Push ups variations are usually the first bodyweight exercises that come to mind when it comes to bodyweight training. And not without reason, as they are among the most effective exercises.
In addition to working the pectoral muscles, this movement helps develop the triceps and deltoids, especially their anterior fascicle.
Easy to perform and requiring no special equipment, push-ups activate almost every muscle in the body and improve endurance. Indeed, they contribute enormously to improve its cardiovascular capacities, particularly on the series of 15 to 20 repetitions.
If you're not convinced to adopt this weight training exercise into your workout routine, read on to discover its true benefits. You'll also see how to use 8 types of push-ups to progress and break up your workout routine.
Table of Contents
- Why do push-ups?
- How to do push ups properly?
- The 8 best push ups variations
- Progressing in weight training push-ups
- How to avoid injury when doing push-ups?
- Push ups variations - Conclusion
Why do push-ups?
Of course, this exercise muscles and strengthens the upper body, specifically the triceps, pectorals and shoulders. It also increases functional strength, that is, the body's potential in daily activities.
It is an exercise that seems simple, but it improves the cardiovascular system by soliciting the majority of muscle groups. The heart has to work harder to supply the muscle tissue with oxygen-rich blood.
By supporting the strength and mobility of the deltoids, this exercise helps to decrease the risk of injury to this muscle group. This is especially important for athletes over the age of 40. When push-ups are performed correctly, all the muscles of the abdominal strap are strengthened. This is very important, both for your posture and for your aesthetics.
When you don't have time for long strength training sessions, you can at least do a push-up session in 10 to 15 minutes. And it can be done anywhere and anytime. It's even a good plan for those days when you can't get to the gym...
How to do push ups properly?
here are the instructions for classic push ups. Some changes may appear in the different variations.
- Get into the plank position with both hands on the floor at shoulder width. Your spine should be as straight as possible (apart from its natural curvature), so that your body forms a straight line from your feet to your head.
- Your arms should be straight at the beginning of the exercise, hands, elbows and shoulders aligned. CAUTION: Shoulders should not drop to the floor at all. To achieve this, keep your shoulder blades pressed together throughout the set.
- The feet should be as far apart as possible at shoulder width. The closer you move them, the more difficult the exercise is because it requires more stability.
How to do it
- Slowly bend your elbows, keeping them at your side, to lower your chest slightly below the level of your bent elbow
- Breathe in during the descent
- Push hard on your arms to return to the starting position. This counts as one repetition.
- Exhale as you push.
For best results, it is recommended to do a minimum of 10 reps per set. But you will see that this rule can evolve according to the variations and your objective of progression.
The 8 best push ups variations
Here is the video presentation of the different variations of push-ups presented by our partner coach Ken to build up the arms and pectoral muscles in depth:
Inclined push ups
This is one of the best variations for a beginner. Incline push-ups, with the hands positioned on a rack, target the lower part of the pectoralis major.
When performing it, try to keep the distance between your hands wider than your shoulders. When you come down, bend your elbows until your chest touches the support while keeping your back straight.
For beginners, the rack helps reduce the difficulty of the push-ups while maintaining good form. As you progress, you can use a lower and lower rack until you are able to do sets on the floor.
Classic and military ground push ups
Their particularity is to solicit the pectoral muscles and the triceps at the same time. This is the basic movement to add to your exercise list if you want to have impressive results.
To perform them, spread your hands more than shoulder width apart. Keeping your body straight and your head aligned, bend your elbows so that your arms form a V shape (about a 45° angle). Lower your body until your chest touches the ground. For military push-ups, lift your hands off the floor at the end of the movement and rest them on the floor before pushing on your arms.
Raise your body by stretching your arms to return to the starting position.
This is an exercise to be performed as quickly as possible while maintaining flawless execution.
Spread arm push-ups
Also called wide grip push-ups, the effort is produced almost exclusively by the pectorals.
Lying face down on the floor, you need to spread your hands out beyond shoulder width, while making sure your shoulders stay positioned down. Otherwise, you'll overwork the deltoids and hurt yourself. If your pecs are not strong enough, do not do this movement. However, you can progress by doing it on a raised support such as a table.
It is recommended to contract the abdominal strap to prevent the lower back from bending.
Triceps push ups
By placing the hands just below the shoulders, this exercise solicits more the triceps than the pectorals.
Contrary to what you will often see in YouTube videos or in some articles, there is no need to bring your hands closer together to do what are called diamond push-ups. I know that many athletes recommend them, but the risk of injury and joint strain is very high. This movement should be reserved for experienced practitioners with perfect execution.
During the execution of the close grip push-ups, the elbows remain attached to the chest during the movement so that the effort is concentrated on the triceps.
In order to properly exercise the triceps, you can hold the down position for a second.
Declined push ups
Push-ups with the feet elevated increase the load compared to a traditional push-up. This exercise specifically targets the upper pectoral fascicles, triceps, and anterior and medial deltoids.
For its execution, place your feet on a more or less high support. Keep your body straight by contracting your abdominal muscles and buttocks. Keep your legs straight and avoid arching your back at the lumbar region. Bend your elbows while breathing in. For the ascent, stretch the arms to return to the initial position.
Note that the higher your feet are, the more the exercise will target the shoulders.
Jumping push ups
There are several versions of this exercise. The video shows you how to push hard to lift your hands off the ground at the end of the movement. But there are also push-ups slammed in front or in the back. This is one of the best exercises to develop your tone and explosiveness. But you must already have an excellent command of the previous push-up variations.
To perform it, get into the starting position as in the classic push-ups while keeping your feet close together. Lower yourself until your chest touches the ground and then do the opposite movement by extending your elbows in an explosive way to achieve an upper body jump.
If you are new to push-ups, it will be too complicated for you.
Archer's push ups
This variation, quite difficult to perform, is a bit of an assisted version of the one-handed push-ups. The tensions are much more centered on the arms even if this exercise solicits the pectoral muscles, the shoulders and the arms.
The initial position remains the plank position with hands on the floor, twice the width of the shoulders. Descend by breathing in and bending one arm towards which you carry the weight of the bust. The descent will not be straight as in a classic push up, but lateral.
You will end up with one elbow bent and the other completely extended, the wrist aligned with the shoulder. Note that the elbow should not be bent to the side but along your body. For the ascent phase, while exhaling, extend the bent arm to return to the initial position. Change sides with each repetition.
Make sure you don't put too much strain on the shoulder joints by keeping them down, i.e. not letting them come up towards the ears. I know, it's not easy 😅
Single arm inclined push ups
The one-handed push ups are probably the most difficult of the push-up variations. Most of your energy will be focused on one arm. This is an exercise that requires a lot more balance, strength and sheathing.
To learn it, follow the pattern given in Ken's video. Use a support to create a level difference between your two arms. Have your feet twice the width of your shoulders to have a good stability.
Keep your body straight and place your hand on the support, arms straight, align wrist, elbow and shoulder. Leave the other arm free, it will serve as a support to cushion the descent.
Bend your elbow as you inhale and lower as low as possible without arching your back. Extend your arm as you exhale to return to the starting position and do as many reps as possible before moving to the other arm.
As you progress, you will be able to select a lower support.
Progressing in weight training push-ups
If doing classic push-ups seems difficult, there are exercises to help you progress. You really need to be aware that some variations are not for beginners. But you can get there over time, with a lot of work.
Here are some additional tips to help you make progress:
Improve your cardiovascular capacities
Improving your general physical condition is probably the first thing you need to do to progress. The ultimate goal is not just to be able to do the different variations, but to use the muscles in the right way to get results.
Your ability to exercise effectively depends largely on your cardiovascular capacity. There is no secret or miracle cure to improve it, regular training is necessary.
To do this, do workouts that get your heart rate up. You can do this by doing HIIT workouts, for example. To do this, you must alternate at least 30 seconds of effort with very short recovery times of 10 to 20 seconds. The goal is to work in anaerobic as often as possible. A 30-minute session is more than enough time to make significant progress in this area.
It is also important to ensure that you maintain a proper breathing pattern to oxygenate your body and muscles. As you inhale, take in air deeply and adopt an extended exhalation phase while releasing air from your lungs. It is also recommended to stay well hydrated during your physical activity.
Push ups against a wall
When starting from scratch, this variation is a very good starting point to start mobilizing pectorals, triceps and deltoids without too much stress.
Start by standing facing a wall, leaving an arm's length between you and the wall. Place your palms on the wall, slightly more than shoulder width apart.
Engage your abdominal muscles and then bend your elbows so that your chest is close to the wall. Return to the starting position by pushing back against the wall. If this is too easy for you, move your feet back several inches and repeat.
Once you have gained strength, move on to the next exercise or incline push-ups.
Push ups on the knees
This is a knee-bearing variation that allows you to perform horizontal push-ups with less resistance since you don't have to support your entire body weight.
Start on your knees and place your palms on the floor, a little more than a shoulder width apart. The body should form a straight line from the knees to the top of the head. Lower the torso to the floor and then raise the torso back up.
As you start to feel stronger, you can lift your knees off the floor for a few reps, and put them back down when it gets too hard.
How to avoid injury when doing push-ups?
The most important thing is to choose a version at your level. Test the various types of push-ups and choose the ones you can reasonably do in sets of 10 reps.
To perform the best push-up variations listed above, it is imperative to avoid arching your back. Don't put your buttocks in the air, with your hips and legs stretched to the maximum.
When working the muscles, you should keep your shoulder blades together by contracting your back. Make sure that your head is always in line with the rest of your body and that your shoulders do not move up towards your ears.
Push ups variations - Conclusion
Push-ups are an easy way to build muscle anywhere, as long as you do them correctly. They have the advantage of involving many muscle groups in a single movement. In addition, the entire cardiovascular system is involved.
Among bodyweight exercises, this is undoubtedly the best for sculpting your figure and developing your muscles.
So what are you waiting for to do a set of push-ups?
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