Push-ups are considered one of the best body-weight exercises. And for good reason. This exercise builds optimal upper-body strength in the chest, shoulders and arms, and when done properly, the push-up can also help build a strong core by actively engaging the abdominal and low-back muscles. Add gluteals and legs that help keep the lower body lifted and you’ve got a multi-purpose exercise that can be done anywhere, anytime. The push-up is the most basic of exercises, yet it yields a huge return on your exercise investment.
Push-ups can also give a boost to your ego and self-esteem. Advancing your push-up from the knees to the toes is empowering; it’s also a great marker that upper-body and core strength have improved. But don’t stop there! With variations that add rotation, traveling or lifting a limb, push-ups offer a variety of challenges that not only boost your confidence, but also improve your overall flexibility, athletic performance and real-life strength.
Kneeling Triceps Push-up to Child Pose
This push-up variation enables you to stretch and strengthen all in one move.
Set Up: Begin in child’s pose, sitting all the way onto the heels with arms stretched out in front of you.
Execution: Lift off the heels, stay on the knees and lower down into a triceps push-up. The insides of the arms should be close to the torso, elbows pointing back. Press back up and return to the child pose. Perform two sets of 10 repetitions.
Tips: Keep tension in the abdominals and resist the temptation to drop to the floor.
Option: To add more strength to this exercise, push back and keep the glutes lifted up instead of releasing all the way to the shell stretch.
No need to perform those push-ups on your toes quite yet. This hover push-up variation is deceivingly challenging for your upper body and core.
Set Up: Begin in quadruped position, with arms slightly wider than shoulders, feet together and knees pointing outward.
Execution: Push off the balls of the feet and lift the knees, while continuing to keep the knees hovered over the floor while performing the push-up. Perform 10 reps.
Tips: Make sure to keep weight in the balls of the feet.
Option: Release the knees back to the floor between each rep
Push-up With Hip Abduction
This variation really challenges your core and balance because one leg is held off the ground away from the midline.
Set Up: Begin in high plank position with arms slightly wider than shoulders. Lift the right leg off the floor and move it out to the side.
Execution: Perform the push-up while holding the right leg up and out through the entire push-up movement. Perform six to eight reps and switch sides, holding the left leg up and out.
Tips: Contract your glutes and quadriceps to assist in keeping the right leg lifted.
Option: This exercise can be performed on the knees.
Shoulder mobility and flexibility is needed for this push-up variation. Transferring your weight as you roll the body from prone to supine will challenge both your core strength and overall body balance.
Set Up: Begin in high plank position with arms directly underneath the shoulders.
Execution: This is a three-part exercise (push-up, reverse plank, high plank). One complete roll is one rep. Perform six to eight reps.
Perform one triceps push-up.
Lift the left arm and roll into a side plank. Continue rolling, placing the left arm back on the ground, landing in a reverse plank.
Lift the right arm up and roll into a side plank. Continue rolling, placing the right arm back on the ground into high plank. Start the series over again with one push-up and roll in the opposite direction.
Tips: Focus on a keeping continuous energy through the arms and shoulders; also, keep the hips lifted, especially when moving into the reverse plank.