If there’s ever been one exercise to stand the test of time, it’s the push up.
Its basic, simple set up makes it a practical exercise to do anywhere.
It’s also the perfect exercise for beginners starting out, as well as advanced lifters looking to promote shoulder stability and health.
But what makes the pushup truly great is it’s nearly everyone’s first exercise.
Whether you first started performing them in P.E. class or as a way to “get jacked” at a young age at your parents house, I can guarantee it was ~99% of the general populations first exercise they tried out.
Now, the cool thing about pushups is that they can be done a number of different ways.
And below, I’m going to give you 21 pushup variations you can add into your own workout program.
It’s the gold standard of exercises. It’s the one we just got done hyping up. And it’s perfect for lifters of all experience levels.
The set up is simple. You place your hands about shoulder width apart and your feet together, stabilizing the spine in a push up plank position. You slowly lower your body to the ground keeping your core engaged and flaring your elbows down and out in a “V” position.
Related: 4 Killer Pushup Variations for Explosive Power
Once you’ve brought your nose to the floor, you reverse the movement and press through your palms until you’ve returned to the starting position.
While it is a basic movement, a lot of lifters still find a way to butcher their pushup form. The most common offenders let their hips rise or sink or flare out the elbows way too much.
For this pushup setup, you’re going to need to grab a bench. The movement is very similar, but we’ll be changing the point of emphasis on the chest muscles and shoulders.
Grab a bench, elevate your feet by placing them on the bench, and assume a normal shoulder width hand placement. From here, proceed with the normal pushup movement.
You’ll probably notice that the feet elevated pushup variation strongly mimics an incline bench press, targeting your upper chest and shoulder area.
Alright now, hold onto that bench. We’ll be using it in this next variation as well. Instead of elevating your legs though, we’re going to kick those off and place them on the ground.
For this next variation, assume a shoulder width hand placement and place them on a bench. Lower your chest to the bench, and press back up to the starting position.
The hands on a bench pushup will mimic the same movement pattern as a decline bench press. You should feel it in your lower chest area, as well as in your triceps.
Did someone say triceps? Because the close grip pushup is what you’ll see a lot of guys in the gym performing to target their triceps.
There are a number of hand placements you can go with here. You can do the classic diamond pushup, or you can simply place your hands slightly inside shoulder width a part.
Truth be told, both work and similarly too. The only difference between the two is the diamond pushup requires a lot more shoulder mobility than a traditional close grip pushup.
Perform these by setting up and using the same range of motion you would with the traditional pushup, but with a closer hand alignment of course.
A lot of folks will tell you they use the wide grip pushup to target the “outer chest”. The statement holds some relevance as it does do a good job of better isolating the chest as far as pushups are concerned.
To perform these, you’ll need to assume a slightly wider than shoulder width hand placement. From here, it’s the same motion as the other pushup variations.
Some may notice some elbow pain with this variation. With the wider hand placement, it can be tougher to keep that “V” elbow pattern mentioned in the traditional pushup section.
My best advice is to experiment a little. If it causes pain, don’t do it. If it doesn’t and you find you enjoy the exercise and it helps you with your individual goals, keep at it.
It’s time to challenge your core and shoulder stability. For this next pushup variation, place your hands on a stability ball and get into a pushup position.
Perform your standard range of motion, lowering your chest down towards the stability ball. Then reverse the motion and return to the starting position of the pushup.
This variation is sure to challenge your core, arms, and shoulders.
Opposite of the last variation, for this pushup you’ll situate your legs onto a stability ball.
While your core will still be highly involved in keeping your body stable during this exercise, you’ll notice a shift in tension onto your chest compared to the previous variation.
The TRX pushup with your hands on the handle is an excellent pushup variation to provide a greater stretch on your chest.
Most commercial gyms have a TRX system set up and it is an excellent option to make bodyweight exercises more challenging.
The TRX pushup with your feet on the TRX system is an excellent way to challenge your core and target your upper chest and shoulders.
To perform this pushup variation, hook your feet into the TRX handles, place your hands about shoulder width apart, and perform your typical pushup range of motion.
One legged pushups are pushups where you place the toe of one of your feet onto the heel that remains grounded during the exercise.
By keeping one of your legs elevated, you’ll challenge your core. Other than your feet placement, the remainder of the setup of this pushup variation will be similar to your traditional pushup.
If you want to look like Rocky, this is the variation to go with. Unfortunately, it is also one of the more challenging variations to perform.
To set up for the one arm pushup, place your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart and place your hand directly in the middle of the body.
These take a lot of practice, so don’t get too discourage if you’re unable to perform these right out of the gates.
The shoulder tap pushup is an awesome pushup variation to help you build your balance, and as a result your core strength.
They will be performed exactly like a traditional pushup, except at the end of the pushup you’ll bring one hand up to touch the opposite shoulder. You should alternate which hand touches the alternate shoulder after each pushup.
Channel your spidey senses with the Spiderman pushup.
When performing Spiderman pushups, while you descend, you’ll bring one of your knees up towards your shoulder. Then, as you reverse the movement, you’ll return your foot back to the starting position. Alternate every rep.
These will torch your obliques. It’s definitely not a beginner movement either. There’s a lot of movement going on with the exercise. Master some of the other variations prior to tackling this one.
The rotational pushup is another great variation to challenge your core.
Set up for the rotational pushup by getting into pushup position. Perform a tradition pushup, but as you reach the top of the movement, rotate your body taking one of your arms up towards the sky.
The end position should make you look like a “T” in a side plank position.
The single arm raise pushup is a close cousin to the shoulder tap pushup.
At the top of your pushup, raise one of your arms in front of your body. Alternate the arm you raise with every pushup you perform.
The single arm raise pushup does a great job of providing added tension to your core.
In the previous variation we discussed raising your arm after each pushup. With the single leg raise pushup, you’ll raise one of your legs after each pushup.
When you raise your leg during this pushup, make sure to squeeze your glute at the top of the movement.
Single leg raise pushups are perfect for adding extra work that targets your glutes and your core.
For the longest time (and they might still), football players would perform finger tip pushups to strengthen their hands. The majority of which played wide receiver, and the idea was that by performing these, you’d help your chances of catches passes.
Related: The Super Fan Workout – Look Like a Pro in Your Jersey
Set up for these the same you would for a standard pushup, but instead of placing your palms on the ground, place your finger tips.
These aren’t for the faint of heart, there will be a ton of tension on your fingers. You’ve been warned.
The staggered pushup is a stepping stone to the one hand pushup.
Set up this variation by getting into pushup position, but instead of having your hands parallel to one another, set one hand in front of your shoulder level and the other below shoulder level.
After you’ve finished a set of these, switch hand positions to target the other side.
Plyo pushups are a great way to train explosiveness in your chest muscles.
To perform these get into a regular pushup position. As you press back up to the starting position, explode up and bring your hands off the ground.
You can either clap your hands or not. By not clapping your hands, you give yourself a much better chance of catching yourself on the way back down.
The Superman pushup is another great explosive pushup variation.
Perform these exactly like you would for a plyo pushup. However, when exploding into the air, you should bring your feet off the ground as well.
The end result should have you looking like you’re flying through the air like the “Man of Steel”.
Number 21 and the final pushup variation we’re going to discuss is the alternating side medicine ball pushup.
To perform these you’re going to need a medicine ball. Place one hand on the ball in an elevated position and the other firmly on the ground. Perform a pushup and explode into the air, switching sides on the medicine ball.
Your other hand should now be on the medicine ball and the starting hand on the ground. Keep performing these by alternating hands on the medicine ball for each rep.
Pushups are truly great, aren’t they? They target all of the push muscles including your shoulders, triceps, and chest. And with 21 different variations, you’ll never have an excuse not to put them into your workout programs.
So, quit with all the viral pushup challenges on pintrest and crank out a few of these bad boys in a well-designed and complete training program.
I know there are a ton more pushup variations out there. No way I could cover them all.
Will you do me a favor and comment some of your favorites in the comments section below? I, and the rest of the M&S community, would love to read them and try them out for ourselves!
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