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10 push-up variations for effective muscle building and variety


Highlights: 10 push-up variations for effective muscle building and variety. 10 variations for inspiration. 10 Push-up training plans for both untrained and fitness cracks that take training to the next level. Muscles used: chest, arms, shoulders, torso (light) Incline push up is a suitable preliminary exercise for classic push-ups because the hands are placed on an elevation. Deficit push up uses kettle bells as handles for lower body lower you can lower your upper body lower. The Range of Motion (i.e. the range of movement, is increased and thus the training effect) is increased.

As of: March 2, 2024, 5:22 p.m

By: Alexandra Grauvogl




No matter whether you are a beginner or a professional: there are suitable push-up variants for athletes of every level to make progress in training and build muscles.

10 variations for inspiration.

A classic push-up is a big challenge for some, but rather boring for others.

The good news: There are suitable push-up variants for both untrained and fitness cracks that take training to the next level and strengthen the muscles throughout the body.

You can read about which muscles are trained during the classic push-up here.

In the variants, the focus usually shifts to strengthening one of these muscle groups.

Push-up variations for beginners

If you can't do one repetition of the classic push-up with the correct technique, you can try these simpler variations.

This will help you gradually build up sufficient muscles in your chest, arms, shoulders and core.

Knee push up

The knee push-up is suitable for beginners to strengthen shoulders, chest and arms © IMAGO/Lian Fei

Many beginners prefer this push-up variation because kneeling down reduces the load on the arms and shoulders and therefore requires less strength to perform a push-up.

However, this variant is only recommended to a limited extent, because you do not learn how to build up the right body tension in order to be able to do a proper push-up later.

Nevertheless: A knee push-up is better than no push-up at all!

  • Execution:

    Place your knees on the floor.

    Place your hands shoulder-width apart at chest height, elbows extended.

    Your head, back, hips and thighs form a straight line throughout the entire exercise.

    Lower your upper body in a controlled manner, elbows pointing backwards, arms remaining close to your body.

    Chest touches the floor in the final position.

    As you exhale, push back up to the starting position.

  • Muscles used:

    chest, arms, shoulders, torso (light)

Incline push up

Incline push-ups are a suitable preliminary exercise for classic push-ups because the hands are placed on an elevation.

This puts less strain on the muscles in the shoulders, arms and chest.

© IMAGO/xDrobotDeanx

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In so-called incline push-ups, the hands are at a higher level than the feet.

Like the push-up on your knees, this relieves the strain on your shoulder and arm muscles.

However, the core muscles must also be activated here, as with the classic push-up, in order to maintain a straight line from head to toe throughout the entire exercise.

Therefore, this beginner variation is preferable to the kneeling push-up.

  • Execution:

    The higher the hands are placed in relation to the feet, the easier the push-up is.

    For example, you can “work your way down” from a wall, a window sill, a railing, a bench or a step.

    The execution is now similar to the classic push-up, except that the hands are not placed on the floor, but on the elevation.

  • Muscles used:

    Focus on lower chest and back.

Push-up training plan in PDF for beginners

You can learn to do push-ups – with the right training plan © Imago/Lian Fei

Can't do a single push-up yet?

Then download the training plan PDF for free HERE!

You will be introduced to the push-up step by step with preliminary exercises until you can perform it with clean technique.

Push-up variations for advanced users

If you can do 3 sets of 15 to 20 repetitions of the classic push-up with perfect technique, you can also integrate more complex push-up variations into your workout to improve your performance.

The following variants are suitable for advanced users:

Deficit push up

For example, if you use kettle bells as handles for a deficit push-up, you can lower your upper body lower © IMAGO/lunamarina

  • Execution:

    The Deficit Push-up uses aids such as kettle bells, parallettes, push-up handles, etc.

    for use.

    The elevated grip position allows the body to be lowered deeper in between.

    The Range of Motion (ROM), i.e. the range of movement, is increased and thus the training effect.

  • Muscles used:

    Deficit push-ups focus on the chest muscles, especially expanding the range of motion and therefore mobility.

Weighted push up

A training partner can also serve as “additional weight” for the weighted push-up © IMAGO/imageBROKER/Oleksandr Latkun

  • Execution:

    A classic push-up is performed with additional weight.

    For example, a weighted vest can be worn or weight plates can be placed on the athlete's back.

    You can also use a resistance band to intensify the push-ups by placing it over the shoulder area in a bent position, grabbing it under each of your right and left hands and then performing the push-up.

  • Muscles used:

    chest, arms, shoulders, torso (medium to high depending on additional weight)

Diamond push up

During the Diamond Push-up, the fingers touch each other in the shape of a diamond or diamond © IMAGO/xPeopleimagesx

  • Execution:

    The Diamond Push-up is a variant with a very narrow grip.

    The hands are placed in the middle under the chest, with the index fingers and thumbs of each hand touching and forming a diamond.

    The feet are also a little closer together than in the classic push-up.

    From the support position, a push-up is then carried out and the upper body is lowered in a controlled manner until the chest touches the hands.

    Then press up again.

    As always with push-ups, the same applies here: head, upper body, hips and legs form a straight line.

  • Muscles used:

    The narrow grip width directs the focus to the triceps, but also trains the front part of the deltoid muscle and the pectoralis major muscle.

Tip for advanced users and professionals: change tempo!

To add more variety to your push-up workout, advanced users can try playing with the speed of the movement in addition to push-up variations.

In general, this can be divided into four phases: starting position (isometric) – lowering (eccentric) – final position (isometric) – pushing up (concentric).

These can be completed at different speeds or with or without a break.

Example: Hold for 1 second in the starting position - lower for 3 seconds - hold for 1 second in the final position - press up for 1 second (1-3-1-1).

But other patterns are also conceivable: for example 1-2-1-2, 1-4-1-4, 0-3-0-3, etc.

Try it!

Push-up variations for professionals

If you are able to do 3 sets of push-ups of 25 to 30 repetitions without any major problems, you should think about further variations in your push-up workout.

Here you will find a small selection for push-up professionals.

Single arm push up

The one-arm push-up requires more strength in the arms, shoulders and chest than the classic version.

Strong core muscles are also required.

© IMAGO/xbasilicostudiox

  • Execution:

    The one-arm push-up is performed like the classic push-up, with the difference that you only rely on one hand and place the other on your lower back.

    It is a little easier for balance if the hand is placed in the middle and the feet are further apart.

  • Muscles stressed:

    The tension required to compensate for the “missing” arm increases the training of the core muscles and the lower back.

    In addition, the muscles on the “working” side (arm, shoulder and chest) are used particularly intensively.

Decline push up

Decline push-up: If you place your feet higher than your hands, you increase the difficulty of the push-up © IMAGO/ FILIPPOV

  • Execution:

    The Decline Push-up is - as the name suggests - the opposite of the Incline Push-up.

    Here, not the hands but the feet are placed on an elevation while a push-up is performed.

    The higher your feet, the more difficult the exercise is.

    If you place your feet on a step, you increase the intensity of the push-up moderately, moderately on a bench or box, and very intensely against a wall.

  • Muscles used:

    Due to the angle of the Decline Push-up, the upper chest and the front part of the deltoid muscle in the shoulder are increasingly trained.

Pike push up

The Pike Push-up can also be performed with difficulty as an Elevated Pike Push-up.

The feet are placed on a box or something similar.


© Marina Gallardo via

  • Execution:

    From the starting position of the classic push-up, push your hips up and move your feet slightly forward so that your upper body and legs form an inverted V.

    Legs and upper body are stretched, as are the arms as an extension of the upper body.

    The head is between the arms, the gaze is downwards/backwards.

    By bending your arms, your head moves towards the floor.

    After contact, you push yourself up again with help.

    Difficult variant: Elevated Pike Push-up (see photo) with your feet on an elevation.

  • Muscles stressed:

    The Pike push-up trains your shoulder and arm muscles.

Handstand push up

The handstand push-up massively trains the shoulder area due to its vertical orientation © IMAGO/xufabizphotox

  • Execution:

    The handstand push-up can be viewed as the ultimate decline push-up, as the feet are maximally elevated, exactly above the head and the body also has to be balanced vertically through enormous trunk tension.

    From the handstand position, the body is lowered head first to the floor and pushed back up.

    An enormous challenge for strength, balance and coordination!

    Decline push-ups and pike push-ups can be done as preliminary exercises.

  • Muscles used:

    The handstand push-up primarily trains the deltoid muscle (shoulder), but also the trapezius muscle (shoulder girdle) and the triceps brachii muscle (back of the upper arm).

Archer push up

With the Archer Push-up, the weight is shifted to one side and the other arm is stretched © IMAGO/xtomasadzkex

  • Execution:

    The Archer Push-up is a variant with a very wide grip and is reminiscent of the arm movement when drawing a bow.

    Place your hands in the all-fours position wider than shoulder-width in front of you, turn your hands outwards.

    Then come into the plank position.

    With maximum body tension, shift your weight to the right, bending your right arm and stretching your left arm.

    Then push back and repeat on the other side.

    The Archer push-up is suitable as a preliminary exercise for the one-arm push-up.

  • Muscles used:

    The focus of push-up variations with a wide grip, such as the Archer push-up, is on activating the pectoralis major muscle.

    The triceps and front part of the deltoid are also trained.



Finally, the note that proper execution of the exercise should always take priority over the next push-up level.

In this way you can avoid not only demotivating experiences, but above all injuries and pain.

The author is a former competitive athlete, certified fitness trainer and ski instructor.

Source: merkur

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