5 Push Up Variations You Need to Master

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the effectiveness of push ups and doing pushups everyday. Today, I’m going to reveal five unique push up variations that will challenge you in a whole different way.

If you’ve been reading my stuff, you’re probably aware of my love for bodyweight exercises and workouts. I think bodyweight exercises are often overlooked and generally underused. Your body is one of the greatest tools you have for building…yea, you guessed it – a great body. With gravity as your sidekick, you can develop an incredible workout with only your body acting as the resistance.

In my opinion, push ups are one of those bodyweight exercises that have stood the test of time. Over generations, they have helped build incredible upper bodies. Push ups are great for building endurance and strength in your upper body in a pushing movement pattern. They’re a great compound exercise that target your chest, triceps, and shoulders.

But if you’ve been doing regular push ups for some time, your routine needs a change to prevent plateaus and boredom. There are various modifications you can try that will make the exercise more challenging and improve your overall push up fitness.

To help you out, here are five push up variations that you need to master:

1) T-Push Up

The T-Push Up is a great modification for incorporating balance, stabilization and explosiveness into the exercise.

Start off in the same position as you would for a regular push up, only this time explode up (pretend that you’re trying to push the ground away really hard) and turn to one side. Your feet should go from balancing on the toes to balancing on the sides. Raise one arm up, creating a sideways T-shape with your body. Here’s a great video that shows how to do a proper T-Push Up.

Since the majority of your weight will be on one arm, you’ll realize how important balance is. If you’d like to try an advanced version of the T-Push Up, use light dumbbells and perform the same exercise while gripping onto the dumbbells through the whole repetition.

2) Slider Push Up

This is a great push up variation I picked up when I was doing the P90X program last year. It’s a very unique modifications that will help break any plateau.

You’ll need to be on a low-friction surface (carpet or hardwood floor works best). You’ll also need something that can slide easily across that surface – paper often works well but a towel on a hardwood floor works good too. Start off in a regular push up position with your hands underneath your shoulders but place the piece of paper under one of your hands. As you go down, slide the paper out so your hands are spread wide. As you push back up, slide the hand back underneath your shoulder.

I found a great video showing an advanced version of the sliding push up where you slide both hands out. My recommendation is to start off with just one hand sliding out while the other one is stationary.

3) Medicine Ball Push Up

The idea of incorporating medicine balls with push ups is to 1) incorporate a need for balance and shoulder stabilization, and 2) increase the range of motion of your push ups allowing for greater stress to be placed on your muscles.

Start off by incorporating one (small) medicine ball. Start off in regular push up position with your feet together, only place a medicine ball underneath one hand. Once you perform a push up you can roll the ball to the other hand and perform another push up. Keep alternating throughout your set. You’ll notice that incorporating one ball requires a slight increase in stabilization and you should notice a greater stretch in your chest muscles. Here’s a great single medicine ball push up demonstration.

When you master the single medicine ball push up, you can move on to using two medicine balls – one for each hand. This one is tough – you’ll notice a huge demand for balance and stabilization plus your muscles will exhaust much more quickly as they’re taken through a greater stretch. As the need for stabilization and balance increases, your core gets an incredible workout. Play around with the distance between the two balls. The closer they are, the more you’ll target your triceps group and the more balance is required. As you move them further apart, you’ll be focusing more on your chest muscles. Here’s a great video for this advanced push up exercise.

If you really want to go advanced, then I suggest you check out the three medicine ball push up variation and this guy’s insane push up variation (this one requires a different set of balls – if you know what I mean)!! NOTE: Work your way up! Don’t immediately go to the advanced push up exercises. These exercises take incredible balance and shoulder stabilization and you should work your way towards them by progressing from easy to more difficult.

4) Spiderman Push Up

This is one of my favorite push up variations. It’s great for improving core strength and overall stabilization.

Start in a regular push up position. As you go down, bring one knee to your elbow. As you push up, bring the leg back to its original position. Then do the same for the other leg. As you alternate side to side, you’ll look like spiderman crawling up a building.

It’s a hard exercise to explain using words, so let this video show you what I’m talking about. Remember to maintain a slow pace as you meet knee to elbow and squeeze your obliques each time.

5) Stability ball Push Up

The stability ball has been an excellent addition to my workout set as it allows me to increase the difficulty for a variety of exercises. Using the stability ball for your push ups will target your upper body in a way you haven’t experienced before.

Ensure the stability ball is properly inflated. Place your hands about shoulder width apart on the side of the ball facing you, directly underneath your shoulders. As you go through your repetitions, you’ll notice how important having good balance and stabilization is. Maintain a slow and consistent pace. If you’re having trouble balancing at first, try spreading your feet wider apart. Eventually work your way to positioning your feet together. Here’s a simple video to give you a visual demonstration.

Other push up variations with stability balls includes placing your feet on the stability ball (decline push ups), using two stability balls (for your hands), and using three stability balls (hands and feet). These are all advanced variations so make sure you start easy and work your way up.

Do you have any push up variations that you find effective? Share in the comments below!

[UPDATE: I have recently put together an extensive compilation of 48 different push up variations. I made it into a video so you can really see how each variation is done. You can check out the video here: 48 Different Push up Variations.]

46 thoughts on “5 Push Up Variations You Need to Master”

  1. Certainly the good old push up has been forgotten in the myriad of machine, fancy circuits and trying to do something different but like you indicate you always need to come back to this bad boy!
    There are so many variations and I like to add them into a super sett routine.
    I love pushups not for only increasing strength but its a bench mark for fitness. Sometimes I like to check my health by doing a series of tests like how long does it take to do 100 burpees, run 3 km and a few others but my one for pushups is how many in 3 minutes! I do about 114 and always look for ways to increase that.

    1. Raymond, I use push ups for fitness assessments as well. Typically, the standard is to see how many proper push ups can be done in 60 seconds. And, like you said, it’s applicable to many other (mostly bodyweight) exercises. I’m going to see how many I can do in 3 minutes and let you know 🙂

  2. Great set of pushup variations. The slider pushup looks really interesting. Might have to give that one a try. I’ve included the rest in my routine from time to time. Currently my focus is on decline closed grip pushups along with handstand pushups and one arm pushups.

    1. Thanks, Dave! The slider push up has been one of my favorite variations since I did the p90x program a while back. One of the best tools you can get is the ValSlide. I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard of it but it can really add variation to different bodyweight exercises, especially push ups.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Alykhan. A lot of people give up on push ups because they get boring. These variations can really spice things up. Give the slider one a shot and let me know what you think!

    1. Thanks for the comment, J. I just checked out your post and you got some great variations in there. One of the ones you listed, and one that I use very often, is the band resisted push up. I tie my resistance band to my push up stands and knock out a few sets. The tighter I tie it (or the further I spread the push up stands apart), the more resistance there is. It’s great for boosting your push up count. I think it’s funny we used the same picture 🙂

  3. Love the different variations. I have introduced a few of these to my grade 9 students, and they love them.

    I do think that performing an old fashion push up correctly is still a great challenge for many people. Most would be wise to perfect a strict push up first, then go wild on variations!


    1. I’m glad you’ve found some use from them Jordan. It’s great because push ups can be utilized by any age group.

      You’re absolutely right though. A lot of the younger kids I work with still struggle to perform the regular push up. It most definitely is a great challenge in itself. But as we keep doing the same thing, our progression tends to level off and variations like these (and many others) are great for getting you to the next level.

      Thanks for the comment!

  4. Nice post, its amazing how much you can get out of such a simple (but not easy) movement. I’m using push up bars at the moment for a pushup version of the classic Vince Gironda neck press exercise. Its tough, but the results have been great. I’m well on my way to “gladiator pectorals” 🙂


  5. As said above I like to use push ups for fitness assessment too but my approach is different I go to failure and count how many reps I can do. I do this rarely just to check where I am in my development. I also like to do exercise combos with push ups.

    1. Rumiana, I think the majority of people, including myself at times, will do pushups to failure. It’s not the only way to do them though. When I do my pushups with resistance bands and pushup stands, I never go to failure. I go for a specific number I know I can hit. But I do them explosively.

      What are some of the exercise combos you do with your pushups?

    1. The push up-burpee combination is my favorite when it comes to getting my heart rate up FAST. But I don’t think I’ve ever tried the push up to side jump combo. I’d like to give it a try. Maybe you can give me a link to a youtube video or send me a short description so I make sure to do it right 🙂

  6. Lol actually push up side jump is my invention (or at least I didn’t see anybody do this). Do push up, than hands stay where they are but jump left side as close as possible to left hand, than jump back in push up position and jump to the right, than start with the push up. Let me know how you feel it 🙂

    Also before jumping right, from push up position jump legs up (hands stay on the ground), this is harder than just jump side 🙂

  7. Hi,
    Great tips, pushups work so many muscle groups, back, core, tri’s and bi’s, chest. Another variation is with the medicine ball, do a pushup like you do, with one hand on the ball, then at the top of the pushup, take floor hand and move up onto the ball, moving other to floor, and alternate. Also, keep the ball in the center, do a pushup lowering chest to ball, then explode up and land with both hands up on the ball. Stop there and safely return hands one at a time to the floor. May have to do these from the knees, but they’re great.

  8. I am so much inspired with your post. I gained weight and I am planning to have a regular exercise. I think I would try some of the work out you shared. I know I can do this even when I’m at home. Great!

  9. I thought I knew a couple push up variations, but I haven’t seen all of these. The point about plateaus is important and aside from work your body in different ways for more complete workout, this also keeps the muscles from getting used to a set routine.

  10. Great variations, I’m not good at push ups but at least I try to do the stability ball push ups more often. Most of these variations are new to me and looks complicated but I’d like to try these out with my trainer.

  11. I have always found push ups to be boring but with these new techniques I can get back into it. thank you for posting this!

  12. I use the Perfect Push Up rotating bars 2-3 times a week and have enjoyed them. I have done the T push ups in the past at crossfit. I just tried the balance ball push up and could barely do 1. I need to air it up a little more and I will keep trying it.

    – Destin

    1. The perfect push up is awesome! But for some reason I’ve always stuck with the basic push up stands.

      Keep working buddy it just takes a bit of time and persistence! You’ll get there.

  13. the slider pushups are tough. i’ve seen these pushups called superman pushups as well, which i can’t even budge! its where you lay on your stomach with your hands all the way outstretched above your head with your hands together, and you try to do a pushup. didnt’ think it was possible but have seen it done on youtube, a m a z i n g!

  14. Hi Srdjan,

    I am planning to gain some weight. Which of these push-ups can help me gain weight the least time possible?

    Aslan Baldwin

    1. They can all help you gain weight, but what matters is HOW you do them. Aim for lots of volume (repetitions) and lots of fatigue. Shorten your rest periods between sets to initiate cumulative fatigue. And feed yourself accordingly.

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