The pushup is a old-fashioned classic upper-body exercise that has, undoubtedly, been part of your workout at some point in your life. Because the exercise uses your own body weight and effectively challenges so many large muscle groups, it’s commonly used as a standard of fitness by organizations ranging from the military to high school athletic teams. There may come a point, though, that the standard pushup is no longer a challenge for you anymore. Or perhaps, it’s just a little too difficult. Either way, with a little creativity, there are countless variations on the pushup that can be used to modify this old-school exercise to perfectly fit your needs. Let’s look at some basic variations and see how they could be useful to you in your workouts.
If you can’t yet do a standard pushup, you should start here and work your way up. To do an incline pushup, place your hands against a counter or sturdy table that stands at about waist height. Your hands should be a little bit wider than shoulder-width apart. Try to do as many pushups in this position as possible. Once you can do 12, you’re ready to move on to something a little more difficult. If the standing push-up is difficult which it may be than do a push up standing by placing your hands facing a wall, a bit wider than shoulder with apart and pushing yourself to and away from the wall in a standing position.
You could also make slight adjustments in the angle of your body to get this pushup just right for your fitness level. Increasing the angle, so that your body is closer to standing upright will make it easier, while moving your body closer to the floor will add to the challenge.
If you’ve moved past incline pushups but aren’t quite ready for the standard version yet, knee pushups are a perfect middle ground. By bending your knees and pivoting your weight on them, you limit the amount of weight your upper-body is being asked to move. Again, once you can successfully pull off 12 of these, you can increase the difficulty. This time, however, you can go right on to the standard pushup.
What if you find yourself getting anxious and would like to see faster progress? At this point, you can try drop sets with standard pushups. To do this, first execute as many standard pushups as you can before reaching exhaustion. Instead of resting, though, immediately switch to knee pushups and finish off your seat of 12.
So, you’ve already mastered the standard pushup and need a greater challenge? Try placing your feet on a chair and assuming the usual pushup position. While the classical pushup only requires you to lift about 60 percent of your total body weight, increasing the angle of your feet shifts more of your weight forward onto your arms and chest. Similar to the incline pushup, you can make this more or less difficult by manipulating the angle of your body.
Note that if your feet get too high, though, you’ll be doing a handstand pushup. Although that’s a great exercise for your shoulders, it does little for your upper body/chest which is normally the focus of a pushup-based workout. As always, you’re ready to progress when you reach 12 success reps of decline pushups.
This version of the pushup requires you to stagger the placement of your hands so that the majority of the weight is placed on one side of your chest. To do this, get in the standard pushup position but place your left hand about 6 inches behind your right, so that it’s tucked further under your chest. After performing a set with your right hand forward, move your hands so that your left is taking the lead.
A similar maneuver can also be done by extending one arm off to the side while keeping the other in it’s usual spot under your chest. This is a good option for people who experience wrist pain when trying the traditional staggered pushup.
Because the staggered pushup effectively focuses your weight on one side at a time, it’s a logical stepping-stone to the mythical one-arm pushup. I know that many people are intimidated by this impressive-looking exercise but, with the proper progression, it is entirely possible. To get yourself in position, you will need to spread your feet much wider than you normally would so that you have a stable base. If you can only do one or two reps at first, don’t get discouraged; that’s a perfect place to start.
Increase your reps by using the drop set technique as before. This time, though, do as many one-arm pushups on each arm as you can, before switching back to the standard pushup. Continue to shoot for a goal of 12 reps.
If you aren’t familiar with plyometric exercises, they are a proven way to increase your explosive power and build dynamic movements. This type of training is characterized by jumping or bouncing motions and is ideal for people involved in sports like football and baseball that require sudden starts and stops. Plyometric pushups, in particular, are perfect for basketball, which demands plenty of explosive upper-body power. Defensive football players, who frequently find themselves having to shove other players, would also benefit from this type of pushup.
The best-known type of plyometric pushup is the clap pushup, where you throw your body upwards and clap your hands before catching yourself again. Virtually any form of pushup, though, can be modified to be plyometric.
Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list of the types of pushups that are out there. By familiarizing yourself with these variations, though, you can be in a good position to continue to get the most out of your pushups.