7 Step Progression for a One-Arm Push Up

Today we are going to look at a seven-step progression for a one-arm push up. We will work through a variety of different hand positions and ranges of motion to build up both strength and technique.

RELATED: Do You Know What Your Core Really Is and What it Does?

One-armed movements are a unilateral movement. They are ideal for learning stability through the core because we are resisting rotation. We want to block out all incorrect movement, to ensure the best mechanical movement pattern. Having good movement is important in order to:

  1. Allow the most efficient transference of force.
  2. Stay away from positions that will cause injury.

Here are the seven progressions to get you to a one-arm push up:

  1. Push up with fingers facing towards the feet – Hands stay shoulder-width apart for this one. Because the hands are flipped back, the shoulders are forced to start the movement.
  2. Standard push up – This should feel the same as step one. Initiate the movement through the shoulders.
  3. Wide push up – At the bottom, the elbow needs to be on top of the wrist, with the shoulder blades back and down.
  4. Push up with one hand close, one hand out – This creates some lateral flexion. Resist this flexion and keep your forearms vertical.
  5. Diamond push up – The elbows will push out to the side. This is fine, in fact it mimics the one-armed push up position.
  6. Diamond push up with wide legs – This will give us a more stable base.
  7. Diamond push up with wide legs and one hand close, one hand out – Time to put everything together. Perform a push up. Now move your outward hand wider and perform another push up. Keep moving that hand wider until you have a full one-arm push up.

When you do the one-arm push up, your hand may be turned in slightly. This is fine, because your body rotates to the side, which keeps the forearm vertical. Let us know when you get your one-arm push up!

Push Yourself: The One-Arm Push-Up And Beyond

Though I spent many years entrenched in mainstream gym culture at the start of my fitness career, for the last several years I’ve primarily isolated myself to the bodyweight/calisthenics community. Since I made this change, most of my training takes place outdoors at my local park or inside independently owned training facilities. A lot of my workouts require nothing more than the floor. The most complicated pieces of equipment I use are a pull-up bar and maybe a jump rope, suspension trainer, or resistance band.

Contrary to what you might think, the more I’ve stripped down my workouts, the stronger and leaner I’ve become. In fact, one of the most demanding and rewarding exercises in my program is a move that requires no equipment at all. I’m referring to the one-arm push-up. Though the average gym-goer tends to associate calisthenics with fundamentals like jumping jacks and running in place, this movement is proof that you can get crazy strong using nothing but your own body weight for resistance.

I sometimes forget that to most people—even many strong people—an exercise like a one-arm push-up is pretty out there. It can be hard to know how to even begin to approach such a move. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some techniques you can use to gradually work your way to a full one-arm push-up—and beyond!

Foot Position

The question of foot width almost always comes up when someone is learning the one-arm push-up, so I’ll address it at the start. Your foot placement is a variable that can definitely affect the difficulty of the one-arm push-up. While placing your feet in a wide stance is optimal for one-arm push-up practice, the wider you go, the easier the move becomes. So feel free to start wide, but aim to get narrower over time.

Though some folks will argue that the feet should be together in a true one-arm push-up, I contend that the ideal form for a one-arm push-up is with the feet a bit wider than shoulder width. The inevitable hip torque that happens when the feet are placed alongside each other is less favorable to me than any perceived negative aspect of a wider foot position.

Close-grip Push-up

It’s a given that you need to be able to perform lots of standard two-arm push-ups before you even consider training for a one-armer, but what many people overlook is that bringing your hands closer together on two-arm push-ups can be a helpful intermediate step.

Remember to keep your elbows tight against your sides with the tips of your index fingers touching when performing close-grip push-ups. When you can do 20-30 of these consecutively with perfect form, you’re ready to move on.

The close grip variant is also good preparation for a one-arm push-up because of the similar hand position. To perform a proper one-armer, you’ll need to have your pushing hand directly beneath your torso, just like you do in close-grip push-ups.

Elevated One-Arm Push-up

Another helpful technique to employ on your road to the one-arm push-up is a modified version with your pushing arm on an elevated surface like a bench or bar. Just like standard push-ups, keeping your hand higher than your feet will give you a mechanical advantage, thereby reducing the amount of strength required to perform the exercise.

Remember to think about squeezing your whole body, especially your abs and glutes, in order to create full-body tension when practicing toward one-arm push-ups. This is particularly helpful during the transition as you begin to press yourself back up from the bottom.

As with a full one-arm push-up, your other arm can be placed behind your back or held against your leg.

Self-Assisted One-Arm Push-up

Another helpful technique is to use your secondary arm to assist your pushing arm by reaching it out to the side and/or placing it on a slightly elevated surface. The idea is to rely as little as possible on the assisting arm and do as much of the work as possible with your primary arm. Over time, you will rely on it less and less until you eventually don’t need it at all.

Negative One-Arm Push-up

Once you are on the brink of full one-arm push-ups, it’s beneficial to practice the lowering phase to help establish the movement pattern in your brain. To take full advantage of this technique, lower as slowly as possible and stay in control of your movement.

When you get to the bottom, just put your other hand on the floor and push yourself back to the top with both arms. I prefer to alternate sides when practicing negatives rather than perform a set with each arm.

This helps make sure that I practice this isolateral exercise evenly on both sides to avoid exacerbating any muscle imbalances.

Push Yourself

Depending on where you are starting out, learning to do a one-arm push-up can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years, so be patient. Even once you get strong enough to perform full one-arm push-ups, however, there are still many way to progress this exercise. You can try them on your knuckles, fingertips or even the back of your hand. There are endless ways to keep your calisthenics routine interesting and challenging.

Master the One Arm Push Up | PROGRESSIONS | VARIATIONS

One arm push up progressions from easy to difficult. Also lots of intense one arm push up variations.


ne arm push up is a real strength builder that develops strength and size in the chest, shoulders and triceps. Your core also needs to work incredibly hard to stabilize the trunk (anti-rotation).

Once the basic push ups become easy, starting to work on one arm push ups is a great way to progressively increase the difficulty of your horizontal pressing exercises.

The biggest benefit of one arm push ups is that they can be done anywhere: at home, at the gym or outdoors. It’s a fantastic option for people who prefer to train by using only their bodyweight and prefer to workout at home.

Below you see the best progressions from easy to difficult. The hardest ones are truly the hardest pressing exercises almost anyone can do.

You can do one arm push ups on your palm, fist, bar or on fingers. The fist increases the activation of the triceps (which is why it’s a lot harder) and makes the exercise easier on the wrist.

​Many will point out that the correct form is to tuck the elbow. It’s definitely a good form, but it’s not the only correct form.

When your elbow is flared (as in the rocky push up), you will use more of your chest muscles. When the elbow is tucked (inside), you will hit more the triceps and shoulders.

Flaring elbows is not “bad for your shoulders” (unless you have pre-existing shoulder problems and in this case most normal exercises would be bad for your shoulders). Many people actually find flaring your elbow to be much easier for the shoulders than the “correct form” where your elbow is tucked.

People think flaring your elbow is bad for your shoulder, because most people consider the tucked elbow one arm push up the correct form. In reality all forms below are the correct ones – they just emphasize different parts of the body.

One Arm Push Up (OAP) Progressions

1. Incline OAP

Elevate the upper body by doing the one arm push up against a bench, a table, a wall or anything else. This way you are pressing less of your bodyweight which makes the 1 arm push up a lot easier.

2. Negative OAP

Take the one arm push up stance and lower yourself down slowly with control. The slower you can do the exercise, the better. When you touch the floor, press yourself up with both arms.

3. Rocky Push Up (Wide Legs)

Sylvester Stallone used to do wide legs explosive one arm push ups from side to side in Rocky 1. By widening your legs, you make it easier to stabilize the core and you will be pressing less of your total bodyweight (which makes it easier).

Your elbow can be flared which increases the activation of the chest. This also makes the exercise easier because the chest tends to be a very strong muscle for most people.

4. Head OAP

Place your hand next to your head by strongly flaring your elbow and turning your fingers inwards. This places your body in a mechanically advantageous position which makes the exercise surprisingly easy.

Contrary to popular belief, this is not bad for your shoulder unless you have pre-existing shoulder problems or you are way ahead of yourself in terms of what progression you should focus on. ​

5. One Arm Push Up (Elbow Tucked)

Keep your legs shoulder width apart or a bit wider and do a full one arm push up with your elbow tucked.

When your elbow is tucked, you primarily do the exercise with your triceps and anterior deltoids. It’s also harder to stabilize the core and you are pressing a bigger percentage of your bodyweight, which makes the exercise a serious test for your fitness.

6. Lateral OAP

Lateral one arm push up is an intense variation of OAP where you are keeping your body sideways and pressing yourself up from the side.

​Lateral push up focuses more on your triceps and shoulders, while you also need to work hard to stabilize the body.

7. Decline OAP

In the decline one arm push up you are elevating your legs which makes OAP significantly harder since you need to press more of your bodyweight with every repetition.

8. Single Leg OAP

Single leg OAP is an intense balancing act that also requires tons of strength from your pressing arm.

Your body not only needs to press your bodyweight up, but the engaged muscles (and many others) need to work incredibly hard to stabilize the body and manage anti-rotation.​

82 Push-Ups You Need to Know About

This is where you’ll earn your bachelor’s degree in push-ups and the kind of advanced bodyweight skills that will come in handy for the rest of your life.

For those keen to up the ante, it’s good to remember that slowing down any exercise will make it more difficult. So don’t be afraid to relax the pace of your push-ups.

11. Knuckle

A favorite of martial artists everywhere, these bad boys strengthen your wrists, toughen your knuckles, and improve your balance.

12. Staggered

By staggering your hands (that is, by placing one hand farther forward than the other), you emphasize one side of your chest — a super useful variation if your strength is lagging on your nondominant side.

13. Alligator

Some people use this name for staggered push-ups, but we’re using it to refer to a staggered push-up in which you walk your body forward, just like an alligator crawling along the ground. Have fun with these!

14. Slow negative

This one’s simple: Lower your body very slowly, but keep the “up” part of the movement as fast as ever. This is called a “slow negative” movement, and it’s one of the best ways to build size and strength in any exercise.

15. Spiderman

This push-up brings out your creepy-crawly side. Bring one knee up the side of your body toward your elbow during the “down” portion. This squeezes your obliques and will improve balance.

You can keep your knee in the same spot for a few reps before switching sides or bring it forward and back with each push-up.

16. Knee to chest

This movement is similar to the Spiderman push-up, but you bring your knee up under your body rather than to the side.

This exercise works your abdominal muscles more than your obliques. The name is a lot less cool, though.

17. Pseudo planche

In a regular push-up, your fingers point forward, in line with your chest. This variation has them pointing toward your feet and sitting farther down your torso. This placement makes your shoulders and biceps work much harder.

18. Outside-leg kick

Hi-ya! At the top of the extension, kick one leg out to the side hard to strengthen your quads, fire up your abs, and improve your flexibility. Try to get your foot as far forward as possible.

19. Grasshopper

There’s actually no hopping involved in this one. It’s similar to a corkscrew push-up (No. 22).

In this version, one leg stays straight while the other bends and turns with your body as it lowers. This is a great way to work your obliques and abdominal muscles.

20. Toe tap

At the top of the movement, simply bend one knee to the side and bring the foot closer to your hip, then give the sole a tap with your opposite hand. This will make your abs and legs do some extra work.

21. Knee-to-opposite-elbow

Like it sounds, twist your body and bring a knee to the opposite elbow at the top of the movement. This is another great move to work the rotational muscles that run from your rib cage to your hips — yep, that includes your abs.

22. Corkscrew push-up

No wine with these push-ups (but maybe a little whine). They’re performed with your butt raised in the air, feet together, hands under chest, and knees bent at about 45 degrees. Your torso should be parallel to the floor at the top of the movement.

As your body comes down to the floor, twist both legs sideways without further bending your knees, as shown in the video. This adds a whole new dimension to the abdominal workout while working your quads and calves.

23. Diamond

This is the gold diamond standard of triceps exercises. Simply put your hands together so your thumbs and index fingers form a diamond, place your hands below the center of your chest, and start busting out reps.

24. Wide

Place your hands farther out from the sides of your body than they are for a regular push-up. You’ll put a lot more emphasis on your chest muscles, particularly the outer chest.

25. Cross-leg kick

This is even trickier than the outside-leg kick push-up (No. 18). At the top of the movement, turn your body to the side and kick.

The left leg should kick toward the right side, and vice versa. This will add some explosive power to your legs and obliques while firing up your core.

26. Tiger

At the bottom of the push-up, flatten your forearms to the floor while raising your butt into the air and pulling your body slightly backward.

This should look a little like a tiger ready to pounce. Reverse the movement and push up. Congratulate your triceps for all their hard work.

27. Elbow

This is just like the tiger push-up (No. 26), but your body stays parallel to the floor at the bottom of the movement, so your butt doesn’t rise into the air. It’s a little harder, but you’ll feel less like roaring.

28. Pike

Pike push-ups could be a category all their own — they’re one of the best bodyweight exercises for your shoulders. Raise your butt into the air so your body forms a triangle with the floor.

It looks a little like Downward-Facing Dog, but your arms are more perpendicular to the floor. This is a fantastic way to work up to a handstand push-up — just gradually elevate your legs!

29. Feet elevated

Just prop your toes on a chair, a bed frame, or even a stability ball. This adds body weight to the exercise and emphasizes your upper chest muscles.

30. Lateral step

Time to get mobile! This push-up steps your body sideways across the floor. It requires a little more coordination and agility.

31. Typewriter

These are also called side-to-side push-ups. Your body will mimic the motion of a typewriter.

These require lowering your body to one side (so your chest is close to your hand), sliding your body over to the other hand (staying just above the floor), and then pushing up from that side.

Come back down, slide your body over to the first side, and push back up. To make these more difficult, slide left and right a few extra times before pushing back up.

32. Wall-assisted handstand push-up

This variation builds serious shoulder strength. Because you rely on the wall for support and balance, it doesn’t require gymnastics skills to pull off.

Stand close to a wall, facing away from it. With your hands and head on the floor, place your feet on the wall behind you and walk them up until your body (arms included) is straight. Bend your elbows, lower your head toward the floor, and then push back up. Voilà!

Raise one leg in the air during the exercise without bending it. This is a great way to help strengthen your glutes and hamstrings.

33. Uchi mata

This is similar to the single-leg-raised push-up (No. 10), but you’ll bend one knee and push the foot up into the air as hard as possible when your body lowers. This variation increases the activity of your lower back, hamstrings, and core.

34. Jackknife

Similar to doing a burpee, in this one you’ll bend at your hips and jump both feet forward at each extension to work your abs and legs.

35. Single-arm off a table

The best way to work up to a one-arm push-up is the same way you would work up to a regular push-up: Start by pushing off of a wall, then move to an elevated surface like a table or chair.

Keep your feet wide and your core engaged. Even when you’re elevated, this move requires considerable work from your obliques and triceps.

36. Isometric push-up

Welcome to your new plank! In the bottom of the push-up, hold your body just above the floor. Start by holding it a few seconds at a time and work up to a minute.

37. Yoga

Also known as a Hindu push-up because of its origin in India, this variation requires great form, strength, and flexibility. It’s a little like the yoga move chaturanga dandasana.

From a Downward-Facing Dog position, lower your body and pull your head toward your hands. Then, push up into a Cobra pose, but keep your body off the floor.

Don’t reverse the move! Keeping your arms straight, bend at your hips and come back to the starting position.

38. Dive bomber

These look a lot like yoga push-ups, but the dive-bomber requires you to bend your arms to get back to the starting position, effectively reversing the movement and bringing your head back past your hands and elbows.

To protect your shoulders, Vagy recommends that you lower your chest just past the level of your bent elbow so that your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Dropping any farther increases stress on the anterior capsule of the shoulder.

As for speed, there’s no reason to pound out 30 fast ones. Proper form is much more important. Always move slowly and in control. Make it meditative, and focus on your breathing: breathe in when lowering; breathe out when pushing back up.

Once you’ve perfected your form, push-ups are an excellent way to warm up at the crag, and they’re great mixed into workouts for general conditioning. Plus, there are endless ways to modify them for your own specific needs. Here’s a guide to the classic push-up and our 12 favorite variations, in more or less ascending order of difficulty.

Strict (Military) Push-Up

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What It Does

Strengthens the upper body—primarily the chest, shoulders, and triceps—as well as the core and back muscles.

How to Do It

Start in a standard push-up position (as described above), with your feet together or no more than 12 inches apart, hands flat on the ground below your shoulders, and arms straight. Breathe in as you bend your elbows—keep them tracking back alongside your body—to lower your chest to slightly below the level of your bent elbow, and then breathe out as you push back up to the starting position for one repetition.

Wide Hands Push-Up

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Strengthens the upper body and core, with more focus on the pectoral muscles.

Do a strict push-up, as described above, but with your hands farther out to each side, roughly 2.5 to three feet apart (the farther apart, the more difficult). Keep your elbows tracking back throughout the movement.

Triangle (Diamond) Push-Up

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Strengthens the upper body and core, with more focus on the triceps.

Begin in a plank position, with your hands together and angled inward at 45 degrees so that your index fingers and thumbs touch to form a triangle (or diamond). Keep your elbows tight to your body and bend them to lower your chest toward the triangle. Reverse the movement to the starting position for one repetition. Keep the triangle directly below your chest throughout the movement.

Pike Push-Up

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Strengthens the upper body and core, with more focus on the shoulders.

Begin in a downward dog yoga position, with your feet and hands just wider than shoulder width. Keep your hips high, heels low, and maintain the inverted-V position as you bend your elbows and lower your head toward the floor between your hands. Reverse the movement to the starting position for one repetition.

Super (Hindu) Push-Up

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Works the shoulders, triceps, and core and improves flexibility.

Slowly swoop from downward dog to cobra pose: from the downward dog position, bend your elbows and lower your nose to the floor between your hands, like a pike push-up, but then, without rising, continue moving your torso forward to slide your chin, chest, and then rib cage between your hands. As your ribs meet your hands, begin to arc your head and torso upward. Continue this upward arc until your arms are straight, hips are pressed toward the ground, and your back is hyperextended in cobra pose. Reverse the movement exactly until you’re back in downward dog.

Staggered Hands Push-Up

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Trains the push-up muscles asymmetrically across the body and requires more core activation for stability.

From a standard push-up position, move one hand forward and the other backward so they’re offset by about six to 12 inches (the farther, the more difficult). Bend your elbows to lower your chest until it is slightly below the level of your bent elbow, and then extend your elbows to push back up to the starting position. Keep your elbows tight to your body throughout the movement. After one or more repetitions, switch the fore and aft positions of your hands to work each side evenly.

Sphinx Push-Up (Triceps Extension)

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Strengthens the upper body and core, with more focus on the triceps.

Start in a plank position, with your forearms flat on the ground, shoulder-width apart and parallel. Push up with your triceps to lift your elbows off the ground; continue until your arms are fully extended, then lower your elbows until just above the ground (don’t weight your forearms again) for one repetition. The farther forward you place your arms, the more difficult.

Spiderman (Side Kick) Push-Up

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Strengthens the core in addition to the typical push-up muscles.

Assume a standard push-up position. As you lower yourself toward the ground, simultaneously bring one knee out to the side and up to touch your elbow, with your leg parallel to the ground. Your knee should touch your elbow at the lowest point of the push-up. Reverse the movement to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

Cross-Body Push-Up

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Strengthens the upper body, with more focus on the core, hip flexors, and shoulders.

Assume a standard push-up position. As you lower yourself to the ground, simultaneously pick up one leg and cross it beneath your body as you rotate your hip toward the ground. Reverse the movement to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

Archer Push-Up

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Applies a higher percentage of body weight to a single arm, while the opposite arm assists (a good way to build up to a one-arm push-up).

Assume a push-up position, with wide hands angled outward at about 45 degrees. Lower yourself at an angle to one side so that you bring your shoulder down to your hand of the same side, while the other arm stretches to become fully extended. (It’s okay if your hands pivot during the movement.) Push back up to reverse the movement and return to the starting position. Repeat to the other side. It might help to keep your feet wider.

Typewriter Push-Up: This variation is similar to the archer, but instead of returning to the starting position between every push-up, move your chest from side to side horizontally along and just above the ground, while fully extending the opposite arm each time.

Power and Clap Push-Ups

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Develops power in the chest, triceps, and shoulders.

From a standard push-up position, lower your chest until it’s slightly below the level of your bent elbow, and then push upward with enough force so that your hands leave the ground by a few inches. Land with soft elbows in push-up form and continue the lowering motion toward the ground. Repeat. Make sure to keep your back flat and hips level throughout the movement.

Claps (Harder): Once you get a handle on power push-ups, you can progress the exercise by adding in claps, which require more power to achieve the necessary airtime. For regular clap push-ups, perform a power push-up but with even more upward force. While your hands are in the air, clap below your chest. Like before, land with soft elbows in push-up form and continue lowering until your chest is slightly below the level of your bent elbow. Repeat.

Behind-the-Back Claps (Even Harder): Do the same exercise, but clap behind your back instead of below your chest. Be careful not to bend at the hips (cheating), and watch your face on this one.

Triple Claps (Hardest): Do the same exercise, but clap under your chest, then behind your back, and then under your chest again, all before touching the ground.

Flying Push-Ups

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Develops even more dynamic power.

Like with claps, start in a standard push-up position and lower your chest until it’s slightly below the level of your bent elbow. Then explode upwards and lift both your hands and feet off the ground. Try to keep your back as flat as possible, but you may need to lift your hips slightly to generate momentum. It also helps to keep your feet wider. Land with soft elbows in push-up form and continue lowering toward the ground. Repeat.

Clapping Jacks (Harder): Do the same exercise, but clap your hands and feet together while in the air. Requires more airtime and power.

Superman Push-Up (hardest): Do the same exercise, but while in the air, fully extend your arms in front of you so that your body is in a single plane, parallel to the ground, like a flying Superman. Requires even more airtime and power.

One-Arm Push-Up

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Doubles the weight on a single arm and further activates the core for stability.

Just like it sounds—perform a push-up with one arm centered below your chest and the unweighted arm behind your pack. This one takes a bit more balance; it helps to keep your feet wider. Maintain a flat back and level hips (don’t let them twist one way or the other) throughout the movement. If you want an added challenge, opt for a two-point push-up: assume a standard push-up position with wide feet, then raise the opposite hand and leg to form a two-point plank. While maintaining a rigid plank, perform a push-up. Keep your back flat and hips level throughout the movement.

Even More Modifications

Many of these moves can be made easier or harder with these modifications, although not every modification will work with every type of push-up.

Make It Easier

  • Knees: Perform push-ups on your knees instead of your feet to ease the difficulty on your upper body. This is a great way to build up to more difficult variations.
  • Incline: Elevate your hands on a bench, chair, or table—the higher above your feet, the easier.
  • Negatives: Utilize the lowering phase of a push-up (when muscle fibers elongate under load). “Muscles can handle a heavier load under eccentric contraction than they can under concentric contraction,” says Scott Johnston, a master coach at Uphill Athlete and the co-author of Training for the New Alpinism and Training for the Uphill Athlete. Therefore, he says, “ are able to stress the muscle to a much higher degree, so you get a bigger strength-training effect.” In other words, if you’re not yet strong enough to do some of these push-up variations with proper form, perform only the eccentric phase (the lowering half) to build up strength for the concentric phase (the pushing-back-up half), when muscles shorten under load.

Make It Harder

  • Feet Stacked: Cross one ankle over the other so only one foot is on the ground. This requires more core activation for stability.
  • Decline: Elevate your feet on a box, bench, or step to increase the activation of the upper chest muscles and the front of the shoulders (anterior deltoids). The higher your feet, the more difficult.
  • Weighted: Wear a weight vest or have a friend place a weight plate on your back for an added strength challenge.
  • Eccentric Push-Ups: The benefits of the eccentric muscle phase are twofold. First, as stated above, negatives are a good way to build up to more difficult exercises. But because you can handle a heavier load under eccentric contraction, you can lower yourself slowly (over three to five seconds) to milk the eccentric phase for added training effect.
  • Weighted Negatives: You can also add external weight during the eccentric phase for a greater strength-training effect. Start in a standard push-up position and have a friend place plate weights on your back. Lower yourself until your chest almost touches the floor (eccentric phase), and then have your friend remove the weight (or some of it) before you push back up (concentric phase).
  • Plyometric Combinations: Transition between different types of push-ups. For example, go back and forth between narrow and wide hands or the fore and aft positions of staggered hands. Get creative.

Filed To: ChestCoreArmsExercisesAbs Lead Photo: Kkgas/Stocksy

Confession: I kind of hate push-ups. I could never do them in grade school during those physical fitness tests, and when I was a high school cheerleader, I dreaded every time our football team would score a touchdown because it meant I had to drop down and put my sad excuse for push-ups on display for the entire crowd to see. I could barely do them, so after a while, I just decided it was never in the cards for me. I had other talents; I didn’t need push-ups in my life.

Fast-forward a decade, and now I can, in fact, crank out a set of 10 to 20 push-ups (depending on the day). I still don’t like them, though. That might have something to do with the fact that I just can’t shake those negative high school feels despite knowing they’re a really great total-body exercise that I should do more often. Plus, until I spent some time learning exactly how to do them right, I was pretty much improvising form-wise.

Turns out, I’m not alone. New York City–based certified personal trainer Kira Stokes recently told me about an Instagram push-up challenge she started with her client, Fuller House star Candace Cameron Bure. They each challenged their followers (a cool 3+ million people combined) to do 50 push-ups a day in 2018 (which totals 18,000 push-ups by the end of the year; yikes). The challenge has been a hit; Stokes has gotten thousands of messages and videos from participants. But she also gets a ton of questions about proper push-up form and how to modify them correctly.

So I decided to ask a few trainers to share the most common push-up questions clients ask, and how they answer them. Hopefully, this helps clear up some of the things you’re wondering, too, and maybe even encourages you to give the move another chance.

Why are push-ups so freakin’ hard?

If you’re like me, you feel really strong and capable throughout your entire workout—and then you get to push-ups. It’s like my strength just deflates the second I start doing them. Some days I can do 10 or 15, and other days I tucker out after five. What gives?

While push-ups aren’t complicated, they do require strength and engagement from many different parts of your body. “They challenge our pecs, our triceps, and shoulders, and require a good understanding of core and hip stability as well,” Rob Sulaver, C.S.C.S., founding trainer at Rumble Boxing and founder/CEO of Bandana Training, tells SELF. A push-up is, after, a moving plank, Stokes says. So your core plays a huge role.

And you can’t discount the power of the mind-body connection. “A lot of times there is the mental component,” says Lauren Pak, NASM-certified personal trainer and cofounder of Achieve Fitness in Boston. In other words, if past experiences have convinced you that you can’t do push-ups, it may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I guess my push-up aversion isn’t so uncommon after all.

Remi PyrdolWhat does correct push-up form even look like?

Thinking about a push-up as a moving plank is actually really helpful. The correct setup for a standard push-up is to position your hands shoulder-width apart, or a little bit wider. As you bend your elbows and lower toward the ground, your elbows should be at about a 45-degree angle to your body, Pak says. Your fingers should be splayed, with your middle fingers pointing toward 12 o’clock.

Pimp Your Push Up: 3 Common Mistakes and 5 Challenging Variations

Push ups – the purest, most powerful tool in your training arsenal. That is, provided you know how to use it! In this article, I’m going to show you:

  1. Why the way you’re currently doing push ups sucks and then give you three small form adjustments that make for big improvements – like more muscular recruitment and less unwanted joint stress.
  2. My top five push up variations (you may not have seen) that you can immediately use to add a new movement challenge to your workouts and take your push up training to the next level.

Three Common Push Up Mistakes and the Quick Fixes

Put simply, there’s doing push ups, and then there’s doing push ups well. Now, you already know that sagging your head or hips toward the floor is a mistake, which is why I have not included it on this list. Aside from that obvious one, here are the three most common push up technique mistakes I see plenty of athletes and even fitness trainers making. I’m also going to give the quick fixes you can use right now to make your push up safer, more efficient, and much more effective

Common Mistake #1 – Arm Angle

Put simply, the longer the lever arm, the less leverage you have, and the shorter the lever arm, the more leverage you have. When applying this to the push up, in order to maximize your ability to create force and get better leverage on each rep, keep your elbows closer to your body instead of flaring them out at a 90-degree angle, which is typical for how most people do push ups.

Left: wrong; Right: correct.

The Quick Fix: Keep your elbows closer to your sides at roughly a 20- to 40-degree angle from your body. This shortens the lever arm, which gives you an immediate mechanical advantage when doing push ups.

Common Mistake #2 – Elbow Positioning

When done well, the push up strengthens the entire upper body pushing musculature, including the chest, shoulders, and triceps. However, many people allow their elbows to move past their wrists, either behind or out to the side of the wrists. This not only places unwanted stress through the elbow joint (which elevates risk of an overuse injury at the elbows), it also makes the push up less effective because it reduces the chest and shoulder involvement, and makes it more of a triceps-dominant movement.

Left: wrong; Right: correct.

The Quick Fix: Keep your elbows above your wrists through the entire push up action. Your elbows should form a 90-degree angle at the bottom position of the push up.

Common Mistake #3 – Hand Positioning

If your hands are pointed slightly inward, as is often the case in how many people perform push ups, it usually encourages people to flare their arms out away from their sides, which is the issue we covered in mistake number one. Not to mention, pointing your hands inward also forces for your elbows to move out beyond your wrists in the manner I just addressed in mistake number two. In short, better hand placement encourages better elbow alignment and shoulder positioning.

Above: wrong.

Above: correct.

The Quick Fix: Turn your hands outward slightly, pointing your fingers outward, away from the middle of your body at roughly a 45-degree angle. Doing this will help keep your elbows and arm in a better position for maximizing strength and minimizing unwanted joint stress.

If you’re still unsure that you’re accurately picking up what I’m putting down or would like to see these push up tips in action, then check out this video:

Top 5 Push Up Variations

The beauty of the push up is that it’s one of the most versatile exercises you can do. There are literally endless variations you could try, which can make it confusing when deciding which to use. So, to help narrow the field for you, I’ve provided a list of my top five battle-tested push up variations. These are the five used most often in my Performance U training approach. They make the push up more challenging and add some new movement to training programs in order to make sure clients and athletes consistently get stronger and have fun while doing it.

Note: The “home base” push up position (i.e. shoulders, elbows, hands, along with not allowing your head or hips to sag) I covered above is what we apply to all push up variations.

1. Push Back Push Up

This variation resembles the diagonal pushing action of an incline dumbbell press, so it focuses more on the shoulders. Not only have we found that the push back push up is a great way to strengthen your shoulders, but it also forces you to use your abdominals to remain stiff and strong when your arms are extended above you. This makes this move a nice core exercise, as well.

2. The Superman Push Up

When we’re looking to combine an advanced core stability challenge into the push up, we go to the Superman push up.

Set up: Assume the push up position with feet shoulder width apart.

Action: Drop into the bottom of the push up. As you rise to the top of the movement, lift your right arm out in front of your body, while simultaneously lifting your left leg off he floor so it’s in a straight line with your right arm. Pause at the top position for one second. That’s one rep. Drop back into the push up and repeat the same action on the other side.

Coaching Tips

  • Do not allow your torso to rotate at the top.
  • Keep your torso straight throughout the movement. Do not allow your hips or head to sag toward the floor at any point.
  • Keep your legs straight through this movement and do not allow your knees to bend.

3. The Break-Dancer Push Up

This is a rotational version of the Superman push up. Although we do exercises for substance (i.e. for the training benefits they provide), the break-dancer push up is also a great way to impress the know-it-alls at your gym.

Set up: Assume the push up position with feet shoulder width apart.

Action: Perform a pushup and as you rise to the top, twist to your left side while you simultaneouslyraise your right knee to meet your left elbow. On the next rep, after you’ve dropped back into another push up, raise your left knee to your right elbow.

Coaching Tips

  • While rotating your torso, move your hips and shoulders at the same rate. Do not roll your hips before your shoulders
  • Bring your knee up to your elbow and keep your hand in front of your face. Don’t bring your hand down to meet your knee, as that’s a cheat.
  • Keep your torso straight throughout the movement. Do not allow your hips to sag toward the floor at any point.

4. One Arm Push Ups

To me, the one arm push up is not only at the top of the push up food chain, it’s also the king of all upper-body pushing exercises. Yes, that means, unless you’re a powerlifter or training for a bench press combine test, if we had to choose between the bench or the one arm push ups, we’re going with the one arm push up all day long and twice on Sunday. No, I’m not saying the bench press is a bad exercise or that we don’t use it. How we program one arm push ups along with the bench press is something I’ve written about extensively in other articles. There’s no need to repeat myself here, so I’ll just say that although the one arm push up is not performed from standing, it can have a high transfer into standing pushing strength because it has a heavy involvement of the core, hips, and lower body to control body position, which are the factors involved when producing pushing forces from a standing position rather than when lying on a bench.

Plus, when performing one arm push ups, you’re not only promoting unilateral strength, you’re also training the serape effect, which is the force production relationship between your shoulder and opposite hip via the torso. This connection is responsible for actions like running, throwing, and punching.

As with the traditional push up, we’ve put lots of thought into maximizing the benefit from one arm push ups through specific technique cues. I discuss and demonstrate all of this in this video:

5. Triple Threat Push Up Protocol

This really isn’t a push up variation as much as it is a protocol using the basic push up. That said, it’s still a new twist on a classic move, which adds variety to how you use push ups. When we want to add volume to a workout, and create an insane muscle pump, which are both linked to increases in muscle hypertrophy, we’ll use one of the these two triple threat push up protocols. Also, we’ve used these triple threat push up protocols to help people achieve 100 push ups.

How it works: Both of these push up protocols are based on the triple drop-set concept. They both begin with the most difficult push up variation and progressively work down to the easiest version. We go for max reps (technical failure) on each push up.In other words, as you fatigue, the exercises become easier, allowing you to continue to crank out high-quality reps with less risk of injury.

Here’s how to perform the advanced push up triple threat:

If the addition of the extra weight plate (in the above video) was a bit too much for your ability, then no problem. This second version of the push up triple threat has your name all over it:

Recommended Reps, Sets and Push Up Workout Tips

  • We usually choose one push up variation to perform per workout
  • We usually perform 2-4 sets of a particular push up variation
  • For those who can do one arm push ups, we’ll go for 4-5 sets x 2-5 reps per arm.
  • For other push up variations, we like to do repetitive effort set up by doing as many reps as you can in good control.
  • Rest 90sec-2min between sets. We’ll rest 2-3min between triple threat sets.
  • If we’re doing a body part split type routine, we’ll perform push ups as part of an upper-body workout.
  • Lower rep push ups (i.e. one arm push ups) are done earlier in a strength workout, whereas repetitive effort push ups variations and protocols are usually used toward the end of a strength workout.

What makes the pushup so special?

The pushup is a special type of exercise for a few reasons, not the least of which is that it is extremely convenient. If you don’t have time for a full workout routine, pushups can come to your aid since you can do a few sets in the morning, on your lunch break, any time of day.

Pushups are considered a functional exercise. Functional exercises are ones that affect the muscle systems and coordination skills that are used in daily life – functional exercise improve the ease with which you can move, pick things up, carry things, and your general mobility.

Pushups are also special because you don’t need any equipment to perform a pushup. They rely on your body weight, which means that you can do them without having to go to the gym.

How do I do a pushup?

There are a lot of different ways to do a pushup! Many varieties have been developed by people of various intentions, and all of these variations affect different muscle groups. Pretty much every pushup is great for your whole body, but some are good to learn if you want to work out specific areas.

We’ll get more into some detailed descriptions of various pushups later in the article, but for now,you probably want to know how to do a regular pushup before you read the rest of the article.

  • First, put your hands beneath your shoulders. Typically a pushup is done with your palms flat on the floor, though this isn’t really the best method. For beginners, though, it’s okay to learn this way.

  • Extend your legs straight behind you so the balls of your feet touch the ground.

  • Flexing your abdominals and your posterior, lower your body until your chest touches the floor. Make sure your body is kept straight.

  • Maintaining your straightness, push yourself back up from the floor into your original position.

What are the health benefits of doing pushups?

There are many benefits to doing pushups, and these range from internal improvements – like the functioning of your organs – to external, like your improved physique, to even mental – there’s a very significant mental aspect to doing any kind of exercise, particularly body weight exercises.

  1. Pushups increase your functional strength

Pushups activate your entire body, which is one of the reason they’re considered a functional exercise. Despite the fact that the burn many people feel when they’re doing pushups is centered in their arms and pecs, the pushup works out a whole lot more muscles than just those two areas.

Every major muscle group in your body takes a part in doing a pushup – in fact, it’s often considered to be the best exercise for someone who wants to exercise a lot of different areas at once without resorting to using a half dozen different techniques.

  • Biceps are used during pushups, and are where a lot of people feel the burn of growing muscles.

  • Your triceps feel a lot of the burn too, and you can see them working when someone’s doing a pushup.

  • Your core is activated to a great extent during a pushup, and they are considered fantastic exercises for building core strength.

All these groups work together to help stabilize and balance your body during a pushup. The amount of muscles involved makes the pushup classify as a compound exercise; the fact that so many groups are called upon means that you’re working a lot of different areas together.

This allows for a greater understanding of how your different muscle groups work together, and allows you to improve your general mobility. Your balance will improve. Your functional strength will improve, which means that anything you use muscles to perform will become easier.

Conclusion: Pushups are a great functional exercise that activate almost every group of muscles in your body. This makes them appealing for an immense variety of reasons and workout routines.

2. Pushups provide a great stretch for your muscles

Pushups are underrated for their ability to help you stretch various muscle groups, particularly those of your biceps and back. It’s important to stretch before a workout as well, but people don’t pay as much attention to the actual stretching that is done during the workout.

Pushups and other bodyweight exercises are among the best sorts of exercises for effectively stretching your body.

  • During the downward motion, your back muscles are stretched – these particular muscles get knotted and stressed out very easily during daily life. In fact, you probably have knots in your back right now! The back bears the burden of a lot of stress by growing taut and tense, which is why you can tell if someone’s been stressed out by feeling their back

  • Pushing yourself upwards allows your biceps to obtain a full stretch. Stretching the back and biceps isn’t the most commonly taught thing in exercise classes, so the fact that pushups can stretch these two muscles makes them extra useful.

Having your muscles properly stretched is important for a few reasons.

  • First off, they help you avoid injuries – pulled muscles are a lot less likely to occur if you stretch regularly.

  • Stretching is key for a person’s flexibility. Without stretched muscles, you’ll have a limited range of motion and won’t be able to perform as well as you could with fully stretched muscles and ligaments.

  • Stretching, combined with proper breathing, enhances blood flow throughout the body. A healthy blood flow is vital for a whole bunch of different things, which we discuss in detail in a moment.

On top of that, people who are doing pushups for purposes of improving their aesthetic will find that well-stretched muscles provide a more toned appearance. They look solid, and give off a more attractive appearance. A well-stretched individual will also move with more fluidity, and the result is a nimbleness that is attractive

Conclusion: Pushups are a good way to improve your flexibility because they stretch out many of the muscles that are used during the motion. Having your muscles stretched is very important for flexibility, mobility and endurance.

3. Pushups enhance your cardiovascular system

Pushups are considered a compound exercise. Compound exercises are very versatile because they activate many different muscle groups, joints and connecting tissues. Engaging large amounts of different muscle groups means that your heart has to exert more energy in order to provide oxygen to all these muscles.

This process means that your cardiovascular system is working harder, which allows it to grow strong and become more efficient at providing blood and oxygen to the organs in your body. The more often your heart has to do extra work to pump these vitals throughout your body, the better it becomes at doing it – the heart is a muscle, too.

An improved cardiovascular system means a lot of good things.

  • You lower the chance of developing heart related diseases, like having strokes or heart attacks, or developing atherosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries.

  • Your body will become better able to eliminate cholesterol from the bloodstream.

  • You will be easier able to eliminate excess body fat.

  • Your intelligence will improve because your brain will be able to receive more oxygen and thus communicate better with the parts of your body.

  • Your digestion will improve because the components of your gastrointestinal tract will better be able to function.

There are lots of different ways to improve your cardiovascular strength, such as eating healthy foods containing lots of omega-3 fats. However, developing a strong body with a good ratio of muscle and regularly exercising to raise your heartbeat is most certainly the best way to do this.

Conclusion: Pushups are a very effective exercise for boosting the body’s cardiovascular system because the exercise activates so many different sets of muscles. This causes an increased need for oxygen, so the body compensates by improving blood circulation to meet this need. Improved circulation brings many benefits to human health.

4. You will improve your whole body’s aesthetic

People who want to gain muscle tone and develop a perfect beach body by doing pushups are in luck – the exercise is well-known for its ability to improve tonality and appearance for lots of different muscle groups.

Despite seeming arm centric, the pushup works your core (including your abs) your back, your shoulders, and even your legs. Toning all of these muscles means that you will have a completely fit, strong-looking body.

Pushups are actually one of the single most potent exercises in terms of how many different muscle groups they exercise. Not only do they affect almost every muscle in your body, but they significantly benefit several groups of core muscles. Your core muscles include

  • The muscles in your abdomen, which are used to help keep your body stabilized and help you manage your center of gravity. Without a strong abdomen, you might notice difficulties in balance and coordination when carrying weight.

  • The muscles in your back, which are hugely responsible for your lifting capacity. Developing these muscles is very important and can prevent you from developing injuries later down the line – the back is often the first part of the human body to ‘go.’ You’ve heard countless people complaining of a sore back – it’s quite easy to pull a muscle here, even through simple movement. Fortunately, strengthening your back from an early age can help prevent these injuries.

  • Your shoulders are hugely impacted by pushups and help with lifting and stability.

Aside from that, pushups stimulate the production of HGH – human growth hormone. This is because that, during periods of extreme exercise (like during strength training) the body produces more HGH in preparation for rebuilding muscles.

This hormone is particularly produced during the younger years of a person’s life, and declines into older age. This makes building muscle more and more difficult, which is why it’s an appealing idea to stimulate the production of this hormone. People do steroids for essentially the same reason – an enhanced ability for your body to produce and rebuild muscle tissue.

Adding push ups into a regular strength training routine will be even better because the HGH stimulation will follow through to the other exercises that you’re doing.

Conclusion: Pushups are a great tactic for building strength in your core, for building and improving muscles, and more interestingly, for releasing the human growth hormone. This means that pushups don’t just carry their own set of benefits, but enhance your ability to grow stronger from any other exercises you may be doing.

5. Push ups prevent shoulder injuries

Shoulder injuries are quite common, particularly among people who do strength training often or play sports. Jumping into any type of exercise, particularly those that involve heavy lifting, is a good way for someone to injure themselves.

One of the most common injuries is a rotator cuff injury, which can be anywhere from mild to very severe. It’s important to protect the rotator cuff, which is located in the shoulder.

Pushups are good for protecting this area because they safeguard your shoulder joints – particularly in middle aged folk. Pushups rely heavily on stabilizer muscles, some of which surround the rotator cuff joint.

Stabilizer muscles allow you to improve your mobility and flexibility. These muscles are often overlooked in typical workout routines – people tend to just work with muscles that are directly responsible for strength, ability, and tone.

Improving the strength and stability of the muscles around your shoulders decrease the the chances of you developing injuries not just in your shoulders, too. Since your shoulders are used for lifting, a weak or unstable shoulder could lead to you dropping something and being injured because of that.

Conclusion: Pushups are a good exercise for your shoulders – not just because they help build muscle mass and function in your shoulders, but because they work a set of stabilizer muscles that can protect the shoulder. These muscles are often undertrained and can easily cause injury to the shoulders if they are strained.

6. Pushups can improve your posture

Posture is extremely important for a number of reasons, and it’s also extremely undervalued as a mandatory factor in everyone’s daily activities. Here’s some of the most significant reasons:

  • Your posture displays confidence; having a proper posture will assure people that you’re self-confident and know what you’re doing.

  • A bad posture can lead to a whole lot of unpleasant conditions later down the line. Your spine can fall out of alignment, your organs can lose function from being displaced.

  • A healthy stance is indicative that your body’s arranged in the right way, which is sort of a prerequisite that must be filled before hoping t o do anything physical.

Posture can be damaged by sitting at a computer all day, by injuries, or just by the fact that most people aren’t trained how to stand properly. Bad posture is very commonplace these days, largely in part because of the sedentary lifestyle that most people are bred to live. It’s not typical for people to work on their core strength and posture, and the average person’s posture is proof of this.

Pushups improve your posture because they are such an effective exercise for improving your core muscles – a proper pushup engages more of the muscles that are responsible for core strength than almost any other single exercise you can do.

As you improve the strength of your core you’ll find that you naturally lean towards proper posture – even if you weren’t taught how to stand properly. A healthy core muscle set helps the body grow into a stance that’s much healthier for daily life – as the muscles gain strength and tone, they begin to align themselves into a healthy position. The end result is you developing a taller, stronger stance.

Conclusion: Posture is extremely important! It affects the way you walk, the way you move, and even how your presence is perceived by other people. Fortunately, pushups are a very simple way to significantly improve your posture. They work all the muscles that are related to your posture, and strengthening these muscles naturally improves your posture – whether or not you’re making a conscious attempt.

7. Push ups can prevent lower back injuries

Back injuries are among the most debilitating that a person can face. Your back is a pretty crucial part in almost every movement you make during the day, so naturally, an injured back greatly hinders your daily life.

Since pushups are great at stabilizing your body and working out your core muscles, you strengthen a large portion of your back. Back muscles are a huge part of your core strength and your stability.

If you strengthen these muscles, you’ll develop an affinity for lowering pressure on your back. This means that you’ll be able to better prevent injuries that could be caused by a weak back or an unstretched set of back muscles.

Conclusion: Back injuries suck, and unfortunately, they’re a lot more common than some other types of injuries. Fortunately pushups work out some of the muscles that can help prevent back injuries.

8. Push ups allow you to save time and money for other health benefits

Surveys have proven that a lot of the reason people don’t exercise is (or so they say) because of a lack of time. People lead busy lives with work and school and families, and often find it difficult to get enough time to go to the gym or organize an entire workout routine to fit into their daily schedule.

A lot of people make their daily commute to or from work a form of exercise. Some opt to walk instead of drive, some jog to give themselves a bit of an aerobic kick, but what if somebody wants make some serious gains to the strength of their core and tone the muscles in their upper body? A jog to and from work isn’t going to help much.

Fortunately, pushups are readily available, and can be done without the need for a complete exercise routine. A few sets of pushups a day is enough to see not only muscle gains, but a significant improvement to your daily performance.

Nobody can be too busy to add push ups to their daily routine . You can drop to the ground and do a set of 20 in a minute – this means you have time to do them before work, while you’re getting ready. You could do them while waiting for the bus. You can even do them during a bathroom break at work.

One cool thing about push ups is that you can split your workout throughout the day. While those hoping to see physical growth of muscles should probably do sets of fewer, harder push ups and keep this to a single session, those who seek to improve general core strength and endurance don’t need to lump their workouts together.

Conclusion: Pushups are a perfect exercise for the time-strapped individual. They can be done almost anywhere and take no preparation, no equipment, and very little time. If you’re a busy bee and don’t have time to go to the gym between work or school, just add some pushups into your daily routine – we can guarantee you’ll have time.

9. Push ups increase testosterone production

As men and women age, their ability to produce different hormones begins to decrease. The most debilitating decrease for men is the loss of their ability to produce as much testosterone, which is a hormone required for general feats of ‘manliness,’ including strength, endurance, and libido.

A motion of exercise that stimulates as many muscles as a push up also tends to increase the production of testosterone. This benefit creates a positive cycle – more testosterone allow for the expenditure of more energy and thus the ability to work out for longer and harder, which in turn creates more testosterone.

Pushups are also good for men who have naturally low levels of testosterone. For these men, full body workouts are a very healthy way to help restore their testosterone levels to a natural balance.

Conclusion: Anyone who’s worried about their testosterone production levels might want to consider doing a bunch of pushups, since the exercise has been shown to improve the production of testosterone. This means that pushups make you more ‘manly,’ and also more willing to exercise more.

10. Pushups can give you a quick energy boost

If you’re feeling tired, pushups can be a great way to give yourself a quick jolt of energy.

Next time your eyelids start closing while you’re at work, hit the ground and do a set of as many pushups as you can, as quickly as you can (and ignore the looks you might get from your coworkers.) This will jumpstart your heartbeat and thus your circulation, causing a flood of fresh blood and oxygen to energize your entire body.

This will turbocharge not just your body but your brain as well, which can help restore your thinking power during the middle of the day.

Additionally, short, intense bursts of exercise like this cause your body to generate a lot of heat. This is very useful in a lot of situations – if you have to walk to work in winter, or even scrape the frost off your windshields, and you dread those minutes of cold before your body’s had time to adjust and warm up from walking? Do a set of pushups before you walk outside and you’ll find the temperature much easier to deal with.

Conclusion: Pushups are a great way to kick yourself into third gear in the middle of the day. They can be done quickly, intensely, and can re-start your body and brain by booting up your circulation and your thinking process. If you’re getting lazy, you should try dropping to the ground and doing a set of pushups before taking a nap – they just might be enough to wake you up.

11. Pushups increase your metabolism

Pushups, as we’ve mentioned, are able to work a bunch of different muscles at the same time.

Since this makes the heart work harder than it would if you were just working single muscles, the need for calories is increased. This improves the metabolic rate of your body which is great for people who are hoping to lose weight.

This makes pushups ideal for several different types of workouts.

  • People who want to lose weight will find pushups great because they build muscle as well as helping to put a dent in the excess fat by increasing your metabolism

  • People who want to gain muscle but don’t have a fast metabolism will be able to eat more food this way. Eating a lot of protein rich food, as well as vegetables and other whole foods, is a great way for you to bolster your workout. As long as you’re not eating garbage food, there’s really no reason for you not to eat tons of food everyday – as long as you’re working out, you won’t really have to worry about counting calories.

  • People hoping to improve their general fitness are bound to find pushups useful; the improvement to their metabolism and circulation being invaluable assets to endurance training.

The faster your metabolism, the faster your body is able to make use out of the food you consume. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your goals and the type of food available to you.

If you’re broke and can hardly afford food, having a quick metabolism isn’t great because it means you’ll be hungry all the time. People with quick metabolisms can eat a full meal and find themselves really hungry a couple hours later.

However, this also opens up opportunities for effective weight gains – if you have a quick metabolism, you’re able to eat almost constantly. This means that you have more opportunity to eat protein as well as consume foods with vitamins and minerals that improve the strength and function of your muscles and body.

Conclusion: Those hoping to lose weight shouldn’t exclusively rely on pushups as their form of weight-loss exercise. However, they can be assured that the pushup increases their metabolic rate, which will make it easier for the exerciser to lose weight with other activities.

Precautions to take when doing pushups

Like any exercise, the pushup contains potential danger. Fortunately these dangers aren’t as obvious or risky as some workouts that involve heavy machinery – but, it’s still a good idea to watch out for certain things.

First off, make sure you don’t dive right into a pushup routine that’s way too intense for your body to handle. If you haven’t been exercising, you’re probably not ready to push yourself straight to your body’s limit and attempt doing clap pushups until you collapse.

Just like someone who’s decided to lose weight shouldn’t attempt going for a five mile run after spending the last two years of their life on a couch, someone who wants to begin building muscle shouldn’t strap weights to their chest and try doing sets of 30 pushups. Ease yourself into it.

  • Beginners can do a modified pushup that’s a lot less strenuous by using your knees to support yourself instead of your toes. This takes a tremendous amount of weight off the exercise, making it much easier.

  • You can do this modified form of push up until you’re strong enough or comfortable enough to do regular ones.

The possibility of injuries is still present even if you ease yourself into the workout.

  • You can hurt your wrists by doing pushups with your palms facing the floor, which is this standard taught for the pushup. A safer alternative is to use a dumbbell in each hand and do your pushups off of that.

    • If you’re using dumbbells, don’t lower your body all the way to the floor or you’ll just hurt yourself anyways. Instead, lower it to the height of the top of the dumbbell.

  • You can hurt your spine if your body’s not properly aligned. You want your body to look like a straight line from head to toe, and keep your back as straight as possible. It’s very helpful to have a third party let you know how your posture is, because it’s pretty hard to tell by yourself.

  • Any prior injuries or weakness should be addressed prior to starting a new exercise regime. Consult your doctor about the type of workout you plan to do and let him know if you have any prior injuries.

  • If you hear any abnormal clicking sounds (aside from regular joints cracking, which isn’t strange as long as it only happens once or twice) particularly in your shoulder or neck regions, stop the exercise.

  • If you feel pain, stop doing pushups. If the pain persists, see a doctor.

  • Keep your abdominals flexed when you’re doing pushups. This helps to keep your spine aligned and promotes your balance, as well as limiting the chance of injuring your back.

  • Keep your back straight, straight, straight! Not doing so can do lasting damage.

Some things should always be considered when doing pushups to ensure that you don’t hurt yourself!


Picking is the term used for when you raise your posterior too high, turning your body into a pike shape. This is usually done because it takes pressure off the core and can seem appealing. Unfortunately, it puts more pressure on your shoulders.

Stomach dropping

Make sure you keep your stomach tight and flat during the whole exercise. If you neglect this aspect, you risk injuring your lower back, as well as making the pushup more difficult.

Not going all the way!

A lot of people don’t touch the ground when they do their pushups. If you want to see the best gains, make sure you follow the whole motion!

Pushup variations for you to try

There are a lot of different push up variations out there, and each one suits a different need.

While every pushup is going to be a great exercise for your core, it’s a good idea to switch up the variety of pushups you’re doing. Exercising the same muscles every day will strain them more than it will help them grow, and you won’t see as much improvement as you will if you’re able to switch up the exercises that you do.

  1. Incline pushups

These are probably the easiest pushups you can do. This pushup is for beginners who aren’t able to do pushups on their own, or for those who are physically disabled and who want to begin at an easier stage.

Put your hands on an elevated surface – a bench or a hard chair works good, anything that’s not soft and cushy. Put your legs straight out behind you like you would in standard pushup position, then lower your chest to the surface and push yourself back into the original position.

Your range of motion is much shorter in this exercise, which makes it a lot easier.

2. Decline pushup

I’m sure you can guess that this is the opposite of the incline pushup.

Instead of putting your hands on the elevated surface, put your feet there. Have them extended straight out like you would for a regular push up, and put your hands on the ground or on dumbbells at shoulder width.

Make sure you keep your abs flexed and your body held straight. Bring your chest down to the ground, then push back into the original position.

The extended range of motion and the angle make this pushup an intense workout.

3. Clap pushup

Clap pushups often bring up memories of macho guys trying to show off. They’re no easy achievement.

Start in a regular pushup position and lower yourself. Once your chest touches the ground, push up with as much force as you can so that you’re able to lift your hands off the ground once you’re at the top of your pushup position.

Using your momentum, lift your hands off the ground and clap. Quickly. Let your hands land back under your shoulders and repeat. These pushups can cause a lot of stress in the shoulders if they aren’t executed perfectly, so try to have a spotter who can inform you if your posture is off.

4. Wide-arm pushups

Start with your hands a bti wider than they would be for a normal pushup. As usual, legs are kept straight back.

Bring yourself down until your chest touches the ground. You’ll notice this variety of pushup works out your pecs a lot more, when compared to the strain a regular pushup puts on your triceps.

Return to the original position and continue.

5. Diamond pushup

This is a push up that works your triceps even more than the regular variety.

Put your hands in a triangle beneath your chest – your pointer fingers should be touching each other and your thumbs should be touching each other to form the shape.

Have your feet behind you, spread a bit from each other in order to help you maintain your balance. Flexing your abs and keeping your body straight, lower yourself until your chest touches the triangle you’ve formed with your fingers.

Push away and repeat as many reps as you feel fit.


The pushup is one of the best exercises around, hands-down (pun not intended.)

It works out a massive amount of muscles, has lasting benefits that can help you throughout your life, and even improve the efficiency of other exercises you do.

Best of all, they can be done anywhere at any time, without the need for equipment. If you’re not already doing pushups as part of your exercise routine, there’s no better time to start.

Everybody knows that the only way you build muscle is by lifting heavy weighs, right?


We’re not saying that weight training doesn’t build muscle, because we all know it does, but sometimes you don’t need to lift any weights at all in order to pack on the muscle.

Today we’re looking at several awesome benefits of push-ups and will be looking at just what it is about push-ups that make this exercise one of the most popular chest exercises in existence.

Push-ups are a testament to the fact that you can build muscle mass and increase functional strength without picking up a set of dumbbells or a barbell.

Push-ups are a resistance-based bodyweight movement that is considered to be one of the most effective chest exercises in existence, and also one of the top calisthenics exercises.

Virtually everybody knows what a push-up is, and we dare say, that many of you will almost certainly have done your fair share over the years.

But why are push-ups so beneficial?

That’s what we’re going to look at today.

Here are several awesome benefits of push-ups.

Table of Contents

What Are The Benefits Of Push-Ups?

1. Add Mass To Your Chest

If you’re looking for a fantastic way to add muscle mass to your chest and promote muscle hypertrophy, you need to look no further than the humble push-up.

Push-ups are one of the most effective chest exercises in the world.

Many consider push-ups to be just as beneficial for building muscle mass on the chest are barbell bench presses.

Push-ups target the upper, middle, and lower pecs so you can build a fuller, thicker, more solid and tighter chest without even needing to lift a single weight.

2. Great Compound Exercise

One mistake that people often make when discussing the benefits of push-ups, is assuming that push-ups are an isolation exercise.

Whilst it is true that push-ups will primarily target your pectoral muscles, push-ups also work for several other muscle groups at the same time as well.

This makes push-ups a great compound exercise as you can work several parts of your anatomy at the same time.

Push-ups target your chest, your triceps get a lot of work, as do your deltoids, your back, and even your core.

That means that by doing that one movement, you can work all of those muscles at the same time.

3. Build Functional Strength

Functional strength is a term that is used a lot in the fitness industry at the moment.

Functional strength became a popular fitness term when CrossFit took off and became so popular.

CrossFit or functional strength is a term used to describe strength which can be deemed as functional and beneficial in everyday life.

There’s being gym strong, and then there’s being functionally strong.

Push-ups are a great way of building functional strength because you use your own bodyweight for resistance.

The movements you perform when doing a push up are far more like the types of movements that you’ll perform in everyday life.

Getting down on your hands and knees to retrieve some money you dropped under the couch, for example, will require similar movements to stand up as you’d perform when doing a push-up.

It’s small things like that which make the biggest difference.

4. Great Stretch In The Muscles

Despite knowing how important it is to warm up and stretch the muscles before we begin exercising, the simple fact of the matter is that many of us fail to stretch before we start training.

Another of the awesome benefits of push-ups that we’re looking at today is the fact that push-ups provide a deep stretch in your muscles, which helps to warm them up, increases muscle elasticity, and increases flexibility.

5. Injury Prevention

Sticking with the benefits of stretching the muscles, another key benefit of push-ups is the fact that they help you to avoid injury whilst training.

Push-ups help to increase muscle fiber elasticity, which means that you’re less likely to suffer from a pulled or torn muscle.

The nature of the exercise also means that they’re much safer than other exercises such as heavy barbell bench presses.

6. Burn Calories

Primarily when people think of push-ups they focus on the muscle-building benefits of the exercise.

Whilst push-ups are a great resistance-based compound exercise for building and toning the muscles, there are many weight loss benefits to be enjoyed when you do push-ups regularly.

Push-ups are a compound exercise, which means that you’re using several muscle groups at the same time when you do the exercise.

The more muscles you use, the harder your body is working which means the more calories you’ll be burning off.

7. Cardio Benefits

As push-ups burn calories, they also provide several cardiovascular benefits as you perform them.

This means that push-ups are surprisingly heart-healthy.

Performing push-ups on a regular basis will provide you with countless heart benefits which could potentially increase your longevity.

Push-ups will help to strengthen your heart, they help reduce blood pressure, and they can, therefore, help you to avoid serious health conditions such as hypertension, stroke, heart disease, and heart attacks.

8. Push-ups Can Be Done Anywhere

If you’re looking to build up your chest with bench presses, dumbbell flyes, cable cross overs, etc, you’ll need access to a gym that has all of the equipment you need.

This isn’t ideal if you don’t have access to a gym or the time to train.

So, what can you do instead?

Do you simply need to sit back and let your chest gains disappear for good?

No, instead, you’ll need to find something else.

Thankfully that something else is one of the best chest exercises in the world.

Push-ups are great because you can do them virtually anywhere.

You can do them at home, at work, in the park, in the garden, in your hotel room.

As long as you have a relatively open area of space you can perform push-ups with no real issues in the slightest.

9. Great For The Back

Many people, when discussing the benefits of push-ups, fail to recognize the fact that push-ups are fantastic for working your back muscles.

Push-ups give you a great stretch in your back which improves back flexibility and mobility.

As an added bonus you’ll also find that your back muscles are worked harder than usual as well, so don’t be surprised to see some noticeable improvements in your overall back development.

10. Work Your Triceps

When you do push-ups, your triceps will get a great workout as it is.

If you adjust your hand placement, however, and adopt more of a narrower stance, you’ll find that you can isolate the triceps and give them one heck of a workout (such as Power Tower workout) when you perform push-ups of this nature.

Even if you aren’t looking to train your triceps directly, they still get a little work when you do push-ups.

Not only can you build them up and develop them, but you can also increase your triceps strength and power.

11. Improve Your Pressing

When talking about the benefits of push-ups, a lot of people overlook the fact that push-ups are absolutely fantastic for people looking to improve their pressing.

Push-ups are a fantastic accessory exercise for a whole variety of pressing movements.

Push-ups will improve your bench press, they’ll help you to military press more weight, they’ll assist you with dumbbell shoulder presses, and much more besides.

Not only do push-ups help you to generate power from your chest, but they also work your triceps as well, which play a key role in a number of pressing exercises and movements.

12. Better Physique

So far when focussing on the benefits of push-ups, we’ve only really focused on your muscles and body mechanics.

Now it’s time to look at the aesthetical benefits of push-ups as well.

Push-ups are very beneficial for building muscle and burning fat.


Because of this, you’ll find that your physique becomes a great deal more aesthetically pleasing when you incorporate push-ups into your training regime.

Push-ups help you to burn fat, they sculpt the chest, they build muscle in the upper body, and they’ll give you a much more impressive-looking physique than you had previously.

It has been found in many popular workout programs such as Ice Cream Fitness and Tempo Training.

13. Prevent Shoulder Injuries

Shoulder injuries amongst weightlifters are very common.

In particular, rotator cuff injuries are especially common.

These injuries are debilitating, they require a lot of rehabs, and often they require surgery to correct.

All of this means a lot of time away from the gym as you recover.

Keeping your shoulders fit, healthy, and injury-free however, is far easier said than done.

Thankfully, push-ups are ideal in this situation.

Push-ups help to strengthen stabilizer muscles, including those which surround the rotator cuff.

This means that push-ups can help to prevent rotator cuff injuries and keep the shoulders fit, strong, and healthy.

14. Increased HGH Production

HGH, or, Human Growth Hormone, is one of the most important hormones found in the human body.

It is extremely anabolic, which plenty of androgenic benefits thrown in for good measure.

The more HGH we produce naturally, the more muscle we naturally produce.

HGH is also very important for keeping the cells healthy, as well as your muscles large and full.

Put simply, the less HGH you produce, the less muscle you’ll build and the more health issues you’ll likely experience.

Because push-ups work so many different muscles in your body, more HGH is naturally produced and secreted.

15. Increased Testosterone Production

As well as assisting with the production and secretion of HGH, push-ups are also very beneficial in that they boost testosterone production.

Testosterone is the dominant male sexual health hormone which is responsible for all manner of physiological processes within the human body.

Testosterone helps to boost muscle mass, it speeds up the fat loss, it increases energy, it boosts strength, it boosts libido, and much more besides.

Just like push-ups help to increase HGH, it turns out that push-ups also naturally boost testosterone production as well.

16. Better Posture

With so many of us sitting at our desks, slumped forwards in front of a computer, or hunched forwards scrolling through our phones in the evening, it’s easy to see why chiropractors are currently making so much money.

Poor posture can leave you in a great deal of pain and discomfort, and it can lead to problems later on in life as well. Often, bad posture is down to a weak core.

Push-ups help to strengthen your core and back, meaning that your spine remains properly aligned, allowing you to practice proper posture.

This will not only help you to appear taller, but it will also help you to avoid pain and discomfort.

17. Save Time

If you don’t really have much time to exercise, but you still want to do something productive, push-ups are fantastic.

You can bust out several sets of push-ups in a matter of minutes.

Push-ups will help you to build more muscle in your chest and upper body, and they’ll burn calories so you can burn fat and lose weight at the same time.

All of this combined together means that push-ups are ideal for anybody that doesn’t have much time to exercise.

Bottom Line

As you can see, there are plenty of awesome benefits of push-ups to be enjoyed when you perform this awesome bodyweight exercise on a regular basis.

Push-ups are simple, quick, easy, and very effective and if you aren’t doing them regularly, hopefully, you will after you finish reading this.

Hands up push up

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