6 Different Push-up Variations and the 100 Push-up Challenge

Posted: April 7, 2014 in Training
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Push-ups are the most basic chest and arm exercise in existence, but when done properly the variations listed below develop not only chest and arm strength and hypertrophy, but shoulder stability, core strength, anti-rotational stability, and hip mobility, among others.

The one problem I have with standard push-ups is that they quickly become boring and/or too easy. So if you’re at a point where you can perform around 20 good push-ups in a row and are looking for a different challenge, try some of these push-up variations to add a new stimulus to your workout. Some of these variations require equipment, but it’s nothing you can’t find at any gym, or likely at your own home. So try them all and once you’ve mastered these variations, try the 100 Push-Up Challenge at the bottom of this article.

1) Sliding Push-ups

These require the use of something that will slide. You can buy fancy gym sliders, or you can just buy furniture sliders, which are cheap and actually more comfortable than what you’ll find in a gym equipment catalog.

Alternatively, you can use a slideboard if you’re lucky enough to go to a gym that has one, or you can just use a towel on a tile floor.

The most basic variations are vertical and lateral slides, but you can really do these at any angle. For a really tough challenge, do Around-The-Clock sliding pushups at 12, 3, and 5 o’clock.

If you’re not quite ready for sliding push-ups, you can start out by doing staggered push-ups, where you place one hand down towards your waist, and one hand up towards your head. You can also keep one hand in normal placement and alter your other hand’s placement (out wide, at hip height, etc.) for an added challenge.

2) Med Ball Push-Ups

I call these “Med-Ball Push-Ups” because they’re typically done with a medicine ball, but really you can use anything that will support your weight; basketball, soccer ball, a stack of books, a very sturdy dog, whatever. The one-hand variation isn’t too tough, but the two-handed variation requires a lot of tricep strength and core stability. When doing the one-handed variation, don’t try to fully extend the arm that’s on the ball/books/dog, instead just fully extend the arm that’s on the floor. And try to do the same number of pushups with the ball on each side.

3) 1-Arm Push-ups

There are a couple of different ways to do 1-arm push-ups. In rotational one arm push-ups, the body is allowed to rotate without an effort made to keep the hips parallel to the ground. This method makes the 1-arm push-up much easier to do, which equates to cheating in my book. But if you don’t have the core strength to perform the one arm push-ups with strict form, they are an acceptable alternative.

I prefer 1-arm push-ups with the hips parallel to the ground, which is significantly more difficult and requires much more core strength. The video below shows me doing 1-arm push-ups with strict form, and you can see how difficult it is not only to keep the hips level, but to keep both feet on the ground.

If you’re unable to do 1-arm push-ups from the floor, the best way to do them is to use a bar on a squat rack or Smith machine and gradually work your way lower and lower until you can do them on the floor.

Another variation is to just use one arm on the eccentric portion of the pushup, and then use two hands to push yourself back up to the top. I call this the Assisted 1-Arm Push-up. Lower yourself down as low as possible before putting your other hand down.

4) Dynamic Lower Body Pushups

To add an extra challenge to your core, try doing push-ups like these where your legs are moving around. Having only one leg on the ground develops anterior hip strength and anti-rotational core strength, which is important for athletes involved in sports that require striking or throwing.

To do spider-man push-ups, try to bring one knee up towards the same-side elbow while keeping the hips level with the floor. Not only does this develop core stability, it’s a good way to actively work on hip mobility. If your hip mobility isn’t up to par it will be difficult to keep the hips totally flat, so it’s OK to allow them to rotate slightly.

Modified Muay-Thai push-ups require one foot to be off the ground at all times. Start with your leg extended, then bring your knee up to your chest as you push up. Traditional Muay-Thai push-ups have both legs on the floor during the push-up, so this is a slightly more difficult variation.

5) “Weird Push-ups”

I can’t think of a better way to designate these, so I’ll just go with “weird.”

The first weird push-up is the divebomber. Pretend like you’re dipping your head under a fence as you move forward and backward. Try to keep your forehead close to the ground as you push yourself back into the downward-facing-dog-type position. This one is very taxing on the triceps and shoulders, so if you want to hit those areas, have at it.

The second weird push-up I call the Modified Yoga Push-up. The idea is to reach forward with your body so that your hands are close to your waist when you start to push up. Then just like on the divebomber, keep your head low to the ground and push up into a downward-facing-dog position.

The 100 Push-up Challenge

Here’s a push-up routine that requires no equipment, so you can do it literally anywhere provided you possess two arms and two legs. Once you’re familiar with all of the above variations, try this:

10 Regular Push-ups

10 Staggered Push-ups (right hand low) or 10 Sliding Pushups w/right hand

10 Staggered Push-ups (left hand low) or 10 Sliding Pushups w/ right hand

10 Divebombers

10 Spiderman push-ups

10 Modified Muay Thai Push-ups

10 Modified Yoga Push-ups

10 1 Arm Assisted Push-ups (left arm) or 1 Arm Push-ups

10 1 Arm Assisted Push-ups (right arm) or 1 Arm Push-ups

10 Regular Pushups

You’ll probably need to pike up to rest a few times, but try not to rest for too long. A realistic goal to shoot for is 8 minutes. If you can finish the whole thing in less than 8 minutes, try switching out the staggered pushups for sliding pushups, and/or replacing the assisted one arm push-ups with the unassisted variety.



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