3 Push-Up Routines to Build the Complete Athlete

STACK Expert Jim Carpentier gives you three Push-Up routines to increase your upper-body strength, power, size, endurance and flexibility.

DB Push-Up

The Push-Up and all of its challenging variations target arm, chest, shoulder, upper- and middle-back and core muscles—all in one movement. Alternate the following Push-Up routines on non-consecutive days during full-body workouts. You will see increased upper-body strength, power, size, endurance and flexibility.


  • Bench or chair
  • Med ball
  • 2 Dumbbells
  • Timer
  • Water Bottle


  • Perform upper-body dynamic warm-up (e.g., arm circles).
  • Perform Push-Ups with proper technique. Keep your back straight, ab muscles tight, hands about shoulder-width apart, and head up and looking straight ahead.
  • Use this rep tempo: lower in 2 seconds, press up in 1 second.
  • Hydrate during rest periods between exercises or sets.
  • Finish workouts with upper- and lower-body cool-down static stretches for greater flexibility.

Strength/Power Routine

Sets/Reps: 5x3

Rest: 30 seconds between sets; 60 seconds between exercises to hydrate.

Explosive Push-Ups

  • Assume push-up position with hands shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold for two seconds, then lower and explosively press up with your hands leaving the floor (1 second).
  • Slowly descend and do two more explosive Push-Ups.
  • Rest 30 seconds, perform four more sets, rest for 60 seconds.

Med Ball Elevated Push-Ups

This is another advanced and vigorous Push-Up. Elevated Med Ball Push-Ups are harder than standard floor Push-Ups. They really test upper-body strength and power, and they force core muscles to stabilize from the elevated position with hands atop the ball.

  • Assume push-up position and place both hands on a med ball.
  • Place one foot at a time on a bench or chair.
  • Slowly descend in 2 seconds, pause 1 second, then quickly press up in 1 second.
  • Perform two more reps, rest 30 seconds, then perform four more sets.

Hypertrophy (Size-Building) Routine

Sets/Reps: 3x10

Rest: 15-30 seconds between sets; 45 seconds between exercises to hydrate.

DB Alternating Push-Ups/Pulls

The one-arm pulls (rows) and holds between Push-Ups engage the core muscles (abdominal, middle and lower back, and groin) and promote balance and core stability.

  • Assume push-up position with both hands on dumbbells in a neutral-grip (palms facing each other).
  • Lower slowly, pause and explosively press up.
  • Immediately pull the right DB off the floor to your chest.
  • Hold 2 seconds while squeezing your shoulder blades.
  • Lower and continue Push-Up/right-hand DB pulls for nine more reps.
  • Rest 15 seconds and do Push-Ups/left-hand DB pulls for 10 reps.
  • Rest 30 seconds and do 2 more sets.

Single-Arm Med Ball Push-Ups with Foot Off Floor

This is another terrific core-strengthening exercise. Holding one foot off the floor further challenges your upper body and arms. Forcing muscles to work harder results in size and strength gains.

  • Assume push-up position with your right hand on the med ball and your other hand on the floor.
  • Lift your left foot off the floor.
  • Perform 10 reps, then immediately switch with your left hand on the ball and your right foot off the floor for 10 reps.

Muscular Endurance/Upper- and Lower-Body Flexibility Routine

Sets/Reps: 2x as many reps as you can in 60 seconds.

Rest: 15-30 seconds between sets; 60 seconds between exercises to hydrate.

Endurance Push-Ups in 60 Seconds

  • Assume standard push-up position.
  • Slowly descend in 2 seconds, rapidly press up in one second and continue for 60 seconds.

Inchworm/Push-Up Combo

Inchworms help improve both upper- and lower-body flexibility.

  • Perform a Push-Up, then walk your feet toward your hands (keep your legs straight).
  • Get your feet as close to your hands as possible, depending on your level of lower-body flexibility.
  • Walk your hands forward to get back to a push-up position.
  • Perform another Push-Up and continue Inchworm/Push-Up sequence.
  • Perform as many Inchworms/Push-Ups as you can in 60 seconds. 
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