Push Ups: Your Complete Guide
Push ups are one of the simplest, yet most effective ways to build real world strength and a great looking upper body. Learn more about the basics as well as find new advanced push up exercises that will spice up any workout.
Despite the claims of fitness equipment makers, the humble push up is the best chest exercise around for many reasons:
- Push ups are incredibly effective at building strong chest, shoulder, arm, and abdominal muscles.
- You can do them anytime and anywhere with no equipment required.
- Push ups help you master your own body weight, a fitness fundamental.
The Incredible, Versatile Push Up
When we talk about push ups, we mean more than just the boring old exercise from gym class. There are dozens of different push ups, each working your muscles slightly differently. This variety ensures balanced muscle growth and versatile strength. Your body will better be able to handle the myriad of physical tasks life throws at you.
Below, we have listed the all the different push up exercises used in our workout routines. This page provides a brief description of each exercise and sorts them by level of difficulty. If you need to decrease or increase the intensity of your workout, you can find a suitable replacement here.
The Standard Push Up: Perfect Your Form
Once you get the standard push up form down, you’ll be on your way to mastering all the different variations listed below.
- Starting position: Place your hands and feet on the ground slightly wider than your shoulders. Hold your mid-section taut and keep your back and neck in as straight a line as possible. Position your head so that you are looking at a spot on the ground 12 inches in front of your hands.
- Movement: Keeping your mid-section straight, slowly lower you entire body until your chest lightly touches the ground and then push back up. The repetition should take between 3-4 seconds.
Basic Push Up Variations
For true beginners, start with the modified and incline push ups. These methods lighten the load, and allow you to work up to full bodyweight push ups.
Modified: Modified the push up by dropping to your knees, while still keeping the back straight. These are great for beginners and for others who need to scale down the difficulty of an exercise mid-set instead of cutting the set short.
Incline: Push off against something that is higher than your feet, whether it’s a box, chair, or even the wall. The higher you place your arms, the easier the exercise becomes.
Wide Arm: Place your hands out wider than your elbows. The wider you place your arms, the more difficult the push ups become.
Military: Place your hands right below your shoulders. As lower yourself down, keep your elbows points to the rear (right image) as opposed to the sides (left image).
Diamond: Place your hands together so that your index fingers and thumbs are touching. The narrower the hand placement, the more your triceps will have to work.
Intermediate Level Push Ups
Once you have the fundamentals down, you can begin to vary the hand and foot positions for different effects. These push ups require greater strength and balance.
Feet Elevated: Put your feet up on something 6 to 18 inches off the ground. Work to keep your back from sagging.
Pike Press: Stick your butt up into the air. Use your shoulders to lower and raise yourself.
Tiger: Again, stick your butt into the air. This time, place your hands together like a diamond push up.
Isometric: Also known as the 10-count push up. Lower yourself down very slowly as you count to ten. Count to ten again on the way back up.
Leg Up: Keep one leg six inches off the ground as you push.
Spiderman: As you go down, lift one leg and bring it forward, getting your knee as close to your elbow as possible. Switch legs with each repetition.
Rotational: After returning to the start position, move into a side plank position by raising your right arm and leg into the air. Switch sides each repetition.
One and Half Arm: As you lower yourself, drop to an elbow and forearm on one side. Come back up to a normal starting position and switch sides each repetition.
Canyon: Place your hands on two separate objects 6-12 inches high. When you lower yourself down, you’ll be able to go deeper (into the canyon) than with a normal push up.
Uneven Canyon: Similar to the Canyon, except place your hands at uneven heights. You can elevate one hand and place the other on the ground, or to increase the challenge, you can find two objects of different heights.
Side to Side: Lower yourself down to one side, putting most of your weight over one hand. Switch sides each repetition.
Staggered Hands: Bring one hand back until it is beneath your lower rib cage. Switch hand positions halfway through each set.
Advanced Level Push Ups
With these expert push ups, we start adding more dynamic and explosive movements.
Plyometric: Lower yourself down and then explode up attempting to get both your hands and feet off the ground.
Clappers: Explode up and clap your hands together quickly.
Rolling Ball: Place one hand on top of a ball and the other on the ground. After doing a push up, roll the ball to the other hand and repeat.
One Arm: Just like it sounds. Push up and down using only one arm.
Grasshopper: Lift one leg off the ground. As you move down, bring that knee forward and across your chest, trying to get the knee as close to your opposite elbow as you can. Switch sides each repetition.
Handstand: Start in a vertical handstand. If needed, get a friend to hold your legs or use a wall for balance. Lower yourself down as far as you can and push back up.
Sliders: As you move down, one hand stands firm and the other slides out to the side. Placing your hand on a paper plate will help your hand slide or you can just lift your hand and “hop” it out to the side. Switch sides halfway through each set.
Unstable Base: Place your hands on two medicine balls (or anything unstable).
Extreme Push Ups
A word of caution about other extreme push ups like the Six Finger or Aztec. The added risk of strain or injury is much higher and they offer few extra fitness benefits. Workout Dojo does not recommend including these into a workout routine.
Set a Goal and Get to It
So how many push ups do you want to do? The Dojo’s bodyweight workouts will help you get there. What are you waiting for? If you’re still reading at this point, stop and knock out 50.