Certainly, all of us know what a push-up is. This “simple” exercise has been recommended and used by athletes and active individuals all over the world. Furthermore, many believe that pushups, along with pull-ups, are the 2 best body-weight exercises on the planet! Truth is, push-ups can come in many different styles and variations. Today, we discuss push-ups variations and how to properly perform them.
Pushups help to condition the body and build strength. Truly, a manly upper body workout. Push-ups benefit the chest (pectorals), triceps, back, shoulders and even the core. However, not all pushups are one size fits all. As beforementioned, there are many variations utilized to target specific muscle groups more intensely.
In fact, there are several types of push-up variations you can add to your exercise routine to help beef-up your fitness.
Additionally, push-ups can be completed practically anyway, at anytime. Oftentimes, making these a cost friendly, no hassle workout.
What are Push-Ups?
Push-ups are a basic exercise that can greatly support your fitness goals. Push-ups can help strengthen and tone the upper body. It helps engage many areas of the body to promote core and muscle strength.
There are many ways to do a push-up. Push-ups generally involve an up and down motion of the body. Bodyweight is utilized heavily in this activity. However, weight can be added to increase difficulty.
What Are the Benefits of Pushups?
Easy to Perform Anywhere:
Push-ups can (almost literally) be performed in any location. No special equipment needed. Bodyweight + creativity, is all you’ll need to improve overall strength and muscle endurance.
Are you new to push-ups? If so, it can take time to condition your body to perform a standard push-up. However, once mastering the technique, you can quickly add to the amount completed per session.
Push-Ups Target Multiple Muscle Groups:
Push-ups can target multiple muscle groups with each rep. For example, triceps, shoulders, chest, back and the core can benefit greatly with each session. Adding in specific variations can target those same muscle groups with even more intensity.
While push-ups are a universally known exercise, they may still to this day be under-utilized and under valued. Many exercises, don’t allow you to hit so many areas of your body at one time. While push-ups might seem simple, they can have a big impact on your fitness at any age and fitness level.
According to one 2014 study, changing your angle or using different suspensions showed different muscle activation, and proved beneficial in growing different muscle groups better then others.
The takeaway is be diverse in your pushup workouts. Continue to challenge your muscles. For instance, standard push-ups in more stable conditions, provide greater increases in deltoid, and pectoral size. However, closer hand placement to the medial portion of your body can help place emphasis on your triceps.
Furthermore, changing hand angles, even altering tempo, can make a difference in gains, while additionally adding to the challenge of a push-up.
A study in 2016, did just that. It looked at different palmar widths in relation to muscular activation. Certain palmar widths were shown to increase and activate specific muscle groups better. Pectoralis major muscle activity was greater at widths of 50% & 100%, compared to 150%.
How Do You Perform a Pushup?
How you perform a push-up will depend on the type of push-up you are doing. However, certain rules of thumb will stay consistent, regardless the variation.
Firstly, you should keep your posture straight. No hunching. Make sure the arms are fully extended, and the back is straight when you get into any starting, push-up position.
Starting out with a solid plank is a great way to set yourself up for success with this exercise.
The Perfect Push-Up!
Top Push-Ups Variations!
The first push-up variation we’ll discuss (can be seen in the video above). This is the push-up we all know and “mostly” love. Oftentimes, referred to as a military-style push-up. However, the two can be slightly different. To do this push-up, get into a plank position. You’ll want your arms extended and your feet about shoulder width (or slightly narrower) apart.
Breathe, push your palms down into the ground. You’ll want your elbows (90 degrees) and your chest to slightly make contact with the ground. Then, rise back-up into a plank position. Changing tempo and speed is okay. However, remember this may alter different muscle group and activities of them slightly. Going too fast may also alter form.
Triangle Push-Up (diamond push up):
Triangle push-ups or diamond pushups are a little more challenging than your standard push-up. With this variation you can hit or activate your triceps more effectively. Form remains extremally important.
You’ll start out essentially the same as your typical pushup. Instead of having your arms spread wide, you’ll bring them closer in and form a triangle/diamond shape with your hands. Then, like with a standard push up, make your way down to the ground in a controlled fashion.
Wide Hands Push-Up:
Wide hand push-ups can be extremely beneficial to your chest workout as well. Changing to a wide stance can activate your serratus anterior muscles better then your standard pushup.
It’s pretty simple to do, and the modifications are not drastic. Essentially, just moving hand position out about 50% from the normal. Attempt to keep your hands and wrists at the same angle (or slightly outward) as a standard pushup. Try not to put to much additional torque on your wrists.
Your lower body will remain in the same neutral position.
Hindu push-ups are another option to try. Oftentimes, equating to more shoulder activation, triceps and pectoral stimulation. Begin in a plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart.
This push-up variation in a way, combines a few basic yoga poses. For example, Downward Dog, flowing then into Cobra pose, in a way. If you’re familiar with yoga, this pushup is a creative way of combining the two exercises. As you go from Downward Dog to Cobra, extend your body in a push-up like motion, proceeding down, then arching your spine into Cobra. Then, repeat.
Spiderman push-ups are a challenging variation of the standard push-up. Spiderman push-ups add additional activating to your core/abdominal muscles. Oftentimes, the core activation is better then your standard push-ups.
Start out in a normal plank and go down for your push-up. However, unlike a normal push-up, you will not keep your legs straight. On your downward motion, bring one leg out to the side, then upward toward your bent elbow.
This creates a Spider-Man like body pose.
One benefit of Archer pushups is the emphasis of weight on one arm. A much larger percentage of body weight is placed on each arm, at a time. This is fairly challenging. You’ll want to have a good grasp on your capabilities before adding to your regimen. Archer pushups entail the arm with less body weight to add support. Thus, it’s not a one-arm pushup.
You’ll start out as you normally would in the plank position. However, as you descend, lean your body towards one side. One arm should be bent and tucked close to your body. Furthermore, this is the side you are leaning toward, while the other arm remains extended.
Then, bring yourself back-up to the middle to standard plank, before alternating sides. Alternatively, you could do several in a row on the same side.
Clap push-ups are a challenging variation of a push-up. Certainly, one that should be saved for someone who has mastered several other variations. Clap push-ups can be difficult to do without proper conditioning/training. Let’s not hurt ourselves!
To do a clap push-up, everything starts out the same. The difference is as you come up, you’ll push with some force into the ground with your palms. Thus, using momentum and springing yourself up enough, where you can clap your hands together. Try and keep your legs immobile and with good positioning of your legs and feet.
Lower your body down. Push-up with force. Clap. Then, attempt to keep your arms slightly bent upon returning to the ground. Don’t return with straight arms, placing a heavy weight-load on your elbow joint.
Flying Push-Up/Superman Push-up:
The flying push-up is one of the more difficult push-up variations. It not only takes power (explosiveness), strength, and speed, but also agility. It is a full body push-up.
First, get into your normal plank position. Arms extended toward the ground, as if you were doing a normal push-up. Bring your legs together, or keep them about shoulder-width apart.
Then, lower yourself down, flexing at the elbows until they reach a 90 degree position. At this time, pause for a brief moment to collect. Now, propel forcefully upward. Alternatively, you can explode up without the brief pause. This helps by using some momentum in your favor.
As you propel upward, your arms come off the ground, throwing them straight in front of you. Simultaneously, propelling your lower half, into the air as well.
Immediately brace yourself when coming back down to the ground. Be careful trying to come right back to the plank position as you may put to much strain on your shoulders and elbow joints.
The final push-up we’ll discuss is the one-arm push-up. If you are looking to engage your core body strength, balance, musculature in your chest, this is an excellent push-up variation. Placing emphasis on the upper body, but also tension on the thighs and glutes.
This is not for the faint of heart! Did you see Rocky?
You’ll start the same way that you would with a normal military style push up. However, we’ll need to make some modifications to your base. Instead of pushing down on both arms, use one arm. Tuck one of your arms behind (or rest on your thigh). Keep your feet wide (like in the video) as you do this push-up. Consequently, this will give you a better foundation to descend.
Your body may be slightly torqued, as long as this is not painful for you, your positioning should be fine.
Get all the way through these push variations and you know you’re doing something right. Make sure to always use proper form. A brief warmup can help get the blood flowing before you start any pushup routine.
Always consult with a certified trainer to determine best variations for you body and to help prevent injury!