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.]