While the basic push-up is a mainstay of pretty much any well-rounded fitness program, some people need something easier and some people need something harder. Here is a push-up progression that will help you work your way from push-up zero to push-up hero!
A 2014 study on push-ups used electromyographic signals to find out which muscles were activated during the awesome but simple exercise known as a push-up. They found that the plain old push-up activated the triceps brachii, upper trapezius, anterior deltoid, clavicular pectoralis, rectus abdominis, rectus femoris, and lumbar erector spinae. That's a nice collection of activated muscles!
If you're new to push-ups, you can start with wall push-ups and then progress to regular push-ups. But eventually, even regular push-ups may become too easy. So, where do you go from there?
Not all push-ups are created equal, so in this video, I demonstrate a few of my favorite variations (in order from easiest to hardest).
- Wall Push-ups
- Incline Push-ups
- Regular Old "military" Push-ups
- Decline Push-ups
- Stability Push-ups
- Single Leg Push-ups
- Mountain Climber Push-ups
- Narrow Grip Push-ups
- Wide Grip Push-ups
- Resistance Band Push-ups
Pro Tip #1: If push-ups hurts your wrists, try holding on to some light dumbbells so they become handles for the floor. Or try fist push-ups. They admittedly look pretty cool, but you may want to put something soft between your knuckles and the surface you're pushing on ... which lessens the coolness factor a little. By doing either of these positions, your wrist will be straight instead of at a 90-degree angle like it is when your palm is flat on the floor.
Pro Tip #2: Get in the habit of performing your push-ups with a full range of motion right from the get-go. If you only use part of the push-up, you will only get part of the benefit.
You probably noticed that I did not demonstrate knee push-ups in this video. That's because I think (and I am not alone) that putting your knees down during a push-up changes the geometry of your body too much.
By placing your knees on the ground you basically change the length of your fulcrum, the angle of the lever, and the amount your glutes and abs are involved. Knee push-ups are a fine exercise on their own, but I think a better way to lessen the weight of a push-up and make it easier, without changing the effective length of your body, is to perform wall or incline push-ups.
There are many more variations of the push-up that you can try, like the clap, spiderman, shoulder tap, thigh tap, rotational, staggered, corkscrew, diamond, tiger, pike, dive-bomber, and the slider. But to be honest, if you can whip off a bunch of perfectly executed plain old regulation push-ups, you're doing pretty good!