Push up variations

Push up variations

When it comes to upper-body exercises, not much beats the push up. It can be done anywhere, at anytime, and can be adapted to all fitness levels.

Modifying the classic push up will help you build serious strength in a wider range of muscles, boosting your fitness. By adding variety, you also reduce exercise tedium, which can lead to poor motivation

So whether you’re a mere beginner, or have the kind of advanced bodyweight skills that intimidate the rest of us, try a few spins on the classic push up. Just make sure you master the basic movement before you move onto tougher variations.


Great for beginners, incline push ups allow your core, glutes and quads to work the same way they would when doing full push ups, but with more emphasis on the triceps and lower chest. Start in the standard push up position but rest hands on a slightly raised surface such as a box or bench. Lower your chest to the edge of the surface and push back up. The lower the bench the tougher the push up.


These particularly target your chest, shoulders and lats. Start in standard position with your wrists underneath your shoulders. Move each hand a few inches wider. Inhale, and lower your torso to the floor. Straighten arms and repeat.


Most people have to work up to these gradually. Using an incline makes this a lot easier when learning. Get into push up position, keeping your feet wide apart and body tense. Hold your free hand against your lower back, then slowly lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor, and push quickly back up.


Raising one leg off the ground causes instability which recruits the core. Lift one leg off the ground so it’s parallel to the ground and  do a set of pushups. Repeat with the other leg raised. 


Doing explosive exercise will develop your fast twitch fibres’ aerobic capacity. Keep your back and torso tense in standard push up position,  but as you come down to the floor, push up with enough force to get some space under your hands. Clap if possible, and as soon as your hands reach the floor again, repeat the move without pausing.


Because you have to balance, the T-push up activates your core and oblique muscles. Complete a standard push up then shift your bodyweight onto one arm and reach up to the ceiling. Really open your chest and stretch up. Roll onto the sides of your feet but keep your body straight. Go straight into the next push up, lifting the opposite arm.


This tough variation provides a total body workout and challenges your core too. From the push up position, keep your back straight and slowly lower your torso. At the bottom position, bring your knee to the outside of your elbow. Return your leg to the starting position and raise your body back up. Repeat on the other side.


The Author

Kath Webb

Kath is a contributing writer for PayasUgym. Football, running, weight training, yoga and walking are her forte, along with cooking tasty, nutritious food - with a regular batch of cake chucked in.


Roger B.
9 June 2016

Roger B.

I'm making progress with the standard one, but the one-armed pushup will be a while. Makes a good target though!

craig t.
9 June 2016

craig t.

I like the spiderman push up variation . it feels like it works my obliques too, and is just generally more intense and interesting to do.

Mike D.
7 June 2016

Mike D.

Hey - these might be the kickstart to my pushup routine again. I got so bored of them before I stopped, but I forgot I could vary them.

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