15 'Next Level' Push-Up Variations

April 15, 2014

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The Push-Up is an important exercise because it targets multiple muscle groups and has tons of variations. Yet many athletes overlook this essential exercise, partly because they can do classic Push-Ups with their eyes closed and don't consider them a sign of great strength. However, adding variations with weights, resistance bands and medicine balls can create more of a challenge. You can also tailor your Push-Up variation to suit the needs of your sport.

Here are 15 Push-Up variations that are sure to make you look at the exercise in a new way.

RELATED: 10 Powerful Push-Up Variations

1. Weighted Plate Push-Ups

These are performed like the classic version, but the weighted plate on your back adds extra resistance, requiring your muscles to work harder. After you perform Weighted Plate Push-Ups, bodyweight Push-Ups will feel much easier.

RELATED: New Research Discovers the Best Core Exercise

How To Perform:

  • Get in a standard push-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart, elbows tucked in to your body, feet together, core tight and back straight.
  • Have a partner put a weighted plate on top of your scapula bones.
  • Perform a basic Push-Up, making sure to contract your scapula to keep the plate steady.

Sets/Reps: 3x20

2. Resistance Band Push-Ups

This variation has benefits similar to Weighted Plate Push-Ups, because they increase the resistance and require more muscle activation. Using a resistance band places your muscles under tension throughout the entire movement, even during the relaxation phase (when you are lowering yourself).

WATCH: Paul Rabil Performs Chain Push-Ups

How To Perform:

  • Grab a resistance band handle with each hand and position the body of the band behind your back.
  • Get into a standard push-up position with the palms of your hands on top of the handle placed on the floor.
  • Perform a Push-Up.

Sets/Reps: 3x25

3. Diamond Push-Ups

These are great if you want to target your triceps more than your chest muscles. Similar to a Close Grip Bench Press, place your hands close together in the shape of a diamond, forcing your triceps to become the prime mover during the movement.

How To Perform:

  • Get into standard push-up position, but place your hands flat on the ground together to form a diamond.
  • Perform a Push-Up, making sure not to separate your hands.

Sets/Reps: 3x15

4. Fingertip Push-Ups

These build strength in your fingers and hands—essential for sports where strong grips are needed, such as basketball, football and baseball.

How To Perform:

  • Get into a standard push-up position but hold your body up on your fingertips instead of the palms of your hands.
  • Perform a Push-Up.

Sets/Reps: 3x10

5. Decline BOSU Ball Push-Ups

This variation requires balance, meaning more stabilizer muscles must activate. Elevating your feet ups the difficulty by decreasing your leverage and increasing intensity. This is a great exercise for baseball players, because it builds strength and stability in the shoulders.

How To Perform:

  • Get into a standard push-up position with your feet elevated on a bench or plyometric box.
  • Place the BOSU ball flat side up on the floor in front of you and grasp the sides of the BOSU ball.
  • Perform a Push-Up, touching your chest to the BOSU ball.

Sets/Reps: 3x25

6. Physioball Leg Elevated Push-Ups

These work both stability and strength by requiring balance, similar to Decline BOSU Ball Push-Ups. The difference is that your legs have to balance rather than your arms. Performing this Push-Up on the stability ball is also more challenging because it has no flat surface. This variation is ideal for soccer and hockey players. The instability causes your hip muscles to activate as well.

How To Perform:

  • Get into a standard push-up position with the top part of your feet elevated on a stability ball.
  • Perform a Push-Up, making sure not to let the ball move to the side.

Sets/Reps: 3x25

7. Neutral-Grip Dumbbell Push-Ups with Row

This is a two-in-one exercise that incorporates a pushing exercise and a pulling exercise for maximum benefit.

How To Perform:

  • Get into a standard push-up position with your hands in a neutral grip on dumbbells and your feet shoulder-width apart for balance.
  • Perform a Push-Up followed by a Single-Arm Row, making sure not to rotate your body.
  • Repeat with the opposite arm.

Sets/Reps: 3x30 (15 repetitions each arm)

8. Alternating Shoulder Tap Push-Ups

These test your endurance and coordination by forcing you to hold the push-up position with one arm while moving the other.

How To Perform:

  • Get into a standard push-up position.
  • Perform a Push-Up.
  • As soon as you come up, tap your left shoulder with your right hand while holding yourself up with your left hand.
  • Perform another Push-Up and repeat the movement with your other hand. That is one repetition.

Sets/Reps: 3x20

9. Alternating Medicine Ball Push-Ups

This exercise builds explosive strength and develops each arm equally by reducing the tendency to use your dominant arm to compensate for your non-dominant arm.

RELATED: Basketball Strength Training for Beginners

How To Perform:

  • Get into a standard push-up position with a medicine ball under one hand.
  • Perform a Push-Up, then shift your body to the other side of the ball, switching arms.
  • Immediately perform another Push-Up and repeat.

Sets/Reps: 3x30 (15 with each arm on medicine ball)

10. Slide Board Chest Fly Push-Ups

These Push-Ups mimic a chest fly by stretching and strengthening your chest and anterior shoulder muscles.

How To Perform:

  • Get into a standard push-up position with each hand on a separate towel, a slide board or another smooth surface.
  • As you lower yourself, slide your hands away from each other in a slow and controlled manner, keeping your elbows slightly bent.
  • As you start to push up, simultaneously bring your hands toward each other.

Sets/Reps: 3x15

11. Handstand Push-Ups

Have you ever tried a Push-Up while doing a handstand? You've probably seen CrossFit athletes perform this exercise. It is the ultimate Decline Push-Up, maximizing the amount of body weight you have to push, increasing difficulty and requiring shoulder strength and stabilization.

How To Perform:

  • Perform a handstand with your back and heels against a wall.
  • With your hands shoulder-width apart and your body straight, lower yourself to just before your head touches the floor and push back up.

Sets/Reps: 3x8-10

12. Plyometric Clap Push-Ups

These also build explosive strength and coordination—perfect for simulating in-game movements.

How To Perform:

  • Get into a standard push-up position.
  • Perform a Push-Up, but explode off the ground and clap midair.
  • As soon as you land, go right into your next Push-Up and repeat.

Sets/Reps: 3x15

13. BOSU Ball Plyometric Push-Ups

The variation is performed the same way as Plyometric Clap Push-Ups, but with your hands grasping a BOSU ball. This exercise builds explosive strength and power in both your chest and triceps.

How To Perform:

  • Get into a standard push-up position with your hands grasping the sides of the BOSU ball with the flat side up.
  • Perform a Push-Up then explode up pulling the BOSU ball to your chest in a rowing motion.
  • As soon as you land, transition right into another Push-Up.

Sets/Reps: 3x15

14. TRX Push-Ups

TRX Push-Ups incorporate suspension training, which improves core and shoulder balance and stabilization.

RELATED: The Performance Benefits of Suspension Training

How To Perform:

  • Attach a TRX rope to the top of a squat rack or pull-up bar.
  • Get into a standard push-up position with your hands on the handles of the TRX straps and your body at a 45-degree angle.
  • Perform a Push-Up in a slow and controlled manner.

Sets/Reps:  3x20

15. TRX Atomic Push-Ups

This is a two-in-one exercise involving a Push-Up and a Jackknife. It focuses on core, chest, and shoulder strength and stabilization.

How To Perform:

  • Attach a TRX Rope to the top of a squat rack or pull-up bar.
  • Get into a standard push-up position with your feet elevated in the TRX straps.
  • Perform a Push-Up, then bring your knees to your chest and repeat.

Sets/Reps: 3x20

Topics: PUSH-UP
Andrew Meyers
- Andrew Meyers is a NASM-certified personal trainer at Youfit Health Club in Gilbert, Ariz. He specializes in long-distance running and weightlifting. He graduated with a...
Andrew Meyers
- Andrew Meyers is a NASM-certified personal trainer at Youfit Health Club in Gilbert, Ariz. He specializes in long-distance running and weightlifting. He graduated with a...

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