Push-Ups are a staple in many strength training routines.
Due to their tremendous versatility, they can be used as a warm-up, a primary exercise or a brutal finisher.
Training variables that can be altered to make the Push-Up more/less challenging include changing the number of sets/reps, adjusting the load, adding instability or slightly changing setup and execution to target different muscle groups.
Once you can bang out 25 or 30 Push-Ups in a row with little trouble, simply adding more reps probably isn’t the best way for you to continue your progression. With that in mind, the following Push-Up variations turn the basic move up a notch. If you’re looking to shred your upper body and build serious bodyweight strength, give these seven advanced Push-Up variations a try.
1. 3-Position Push-Up
The 3-Position Push-Up is rather straightforward.
The first position has your feet up on a bench. The second position is regular Push-Ups on the floor. The third position has your hands on the bench and your feet on the floor.
By changing your body angle during the exercise, you target both the upper, middle and lower part of your pecs.
There are a few ways you can perform this movement. Since each subsequent position puts you in a more mechanically advantageous setup, you can go until failure on Position 1, take a 5-10 second break, then go until failure on Position 2, then take a 5-10 second break, then go until failure on Position 3. This may be ideal for a finisher.
Or, you can simply pick an allotted number of repetitions (say, 60) and complete one-third of the reps in each position.
2. Chain/Band Push-Up Drop Set
The Push-Up Drop Set can have several starting points.
If you are very strong, start with two chains on your back. If that is too challenging, start with a single chain. If that’s still too challenging, start with a regular Push-Up.
No matter where you start, the idea is to reduce the load on each drop set. The hierarchy, from highest to lowest load, goes like this:
- Push-Up with 2 Chains
- Push-Up with 1 Chain
- Standard Push-Up
- Band-Assisted Push-Up with 1 Band
- Band-Assisted Push-Up with 2 Bands
Depending on your strength, pick three of these and begin with the hardest version.
Once you’re about to fail in a given variation, immediately move to the easier variation.
If you want to do a really brutal finisher, do all five variations with little-to-no break.
3. Push-Up with Band Adduction
For this routine, you will need a band, a stable place to attached it, and a slider or towel (along with a floor that it will smoothly slide on).
Hook the band to the stable object (a rack always works well) and loop it around your right wrist. Set up in a Push-Up position so your body is perpendicular to the extended band. The hand with the band looped around it should also be on a slider or towel.
Complete one Push-Up and then, in the top position, adduct said hand across your midline. Focus on keeping your core braced throughout the movement.
Complete a given number of repetitions (say 6-10) on one side before switching positions and looping the band around your other hand. Go for 2-4 sets. Be sure to use a band with an appropriate amount of tension (when in doubt, start light).
4. Bear Position Push-Up Pyramid
This pyramid routine will be brutal on your triceps!
For easy transitions, grab a slider for both feet.
Complete one bear position Push-Up, as shown above (this is essentially just elbow extension from an all-fours position, but knees should also be off the ground).
Next, immediately kick your feet out and perform one normal Push-Up.
Then, return to the bear position for 2 Bear Position Push-Ups. Then kick your feet out for 2 standard Push-Ups.
Then 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, and finally 6, 6.
Scale the size of your rep pyramid up or down as needed!
5. Med Ball Squeeze Push-Up
The Medicine Ball Squeeze Push-Up adds the shoulder adduction function of the pectorals.
The entire time you are doing the Push-Up, imagine crushing your hands together into the medicine ball. Try to make it pop. Continuing to create that tension, go through the full range of motion in this manner.
Perform 2-4 sets of 6-12 reps.
6. Swiss Bar Push-Up
This variation adds a component of instability!
Grab a Swiss bar and a foam roller. Next, place the middle of the Swiss bar on the middle of the foam roller.
Making sure the implement is balanced, grab the outside neutral grip handles and complete your Push-Ups.
7. Cross-Cable Push-Up
The Cross-Cable Push-Up is going to be more unstable than a TRX or Ring Push-Up.
If you lose your balance on one side, you’re likely to topple over. Be careful!
Slowly descend to the bottom of the Push-Up. On the concentric portion, bring your arms in together at the top.
This is an advanced move, so do not attempt without a sufficient level of strength.
Photo Credit: mel-nik/iStock