10 Effective Push-Up Variations for Different Fitness Levels

A man doing push-ups

If you haven’t started incorporating push-ups into your workout routine, start now! Push-ups are great for the entire upper body including the chest, shoulders, biceps and triceps (goodbye bingo arms!), as well as a real challenge for your core and glutes. Whether you are a workout beginner or fitness buff, this functional body weight move is a must in your fitness routine and I have 10 push up variations for you to try.

Beginner

1. Push-off push-up

A woman doing a push-up on a box

This variation of push ups is performed on an incline (your upper body higher than your lower body) using a bench, wall, fence or step. The greater the angle of your body and the ground, the easier it is. Place your hands on the incline and lower down into a push-up (if you’re using a bench or step, make sure it comes right underneath your chest). Then, push yourself up powerfully until your hands release from the incline, keep your core nice and tight and then go right back down into the next push-up. Make sure you land with soft elbows to avoid hyperextension.

2. Narrow push-up (on knees)

This variation is great for the triceps as you will place your hands closer than shoulder width until your thumbs touch. Strive to keep your elbows close to your body during this push-up variation to really target the backs of the arms.

3. Side-to-side push-up (on knees)

For this variation you are going to start with your hands closer than shoulder width (as in the narrow push-up). Keeping your knees (or feet) planted, lift your right hand up and move it further to the right as you do the push-up. Push yourself up and bring the right hand back to center. Repeat on the left side.

4. Elbow push-up

A woman is doing an ellbow push-up

A woman is doing an ellbow push-up

Just as the name says, this is a push-up performed in an elbow plank. Get into plank position on your elbows (make sure your elbows are directly underneath your shoulders). Lower your chest towards the ground and squeeze your shoulder blades together and then drive through your forearms to push yourself back up.

Intermediate

5. Commander push-up

A woman is doing narrow push-ups

A woman is doing a commander push-up

First perform a regular push-up on your hands and toes. After one push-up, engage your core and bring your right knee towards the outside of your right elbow then back. Do another push-up and repeat the knee-to-elbow on the left side. This variation will really get the obliques – awesome!

6. Single leg pike push-up

A woman is doing a single leg pike push-ups

A woman is doing a single leg pipe push-up

This variation begins in a 3-legged dog position (one of our favorite yoga poses). To get into a 3-legged dog: start in a plank position on your hands with your feet hips width apart, lift your hips up towards the sky driving your heels towards the ground, then extend one leg towards the sky. Now that you are in the starting position, perform the push-up by bending your elbows and lowering the top of your head towards the ground in between your hands. Go as low as you can before pushing yourself back up. Don’t forget to do both sides.

7. Plank jack push-up

Start in a plank position on your hands with your feet together. Jump your legs out and then in (like you would during a jumping jack) and then do one push-up. Repeat, repeat, repeat!

Advanced

8. Push-up jack

A woman is doing push-up jacks

Start out in a plank position on your hands with your feet together. As you lower down into the push-up, jump your legs out to a wider stance and then jump them back in as you push yourself up. This variation will really get your heart rate up.

9. Up-down push-up

Start out in a plank on your elbows. Perform an elbow push-up by lowering your chest towards the ground squeezing your shoulder blades together. Then come up to a plank on your hands and perform a standard push-up. Lower back down to your elbows and repeat the sequence. (You can thank me later for this one!)

10. Handstand push-up

For this exercise you will need a wall, tree, fence (anything you can lean your entire body against). You can do it with your upper body facing or away from the wall – try both out and see which you prefer. If you are facing the wall, you can bend at the waist & plant your hands on the ground shoulder width apart and basically climb up the wall with your feet until you are nice and straight with locked elbows. If you are facing away from the wall, you will need to practice kicking your legs up and over your body (it’s not as hard as it sounds). This movement has to be really fluid and quick in order for it to work. Bend at the waist slightly and place your hands on the ground shoulder width apart with straight arms. Kick one leg up and then the other until your body is straight up against the wall. It might take a few times in order to get the hang of it but don’t get discouraged.

Tip: It’s okay to have a spotter for this, especially if you have never tried one before! Once you are up against the wall (whichever way you please) you are ready to start. Make sure you’re focusing straight ahead, not at the floor. Slowly lower yourself to the ground until your head almost touches the floor (feel free to put a pillow or cushion underneath to ensure safety). Push yourself back up slowly until your arms are straight.

For even more different push ups, check out these 20 Powerful Push-Ups:

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Lunden Souza Lunden is a Certified Personal Trainer and the Runtastic Fitness Coach. You can work out with her on the Runtastic Fitness Channel on YouTube or join her at one of the LIVE Workout Parties. View all posts by Lunden Souza »

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