.
-By Brian Pankau, CPT