2 Advanced Push-Up Variations for Upper-Body and Core Strength

Unlike the Bench Press, Push-Ups are a full-body activation exercise.

We've all done Push-Ups at some point. Maybe it was in gym class in elementary school or as part of a workout for our sport. But as athletes advance in their workouts, Push-Ups are generally cast aside for the Bench Press and its variations. It's understandable. The Push-Up is a basic exercise, and it's easy to understand why athletes would want to lift heavy weight instead of performing a bodyweight exercise.

RELATED: 6 Ways to Improve Your Push-Up Strength

However, we need to change this paradigm. Push-Ups are a hugely beneficial exercise, essentially a face-down Bench Press. But unlike the Bench Press, Push-Ups are a full-body activation exercise. Literally all major muscle groups (biceps, core muscles, triceps, deltoid) and even lower-body muscle groups are activated as you stabilize your body Even with the reduced load, you can build strength, power and size with Push-Ups. Studies have shown that experienced power lifters break a plateau after replacing their Bench Press with Push-Ups for a couple of months! Push-Ups also increase shoulder stability (reducing rotator cuff injuries) and when done right, improve posture. But are you sick and tired of standard Push-Ups? Give these two variations a try and I bet you will feel challenged and maybe a bit humbled.

RELATED: 6 Push-Up Variations to Build Strength and Improve Shoulder Health

Beast Makers

This variation is a twist off the Renegade Rows (or "Man Makers" as I call them). It is one of my favorites! Bonus: besides making you into a Beast, the exercise promotes shoulder stability, agility and endurance, plus increased core strength.

How to: Place down 2 dumbbells and 2 cylinder blocks. With your hands on the dumbbells, perform one Push-Up then lift the dumbbell up and place it on the block. Bring your hand back down, perform another Push-Up then lift the other dumbbell up and place it on the other block. Perform your 3rd Push-Up (now both hands are on the ground instead of grabbing dumbbells) by lifting one dumbbell off the block and placing it back to starting position. Repeat for the 4th Push-Up. You have now done 4 Push-Ups and are back to starting position.


  • Widen your base stance and focus on maintaining a plank position (no wiggling butt!)
  • Using a cylinder block increases stability. You can also use upright dumbbells for a more solid platform.

RELATED: The Renegade Row is the Ultimate Test of Core Strength

Swiss Ball Pike Push-Up

This one is incredibly challenging for strength and stability—especially for core strength. It's also incredibly taxing, making it a great exercise to include in fat-burning workouts if that's your goal.

How to: With your legs on the stability ball, alternate between a knee tuck (novice, intermediate) or pike (advanced) and a Push-Up. Remember that a good Plank is key to this exercise, as it is with all Push-Ups! Lower yourself down to approximately a fist distance from the ground.

  • Novice: Balance your shins on the stability ball
  • Intermediate: Balance your feet on the stability ball
  • Advanced: Balance your toes on the stability ball


  • The video shows a wider stance Push-Up; you can also do a closer stance (military style) Push-Up if you can maintain a good plank position.
  • I like to choose 3-4 different push-up exercises and do one set of each, either between sets of another exercise like Pull-Ups or with 30 seconds of rest between each.

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