The Ultimate Guide To Push-Ups And 13 Popular Variations

Pushups are one of those exercises everyone should do regularly. The exercise works many muscles in your upper body, like your triceps, shoulders, and chest. It’s a bodyweight exercise that doesn’t require any equipment. You just need some space and a desire to work out. 

Pushups have been around for millennia, from ancient Indian armies making it mandatory for soldiers to the Roman Emperor Constantine performing them regularly to stay healthy. Pushups are even used as punishment. For example, a coach might tell an athlete who’s slacking off to drop down and give them a specified number of pushups. 

Some of the benefits of making pushups part of your fitness routine include:

  • It burns calories since it’s a compound exercise that uses large muscle groups and forces your heart to work harder.
  • It strengthens your shoulders and lower back, reducing your risk of injuries.
  • It strengthens your core, improving your balance and posture.
  • It makes your daily activities less strenuous.
  • Improved flexibility.
  • Improves your overall fitness and athleticism.

 

How To Perform A Pushup

Using the correct form is crucial when performing pushups. Using proper form keeps the pressure on your joints to a minimum, and it makes the muscles in your chest, triceps, and shoulders work more. Proper form also serves as a measuring stick that allows you to monitor your progress from one workout to another. 

For example, you won’t be able to tell if you’ve gotten stronger if you performed 15 pushups last week with decent form and 20 this week with poor form and half reps. 

As popular as pushups are, most people don’t know how to do them correctly. We’ll start our ultimate guide to pushups by going over the correct way to perform a standard pushup:

  • Get into a high plank position on the ground with your hands a little more than shoulder-width apart. Your nipples should be directly above your thumbnails at the proper position. Feel free to keep your hands angled in whatever direction feels comfortable for you.
  • Position your feet in a way that leaves you balanced. That’s about shoulder-width apart for many people. Some people perform pushups with their feet together, which is fine. The most important thing is you feel balanced and stable when performing your reps.
  • Keep your core tight and keep your body in a straight line when you get in position for your reps. You should be able to draw a straight line from your head to your heels when you’re in the correct position. Try clenching your glutes if you’re having difficulty keeping your body straight.
  • Keep your head looking slightly in front of you. This helps to keep your body straight as you perform your reps. Your chin should be the first part of your head to touch the ground during your reps, not your nose.
  • Straighten your arms at the top of your reps but don’t lock your elbows. Doing so puts unnecessary stress on your elbows.
  • Do not let your elbows fly out during your reps. Try to keep them close to your body at all times during the exercise.

Here’s what everything looks like put together:

Get into the plank position with your abs tight, glutes clenched, and your arms straight. Lower yourself to the ground until at least your elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle. Go until your chest hits the floor if your flexibility allows for it. 

Keep your elbows close to your body during your descent and pause for a split second when you get as low as possible. Now, explode back up to the starting position to complete a rep. Perform as many reps as you can until your form starts to slip. End your set there and aim for two to five sets. 

 

Popular Pushup Variations

Now that we’ve gone over how to perform a conventional pushup, let’s take a look at some of the many variations of the exercise:

 

1) Wall Pushups

Wall pushups were developed for people who lack the upper body strength to perform regular pushups. It targets the same muscles but requires you to do a lot less work. Here’s what the exercise looks like:

  • Stand facing a wall with your arms placed on the wall.
  • Walk backward until your arms are supporting your weight against the wall. Your body should form a straight line as if you were doing regular pushups.
  • Lower yourself towards the wall, pause for a split second, and explode back to the starting position. Perform as many reps as you can while maintaining good form.

Aim for four sets of 20 reps. You’re ready to move on to more challenging variations like knee pushups once you can do that with ease. 

 

2) Knee Pushups

Knee pushups are a great way to work up to regular pushups if you don’t have the strength or upper body endurance yet. The exercise is performed in the same way as a regular pushup, but with your knees on the ground instead of your feet:

  • Get into a plank position with your abs tight and glutes clenched. Place your knees on the ground, but keep your upper legs and hips at a 90-degree angle.
  • Bend your elbows and lower yourself until your chest touches the floor. Pause for a split second and explode back up to the starting position.
  • Repeat for as many reps as you can while maintaining good form. Once you can do four sets of 20 reps with ease, move on to regular pushups.

 

3) One-Arm Pushups

One-arm pushups are a great way to build strength in your chest, shoulders, and triceps. The exercise is performed the same way as a regular pushup, but with one arm. It gives you more of a challenge than a conventional pushup:

  • Get into a plank position with your abs tight and glutes clenched. Place one hand on the ground and keep the other hand behind your back.
  • Bend your elbows and go down towards the floor until your chest touches the ground. Pause for a split second and explode back up to the starting position.
  • Repeat for as many reps as possible while maintaining good form to complete a set and switch arms. Aim for three to five sets.

 

4) Plyometric Pushups

Plyometric pushups are a great way to build explosive power in your chest and triceps. The exercise is performed the same way as a regular pushup but with an added jump at the end:

  • Get into a plank position with your abs tight and glutes clenched.
  • Bend your elbows and lower your torso until your chest touches the floor. Pause for a split second.
  • Explode upwards so that your hands leave the ground momentarily. Land softly on your hands and immediately lower yourself back into the starting position.
  • Repeat for as many reps as you can while maintaining good form.

 

5) Decline Pushups

Decline pushups are a great way to target your lower chest muscles. The exercise is performed the same way as a regular pushup, but with your feet elevated on a bench or other raised surface:

  • Get into a plank position with your abs tight and glutes clenched. Place your feet on a bench or other raised surface.
  • Lower yourself to the floor by bending at the elbows until your chest touches the ground. Pause for a moment and explode back up to the starting position.
  • Repeat for as many reps as you can while maintaining good form. Try to complete three to five sets.

 

6) Incline Pushups

Incline pushups are a great way to target your upper chest muscles. The exercise is performed the same way as a regular pushup, but with your hands elevated on a bench or other raised surface:

  • Get into the starting position with your abs tight and glutes clenched. Place your hands on a bench or other raised surface
  • Bend your elbows and lower your body until your chest touches the ground. Pause for a second and explode back up to the starting position
  • Repeat for as many reps as you can while maintaining good form. Aim for three to five sets.

 

7) Close-Grip Pushups

Close-grip pushups are a great way to target your triceps. The exercise is performed the same way as a regular pushup, but with your hands close together:

  • Get into a pushup position with your abs tight and glutes clenched. Place your hands close together, directly under your chest.
  • Bend your elbows and drop yourself until your chest touches the ground. Pause for a moment and explode back up to the starting position.
  • Repeat for as many reps as you can while maintaining good form. Go for three to five sets.

 

8) Wide-Grip Pushups

Wide-grip pushups are a great way to target your chest muscles. The exercise is performed the same way as a regular pushup, but with your hands wide apart. This forces your chest muscles to work harder than they would when performing standard pushups:

  • Get into a plank position with your abs tight and glutes clenched. Place your hands wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend your elbows to lower yourself until your chest touches the ground. Pause for a split second and explode back up to the starting position.
  • Repeat for as many reps as you can while maintaining good form. Aim for three to five sets.

 

9) Spiderman Pushups

Spiderman pushups are a great way to build strength and muscle in your chest, shoulders, and triceps. The exercise is performed the same way as a regular pushup but with an added leg lift at the top:

  • Get into the starting position with your torso tight, and glutes tightened.
  • Bend your elbows and descend towards the ground until your chest touches the ground. 
  • As you descend, bring your right knee to your right elbow and pause.
  • Return to the starting position, and repeat with the left side.
  • Repeat for as many reps as you can while maintaining good form.

 

10) One-Legged Pushup

One-legged pushups are a great way to build strength and muscle in your chest, shoulders, and triceps. The exercise is performed the same way as a regular pushup, but with one leg lifted off the ground:

  • Get into the pushup position with your abs tight and glutes clenched. Lift your right leg off the ground and keep it straight.
  • Bend your elbows and drop yourself until your chest touches the ground. Pause for a split second.
  • Explode back up to the starting position. Repeat with your left leg.
  • Repeat for as many reps as you can while maintaining good form. Aim for three to five sets.

 

12) Dive Bomber Pushups

Dive bomber pushups are a great way to target your chest, shoulders, and triceps. It’s one of the most challenging pushup variations and gets your blood flowing. The exercise is performed by starting in a plank position with your hips sticking out. Here’s what it looks like:

  • Get into a plank position and keep your torso straight. Raise your hips as high so your body forms an inverted V.
  • With your hands spaced a little more than shoulder-width apart, dive towards the ground with your face, shoulders, and chest. Get as low as you can short of touching the ground.
  • Push with your arms as you raise your head and straighten your body. You should end up with your hips close to the ground (but not touching it), your arms straight without locking your elbows and looking at the ground.
  • Return to the starting position by first bending your elbows, then raising your hips back into the inverted V.
  • Repeat for as many reps as you can while maintaining good form. Aim for three to five sets.

 

13) Handstand Pushups

Handstand pushups are a great way to target your shoulders and triceps. The exercise is performed by starting in a handstand position and lowering yourself until your head almost touches the ground. Using a wall to balance yourself makes the exercise less of a challenge while you perfect your form. Here’s what it looks like:

  • Get into a handstand position with your glutes clenched and torso tight.
  • Slowly lower yourself down until the top of your head touches the ground. Pause for a split second at the bottom and then push back up to the starting position.
  • Repeat for as many reps as you can while maintaining good form. Go for three to five sets.

 

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