Pushups are one of the best upper-body exercises, requiring tremendous strength in the chest, shoulders and triceps, plus the back and core muscles in a stabilizing role. There are countless variations of push-ups, each with varying degrees of difficulty. Arguably the most difficult are the stability ball/med ball pushup, the one arm pushup, the Aztec pushup and the planche pushup.
Stability Ball/Med Ball Pushup
The stability ball/med ball pushup requires the use of a stability ball for the feet to rest on and a medicine ball for the hands. This pushup variation is so challenging because both hands and feet are on unstable surfaces, which mean the stabilizer muscles of the ankles, hips, core and shoulders are far more active than they would be for a standard pushup. To do the stability ball/med ball pushup, roll onto the stability ball, using your hands to walk forward until your shins are resting on the ball. Place both hands on the medicine ball and begin pushups, start slowly as you control the movements.
The one-arm pushup, made famous by the training montage in "Rocky” movies, demands an extreme amount of upper-body strength. Start in the standard pushup position, then widen your feet so they are wider than shoulder width apart. Place one hand behind your back and slowly lower yourself to the ground. The more squared your hips and shoulders are to the ground, the more challenging it will be.
The Aztec pushup is a variation of plyometric pushups, which require incredible strength and coordination. Start in the standard pushup position and then lower yourself like you would with a standard pushup, but on the way up, explode up, launching your entire body in the air and jackknife your body by touching your fingers and toes together in mid air. Land in the starting position, and repeat if you can.
The planche pushup is a pushup used in gymnastics and requires more total body strength than any other type of pushup. Hand position is slightly different from the standard position, in that your hands are closer to your hips. From here, lift your feet in the air and hold them here, balancing your weight on your hands. This is the starting position. Once here, perform as many pushups as possible without letting your feet touch the ground.