Push ups are one of the most popular bodyweight exercises.
However, as I’ve discussed before, they often aren’t the best way to build strength and muscle mass effectively.
And this isn’t because there is anything wrong with push ups, per se…
Rather, it is because regular, bodyweight push ups are hard to progress with beyond a certain point (much like other bodyweight exercises).
As readers of this blog know, the best way to build strength and muscle, hands down, is progressive overload – which leaves the humble push up in a bit of a bind…
Sure, you can just keep increasing repetitions, but that simply isn’t going to be as good as fundamentally making the exercise more difficult.
Thankfully, there are several solutions to this problem:
1) You can purchase a weighted vest, which allows you to gradually increase the amount of resistance as you get stronger.
2) You can learn some other, more challenging push up variations, which will let you continue making progress once you master the basic push up.
In this article, I’m going to go through 11 muscle building push up variations that you probably haven’t tried before.
These will help to keep things challenging, and allow you to progress well beyond the conventional push up once it becomes too easy.
Let’s go through them one by one…
1) The Feet Elevated Push Up
This is done with your feet either on a chair or on a bench.
The elevation makes the exercise more challenging, by utilizing more of your body weight, and also emphasizes the upper part of the chest.
2) The Staggered Push Up
The staggered push up is done by placing one hand further forward than the other hand.
This helps to isolate one side of the chest more, and also makes balancing a lot tougher.
3) The Spiderman Push Up
The spiderman push up, aptly named after the web-slinger himself, focuses on improving your balance while also working your obliques.
To do this, you bring one knee up to the side of your body when you’re in the bottom position of the push up, alternating legs every few reps.
4) The Explosive Push Up
This is a plyometric push up variation, which will help train your explosive power.
To do this, for each rep you need to push hard enough to explosively launch yourself into the air.
You can even try clapping your hands in the air for an extra challenge.
5) The Side-To-Side Push Up
Also known as a Typewriter Push Up, this variation involves lowering your body to one side, so that your chest is close to that arm, and then sliding your body across to the other side, before pushing back up.
Then start with the other side, and continue alternating for each rep.
6) The Wide Push Up
This simply involves starting out with your hands spaced wider than usual.
In doing so, you end up isolating the chest even more, since it takes a lot of the focus off of the triceps.
7) The Diamond Push Up
This is pretty much the opposite of the wide push up, listed above.
Instead of starting with your hands at body width, you should bring them directly in front of you, with your fingers touching so that they form a diamond shape.
This shifts the focus away from the chest, and puts greater emphasis on your tricep muscles.
8) The Corkscrew Push Up
This variation is performed with your feet together, your hands under your chest, your knees bent at a 45 degree angle, while raising your ass up in the air.
Then, as you press your body off the ground, twist your legs to the side without bending your knees.
Sounds awkward, I know, but it’s effective!
9) The Single Arm Push Up
This is a tough one to master, and is a real test of upper body strength!
As you’re learning to do this, bear in mind that keeping your legs wider will make it easier, while bringing them closer together will make it even more difficult.
10) The Aztec Push Up
The Aztec Push Up is really, really hard to do.
It’s like the Explosive Push Up that we already went over, but while you’re in the air you need to touch your hands to your feet.
To pull this off, you need an impressive combination of explosive strength, agility, and speed.
Better get practicing!
11) The Planche Push Up
The Plance Push Up is arguably the most challenging variation on this list.
Basically, it is like a regular push up – except with your feet completely in the air the entire time!
That’s right, you are supporting the weight of your body with just your hands.
This requires not only tremendous balance, but also a significant degree of upper body strength.
Good luck with this one…