Top 16 Push-Up Variations (Part 1)

Push-ups give you a full body workout, burn fat and build muscle, and you can do them anywhere. Learn Get-Fit Guy’s top 16 push-up variations, plus get an instructional video.

Ben Greenfield
4-minute read
Episode #113

The traditional push-up may seem like a bit of a boring exercise, or at least one that might bring back unpleasant memories of a fitness test, a PE class, or punishment during basketball practice.

But in a recent Get-Fit Guy newsletter you learned that push-ups are:

  • a full body exercise that require contraction of the muscles around the knee joints, hip joints, pelvis and spine to maintain a straight line from your head to your feet. Plus, push-ups activate the muscles on the back of your arms, chest, shoulder, biceps, upper back, lower back, and legs.

  • can be used to not just build muscular strength, but also power, muscle growth, or muscular endurance, depending on which variation of the push-up you do (and you’re about to learn the best variations!)

  • an extremely flexible exercise in which you can change muscle recruitment patterns and joint stresses of the push-ups – making a movement harder, easier, or simply stressing different muscles – by simply altering your hand and foot positions.


And, of course, one of the best parts about the push-up is that you can do it just about anywhere. So what are the best versions of the push-up? I’m going to give you my top 16 push-up variations, each of which works a different muscle group or targets a different fitness goal –a nd don’t worry if you have trouble visualizing any of these, because you can click here for a video in which I demonstrate each push-up variation.

#1. Between-Chair Push-Up. By placing each of your hands on two chairs that are spread slightly wider than your shoulder width, you elevate your body farther from the ground and increase the range-of-motion of the entire push-up – so your muscles (especially your chest muscles) must work harder to complete the movement. In addition, when your hands are spread wide during the push-up, you activate your chest muscles more than your triceps muscles. If you maintain good posture, you’ll also use your abs and low back muscles more. If you have three chairs, you can actually put elevate your legs as well, turning this version into a “suspended” push-up.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.