Push ups are one of those staple exercises that has been around since the beginning of time, and we will probably continue to do them until the end of time. However, if you want to continue building strength, skill, and speed, it is important to continuously scale your workouts to be more and more difficult. This most definitely includes the push up. If you can pop off 50 push ups, no problem, then it’s time to start challenging yourself with new push up variations.
Here are ten push up variations of various difficulties. Tackle them at your own pace, depending on your fitness level.
Ten Push Up Variations to Build Strength
Perform a traditional push up, then at the top of the movement lift one hand off the ground and extend it towards the ceiling, rotating your body to face the side instead of the floor. Replace your hand on the ground, perform another push up, then lift the opposite hand and rotate to the opposite side. Continue doing your push ups, alternating sides.
2) Decline Push Up:
Prop your feet on an elevated surface (such as a flat bench, ledge, chair, or step) for these push ups. Decline push ups load more of your body weight onto your hands, making for a more difficult push up. You can progressively load decline push ups by increasing the height of your feet off the ground.
3) Diamond Push Up:
Place your hands together in front of your chest, making a diamond shape with your fingers. Use this hand position as you perform your push ups to engage your triceps much more heavily than a traditional push up.
Place both hands on a medicine ball and perform your push ups in this position. Using a medicine ball requires you to engage your core more to balance on the unstable handhold, and requires more arm strength for stabilizing.
5) Hindu Push Ups:
If you do yoga, you will be familiar with this sequence of movements. Hindu push ups are great for building mobility as well as strength, as this push up will take you through a full range of motion that works your core as well as your upper body.
- Start with your hands & feet on the ground & your hips high in the air so you are making an upside down “V” shape with your body (Downward Dog).
- Slowly lower your hips while pressing forward onto your hands, moving into a strong push-up plank position.
- From your plank, bend your arms – keeping your elbows glued to your sides – and lower yourself down until your noes touches the ground (Chaturanga).
- Finally, straighten your arms, allowing your back to curve as you raise your torso & head to the ceiling, while keeping your hips down & knees off the ground (Upward Dog).
Those three positions complete one Hindu push up. From Upward Dog (step #4), push back on your hands, raising your hips and lowering your head so that you end in the upside down “V” shape (step #1). Now you are ready to do another Hindu Push Up.
From a push-up plank position, slowly lower yourself down to the ground, then push up with explosive force so that your front half is airborne and you can clap your hands in front of your chest before “catching” yourself and descending into the next push up. Be careful if this is your first time practicing front clap push ups, due to the very real possibility of face-planting.
This is the same as a front clap push up, but requires more strength and explosive power. You will need to push with enough power to keep your upper body airborne long enough for your to clap behind your back, then bring your arms back around to the front to catch yourself.
8) Drop Push Ups:
Find two blocks or some way to elevate your hands on each side of your body. Start in a push-up plank position with both hands elevated, push off the supporting blocks, and “drop” to the ground landing in a full push up at the bottom. Then push upwards with explosive power to land with your hands on the elevated supports again.
9) One Arm Push Up:
Place one arm behind your back and center your weight on your remaining arm & legs. You will find it helpful to spread your feet apart wider than a normal push up foot position. A one-arm push up is theoretically twice as hard as a traditional push up, so make sure you are ready for this one.
10) L-Handstand Push Up:
The L-Handstand push up will help you eventually progress onward to a full handstand push up. Place your hands on the floor a few feet away from a wall, and kick (or walk) your feet up the wall until you are making an “L” shape with your body. Keeping your feet in the same place, perform your push ups. It may be a good idea to start with a pillow positioned under your head for safety reasons.