As a total-body exercise, the Push-Up is the complete package. Executed properly, this compound movement effectively works the entire upper body, abdominal section and even the legs. However, there is more to the Push-Up than the basic movement.
Push-Up variations are too often overlooked for developing strength and power. The professional Arena football player featured in the above video is capable of bench pressing over 375 pounds; but manipulating the intensity or volume of Push-Ups challenges even an athlete at his level. (See the STACK Push-Up Guide for additional techniques.)
Here's a rundown of some great ways to vary your Push-Ups to build a stronger total body for your specific sport.
This variation is great for developing upper body power, particularly useful in football, where players often forcefully extend their arms to create distance between themselves and opponents, or to throw off their timing.
- Start in standard push-up position
- Instead of slowly rising to top position, explosively extend arms to launch your torso into the air, high enough to allow you to clap your hands together
- Catch yourself and lower to start position
- Repeat for specified repetitions
Alternating Med Ball Push-Up
This is ideal for baseball players, because the uneven contact points and instability of the medicine ball shift the center of gravity during the movement, thereby increasing core stabilization. The back is not braced against any surface, and the scapulae are free to move, like they do when you throw a baseball. (Check out more Med Ball Variations.)
- Start in standard push-up position with medicine ball under one hand
- Extend arm as you shift weight
- Move body across ball while changing hands
Push-Up with Row
This adaptation is good for basketball players, because it strengthens both the anterior and posterior upper body musculature. The pushing and pulling motions work each muscle group in an antagonistic/agonistic fashion. This variation also requires a good amount of core strength to execute properly.
- Place two dumbbells where you would normally position your hands
- Grasp dumbbells and assume standard push-up position
- Perform Push-Up
- After returning to start position, row right dumbbell to side of chest
- Repeat Push-Up and row left dumbbell to side of chest
- Repeat for specified reps
- Stabilize the core
- Don't allow torso and hips to rotate while performing the rowing movement