10 Different Types of Push-Ups to Shake Up Your At-Home Workouts

LIVESTRONG.com may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.
There's more than one way to do a push-up.
Image Credit: Drazen_/E+/GettyImages

The humble push-up is very nearly the perfect exercise, challenging your chest, arms, shoulders and core all at once. The benefits aren't just muscular, though.

In a February 2019 issue of JAMA Network Open, researchers followed 1,104 "occupationally active" adult men for 10 years. They found that of those men, the ones who were able to do more than 40 push-ups during the initial assessment were much less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease during that 10-year period.

If you're looking for a way to spice up your at-home workouts, these 10 different types of push-ups give you a world of possibilities to explore.

First, Master the Standard Push-Up

Before you move on to other push-up variations, master the basic version first.
Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com

Each of the following different types of push-ups depends on having a firm grasp of proper technique for the full push-up — it's the building block for every other variation.

  1. Position yourself on your hands and knees, palms underneath (or slightly wider than) your shoulders.
  2. Straighten your legs so that now you're balancing on your palms and toes. Your body should be straight from head to heels.
  3. Squeeze your abs to keep your body straight as you bend your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body, lowering your chest toward the floor. Stop when your shoulders are even with your elbows (for beginners) or until your chest touches the floor (if your mobility and strength allow).
  4. Use the muscles of your arms, shoulders and chest to press yourself back up to a straight-arm position. That's one rep!

If doing 8 push-ups with proper form is hard, do one of the easier modifications listed below to start out; if you can do 12 with proper form, consider challenging yourself with one of the harder variations.

How Many Push-Ups Should You Do? 

For basic strength-training purposes, doing 1 or 2 sets of 8 to 12 push-ups, twice a week, is a good place to start. But you certainly can do more push-ups as part of your goal to build strength or get fit.

Push-Ups for Beginners

Not up to doing full push-ups yet? No problem. Use one of these modifications to build the strength and confidence for tackling standard push-ups.

1. Wall Push-Ups

Wall push-ups are the best place to start for beginners, as they mimic everything about a full push-up — including the requisite core strength — but use less upper-body strength.

  1. Stand facing the wall, counter, weight bench or another sturdy surface.
  2. Place your palms on the surface you've chosen and walk your feet back until your arms form a right angle to your body. Or, to put it another way, your body and arms should form the shape of an "L."
  3. Bend your arms to lower your chest toward the wall or other surface; straighten your arms to complete the repetition.

Tip

Doing this variation against a wall generally works well if your hands are placed high up on the wall. But if you're ready to move your hands lower, you'll eventually hit a point where the friction of your hands on the wall doesn't offer enough stability. When that happens, it's time to switch to a lower surface like a kitchen counter or a weight bench.

2. Incline Push-Ups

You may also see these called bench or step push-ups ⁠— really, you can use any stable surface that will support your weight. The lower the surface, the more challenging your wall push-ups will be.

  1. Place your hands shoulder-width apart on an elevated surface like a chair or box with your feet on the floor.
  2. Bend your elbows and lower your chest, keeping your body in a straight line from head to toe.
  3. Press back to the start.

3. Knee Push-Ups

This modified push-up doesn't require any special equipment and allows you to maintain the same hand/shoulder position you'll use for full push-ups.

  1. Position yourself on your hands and knees, palms underneath (or slightly wider than) your shoulders.
  2. Scoot your knees back until your body forms a straight line from your head to your knees.
  3. Bend your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body and lower your chest toward the floo, then straighten your arms to complete the repetition.

Tip

If you're not doing this exercise on a soft surface, like a yoga mat or carpeted floor, consider putting a folded towel under your knees for cushioning.

Advanced Push-Up Variations

Once you can do a complete set of regular push-ups without a problem, it's time to continue challenging yourself with harder variations.

4. Decline Push-Ups

Elevating your hands for wall push-ups makes the exercise easier — so it might not be surprising that adopting the opposite position, with your feet higher than your hands, makes doing push-ups harder.

  1. Position yourself on your hands and knees, next to a suitable elevated surface — a plyo box, an aerobics step, a weight bench, etc.
  2. Assume the push-up position, but this time instead of walking your feet out behind you, place them on the elevated surface. Take a moment to double-check your body position: Your body should still be flat like a board from head to heels, even though your heels are now higher than your head.
  3. Squeeze your core muscles to keep your body straight as you bend your arms, lowering into the push-up; then straighten your arms.

5. Triceps Push-Ups

During a normal push-up, your chest muscles are the primary movers, while your shoulders and triceps assist. But by squeezing your elbows into your side, you can shift much of the emphasis to your triceps and shoulders, making the exercise even more challenging.

  1. Assume the normal push-up position on your hands and toes.
  2. Walk your hands in a few inches.
  3. Bend your arms, keeping your elbows tucked close against your side. Stop when your shoulders break the plane of your elbows.
  4. Straighten your arms to press yourself back up.

6. Triangle Push-Ups

Want an even more challenging push-up variation for your triceps? According to an evaluation of eight triceps exercises sponsored by the American Council on Exercise, the triangle push-up — sometimes called a diamond push-up — recruited the most muscle involvement from the triceps.

  1. Assume the normal push-up position on your hands and toes.
  2. Walk your hands closer together until your fingers and thumbs come together to form the shape of either a triangle or a diamond. (The only difference between the two is how you position your thumbs.)
  3. Bend your arms, lowering your chest toward your hands.
  4. Straighten your arms and return to the top position.

7. T Push-Ups

Any type of push-up makes a fantastic core exercise, but T push-ups go the extra mile by incorporating a side plank into the movement.

  1. Assume the usual push-up position.
  2. Lower yourself to the bottom of the movement.
  3. Straighten your arms to the top position.
  4. Use your core muscles to rotate your body onto your right arm, bringing your left arm into the air. You should end up in a side plank on your right arm, with your feet stacked on top of each other and your left arm reaching straight up.
  5. Return to a high plank, then do another push-up, this time shifting into a side plank on your left arm, with your right arm reaching straight up.

Tip

If you struggle with stability doing the side plank, you can place both feet on the floor. Having the inside of your upper foot and the outside of your lower foot each in contact with the floor will help you stabilize your body.

8. Dive-Bomber Push-Ups

  1. Assume the regular push-up position. Check to make sure your feet are hip-width apart, and position your hands about the length of your palm farther back (toward your feet) than usual.
  2. Let your hips rise into a pike position so that your body forms an inverted V, not unlike the Downward Dog position of yoga.
  3. Lower your hips toward the ground, keeping your legs straight but letting your arms bend so that your chest moves forward and down, almost grazing the ground.
  4. As you continue the motion, your chest will come up as your hips sink close to the ground. Your emphasis should be on maintaining a strong core, keeping your torso close to to the floor but not resting on it, and limiting yourself to a comfortable extension in your back as you straighten your arms, elevating your shoulders above your hips in a position reminiscent of the Cobra pose in yoga.
  5. Reverse the motion, bending your arms to lower your chest as your hips come back up to the peak of the inverted V.

Tip

Dive-bomber push-ups get their name from the way your chest dives down toward the floor and then back up again with each repetition, much like a dive bomber would do in combat.

9. Clapping Push-Ups

If you're working on dynamic power in your chest muscles, it's hard to beat the demands of clapping push-ups.

  1. Assume the normal push-up position.
  2. Bend your arms, sinking into the bottom of the move.
  3. As soon as you reach the bottom of your push-up, straighten your arms to explode upward, lifting your torso off the floor. If your motion is powerful enough, you'll be able to clap your hands together beneath your torso.
  4. Quickly return your hands to their usual position and use the muscles of your chest, shoulders and arms to catch yourself as you sink back into the bottom position for another rep.

10. Archer Push-Ups

An archer push-up is essentially doing a chest fly with one arm while the other does a normal push-up. The movement takes you into — then out of — the position of an archer drawing a bow.

  1. Assume the normal push-up position.
  2. Bend your right arm as if you're doing a normal push-up. At the same time, keep your left arm almost straight and slide it out to the side, as if you were doing a dumbbell fly. Keep your body square to the floor; don't let your shoulders tip to one side or the other.
  3. Stop when your right elbow is in line with your right shoulder, which should keep your left arm within an appropriate range of motion too.
  4. Straighten your right arm and swing your left arm back in to return to the top of the move.
  5. Repeat the motion on the other side.
references
Show Comments