5 Muscle-Building Push-Up Variations | STACK
X

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

5 Muscle-Building Push-Up Variations

August 16, 2011

Must See Strength Training Videos

Want to build muscle? It’s easy—perform Push-Ups. Below, I describe five variations that will challenge your strength and build muscle.

Prior to performing any of these exercises, I recommend mastering isometric core exercises like Planks and Ab Wheel Rollouts. This way, you’ll have a strong core foundation to build on for the Push-Up variations.

1. Push-Up Ladder
This is not only a chest and triceps killer, it has a great shoulder and core stability component as well. It can be used as a bodyweight exercise for younger athletes or loaded with a 100-pound weight vest for an NFL linebacker.

How To Perform: Start on the right side of the ladder with your left hand inside the last rung and your right hand outside the ladder. Perform a Push-Up. Place your right hand in the same rung as your left hand, and move your left hand to the next rung. Perform a Push-Up. Continue this pattern to the end of the ladder. Always move your trailing hand first. Perform two to four complete ladder cycles.

2. Slideboard Push-Up
This is an advanced exercise. It requires tremendous core stability and strength.

How To Perform: Start in top Push-Up position, with your right hand on a slideboard. Descend into a bottom Push-Up position while extending your slideboard hand forward. Coming up, push up with your left hand while pulling with your slideboard hand until you return to the top Push-Up position. Nice bonus: the pulling motion activates the lats. The key is to maintain Plank position [with a flat back] through the entire movement, which you will perform on both sides.

3. Chain Push-Up
This might be my favorite of the five. Since it requires teamwork, it’s great for group morale. To make it more challenging, perform the Push-Ups using 20-pound dumbbells as grips (I prefer 20s because they’re sturdy but not too bulky). The dumbbells add an extra proprioceptive component. Because the chains have to be removed after use, they can slow down your workout.

How To Perform: Have a spotter load chains on your back while you are on all fours. Chains should be loaded in criss-cross fashion. Rep until you feel fatigue, then yell “pull.” Each time you yell “pull,” the spotter removes a chain. Younger or weaker athletes should use four chains. Stronger and more mature athletes can use six.

4. Isometric Countdown Push-Up
This may be the hardest of all—not only from a strength standpoint, but from a time-under-tension standpoint. This makes it a true mass builder!

How To Perform: The set-up requires three boxes, one for each hand and one for both feet. You must be elevated so your chest won’t touch the floor at the bottom of the exercise

Descend to the bottom Push-Up position, dropping your chest between the two hand boxes. Hold for a five-second count. Perform five Push-Ups and return back to bottom position. Hold the bottom position for a four-count and perform four Push-Ups. Count down to one.

5. Octagon Push-Up
This is a cool variation, especially for defensive linemen. It requires superior shoulder and core strength.

How To Perform: To set up, place cones at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. Begin in a Push-Up position with your head at 12 o’clock. Perform a Push-Up, quickly rotate to 3 o’clock and perform another Push-Up. Keep rotating clockwise, then counterclockwise, performing Push-Ups at each stop as quickly as possible. End at 12 o’clock.

A strength and conditioning coach at the collegiate level since 2002, Jason Spray is currently the director of strength and conditioning for men’s basketball and assistant director for football at Middle Tennessee State University, where he also aids in day-to-day physical and nutritional development. Spray earned his bachelor and master’s degrees from Middle Tennessee and is CSCS, SCCC, USAW, NSCA, NASE, FMS and CSCCa certified. He is also a USA Weightlifting Club coach and a certified physical therapy aide. Spray has trained athletes ranging from high school to the professional and Olympic levels. He has been featured in Premier Players Magazine and is the head sports performance adviser for RSP Nutrition.

Topics: PUSH-UP
Jason Spray
- A strength and conditioning coach at the collegiate level since 2002, Jason Spray is a head strength coach at Middle Tennessee State University, where he...
Jason Spray
- A strength and conditioning coach at the collegiate level since 2002, Jason Spray is a head strength coach at Middle Tennessee State University, where he...
Must See
Dashon Goldson: "You Just Gotta Have Heart"
Views: 2,251,445
Brandon Jennings: "Always Improve"
Views: 2,086,641
NFL Wide Receiver Randall Cobb Outworks Everyone
Views: 22,766,091

Featured Videos

Quest for the Ring: University of Wisconsin Views: 224,260
Path to the Pros 2015: Training Days Views: 117,335
Quest for the Ring: University of Kentucky Views: 388,894
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Improve Soccer Agility with Lateral Strength Exercises

Of course performing to your maximum potential on game day means you need to get strong in the weight room using basic exercises. However, no sport with...

5 Ways to Get a Higher Vertical Jump

Never Bench Press With Your Feet in This Position

Make Lifts More Challenging With Resistance Bands

7 Strategies for Faster Workout Recovery

How Strength Training Changed Rory McIlroy's Game

Improve Your Squat Depth With 5 Easy Warm-Up Exercises

7 Best Lower-Body Strengthening Exercises

Perfect Your Squat Technique With the Unloaded Squat

3 Tricks for a Stronger Front Squat

How Functional Training Has Overly Complicated Strength Training

The Science of Building Muscle: 2 Ways to Maximize Hypertrophy

10 Ways to Get Stronger With a Sandbag

3 Post-Activation Potentiation Combos for Explosive Strength

How Often Should You Vary Your Exercise?

7 Farmer's Walk Variations for Improved Core Strength

3 Nordic Hamstring Curl Exercises to Boost Your Performance

Bench Press Grip Guide: How Hand Placement Changes the Exercise

7-Exercise Core-Blasting Workout

How to Design a Greco-Roman Wrestling Training Program

Reach New Training Heights With Resistance Band Exercises

5 Exercises to Develop Soccer Power

12-Week Resistance Band and Chain Workout

4 Weaknesses That Can Ruin Your Exercise Technique (With Fixes)

Develop Core Strength for Throwing

A Better Way to Train Your Core

How NOT to Perform a Pull-Up (With Fixes)

Posterior Chain Fixes to Improve Your Game

Build Max Power With These Pulling Exercises

These 3 Single-Leg Movements Will Improve Your Squat Technique

6 Gym Machines That Are Actually Worth Your Time

4 Simple Golf Core Exercises to Increase Your Driving Distance

Prevent ACL Injuries With This Exercise

4 Deadlift Variations to Increase Your Pull

The Best Single-Leg Exercises for Youth Athletes

Use Eccentric Lifts to Increase Size and Strength

Mike Boyle: 4 Small Muscles That Can Lead to Big Gains

Increase Your Explosiveness with the Power Curl

Putting Together an Off-Season Workout for Point Guards

Dominate Your Bench Test With This Strategy

7 Ways to Work Out Competitively Without CrossFit

12 Strength Moves from NFL WR Harry Douglas's Full-Body Workout

Master the Lateral Lunge to Improve Your Hockey Stride

Mike Boyle's 5 Tips for More Effective Workouts

Kyle Lowry's 12-Week All-Star Training Program