3 Challenging Muscle-Building Push-Ups

Staggered Push-Up

Incorrect push-up form minimizes upper-body growth. Although pounding out 50-plus at max speed may feel impressive, the results will not be.

Basic Push-Ups strengthen the entire body, but a slight form error and can seriously strain the lower back.

General Technique Errors

  • Sagging Lower Back. A drooping lower back not only transfers tension away from the targeted chest and shoulder muscles, it can also contribute to lower back strain or soreness.
  • Performing Partial Reps.
  • Incorrect Hand Position. Intense or advanced versions can involve partial reps or hands placed farther away from the chest (See 10 Powerful Push-Up Variations.)

Perfect Push-Up Technique

  • Hands approximately shoulder-width apart at chest level
  • Back straight
  • Slowly lower in two seconds until the chest is one inch from the floor
  • Pause one second
  • Press up in one second

Push Up Benefits

Push-Ups are a great weight-bearing bodyweight exercise for both the season and the off-season. Bonus: since they don't require equipment (except for more difficult variations) they are convenient and require minimal space.

3 Intense Push-Ups

Set a new standard by further challenging your muscles with these three intense push-up variations. Try one per workout.

Elevated Super-Slow Push-Ups

Sets/Reps: 3x5

  • Place feet atop a chair or bench and hands shoulder-width apart
  • Lower in 10 seconds
  • Press up in four seconds
  • Rest 60 seconds between sets

Explosive Push-Ups

Sets/Reps: 3x10

  • Assume standard push-up position
  • Slowly lower and quickly press up with hands leaving the ground between reps
  • Rest 60 seconds between sets.
(See it in motion: Power Up Your Push-Ups)

Fast Med Ball Partial Rep Push-Ups

Sets/Reps: 3x15

  • Assume push-up position with hands on a medicine ball and arms slightly bent
  • Rapidly perform partial range reps up and down
  • Rest 30 seconds between sets


Jim Carpentier Jim Carpentier - Jim Carpentier, CSCS, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, New Jersey-licensed massage therapist, and a health/fitness writer. He currently serves as Associate Health...
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