Advancing through the ranks of push-up variations is fun and challenging. From slow and controlled incline push-ups, which help you learn the movement and build core strength, to high-flying power push-ups, there's always room for improvement in your push-up game.
If your goal is to build chest strength, being able to perform plyometric (aka plyo) push-ups is a good indicator of both upper-body strength and power, according to a May 2017 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
However, before you jump into this intense push-up workout, you should be able to comfortably perform at least 10 standard push-ups in a row. From that point, begin to incorporate some of these plyo push-ups, which are listed from easiest to most challenging. Once you feel strong enough, you can attempt them altogether as a full workout.
You can also do push-ups from your knees, which allows you to use a lower percentage of your body weight, according to an article in the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Performance Training Journal.
Move 1: Hop Push-Up
- Begin in a high plank with your hands directly under your shoulders and your body in a straight line from head to hips to heels.
- Bend your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your ribs to lower yourself down to the bottom of the push-up position. Stop with your chest hovering right above the ground but not touching it.
- Press yourself away from the ground with as much speed and power as possible.
- Your goal is to not only come all the way up in your push-up, but momentarily leave the ground with your arms extended. It looks like you are doing a "hop" with your upper body.
- Land with your elbows slightly bent to absorb the impact and go into your next rep.
Reps: 2 sets of 10
Once you can comfortably get some air during the hop push-ups, you're ready for another challenge. Try the clap push-up, one of the most intense plyometric push-up variations out there, according to an October 2012 study in the International Journal of Exercise Science.
Move 2: Clap Push-Up
- Start in a high plank with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees and elbows straight but not completely locked out/hyperextended.
- Bend your elbows to lower yourself to the bottom of the push-up with your chest hovering just above the ground.
- Press yourself up as quickly and explosively as possible so that your hands leave the ground. As you come up, quickly pick your hands up from the ground and clap them together in mid-air.
- After you hear the "clap," quickly separate your hands and plant them on the ground, preferably shoulder-width apart, to prevent yourself from falling.
- Land with elbows slightly bent to absorb the impact and go into your next rep.
Reps: 3 sets of 5
Once you're comfortable with your hands briefly leaving the ground and moving in the air, you can try "jumping" over an elevated surface using only your upper body.
Move 3: Medicine Ball Plyo Push-Up
- Start in a high plank with your right hand on a medicine ball. The bigger the medicine ball, the greater the challenge.
- Perform a push-up by lowering yourself between the hand with the medicine ball and the other hand on the floor. Lower your chest to the height of the medicine ball, instead of going all the way to the ground.
- Press yourself away from the ground with both hands.
- At the same time, press into the ball with your right hand and launch your upper body to the other side of the ball.
- As you're "jumping" over the ball, take your right hand off of the ball and place it on the ground on the right side of the ball and place your left hand on the ball.
- As you're coming down, lower yourself down to the ground again, going into your next rep, "jumping" back to the left side of the ball and switching hands.
Reps: 3 sets of 5 on each arm
Move 4: Full-Body Plyo Push-Up
- Start in a high plank with your hands under your shoulders.
- Descend into a push-up. Go down until your chest is hovering just above the ground without touching it.
- Push yourself up quickly and explosively as though you are doing a clap push-up.
- When you start to go airborne, kick your feet off the ground and bring your hands together quickly to perform a clap.
- Keep your feet pointed and quickly separate your hands to prepare for the landing with elbows slightly bent.
Reps: 5 sets of 3
This is the epitome of the power push-up and, if performed correctly, will make you look like you can fly for a brief moment.
- International Journal of Exercise Science: Kinematic Analysis of Four Push-Up Variations
- National Strength and Conditioning Association's Performance Training Journal: Practical Progressions for Upper Body Training
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Evaluating Upper-Body Strength and Power From a Single Test: The Ballistic Push-up