The Push-Up is one of the first exercises most people learn, and rightfully so. It’s one of the purest and most effective exercises you can perform, if you know how to get the most out of it.
There’s a massive list of Push-Up variations that you can perform. Some are extremely effective, while others don’t make the cut. Below, I break down the top 11 Push-Up variations that we use most often in the Performance U training system to help athletes and exercise enthusiasts build upper-body and core strength. (See also Tiki Barber’s Chest Routine.)
Proper Push-Up Form
Before we get into Push-Up variations and progressions, it’s critical that you master the basic Push-Up. In the video below, I demonstrate the Performance U approach for optimizing Push-Up form to maximize strength development and minimize stress on your elbows and shoulders.
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Top 11 Push-Up Variations
1 & 2: Lateral and Rotational Push-Ups
Lateral and Rotational Push-Ups will develop chest strength while challenging your stability and core strength.
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3: Push-Back Push-Up
This variation resembles the diagonal pushing action of an Incline Dumbbell Press, so it focuses more on the shoulders.
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4: Single-Arm Push-Up
The Single-Arm Push-Up is our premier upper-body pushing exercise. You will develop balanced strength on both sides of your body and engage your core to help keep your body in a stable position.
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5: Push-Up to Pike Combo
Simultaneously builds chest strength, targets the front side of your core and improves shoulder stability. (Learn how to perform the TRX Atomic Push-Up.)
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6-8: The Big 10 Push-Up Circuit
This circuit incorporates five different Push-Up variations—two of which I’ve covered above. Performing each of these variations in the Big 10 Circuit format will build overall upper-body strength and challenge your muscular endurance.
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9-11: Chest Blaster
Similar to the above circuit, the Chest Blaster involves multiple Push-Up variations, including Lock-Offs, Crossovers, Ball Squeezes and Drop ‘n Pops. You will develop explosive power and increase your chest, triceps and shoulder size.
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