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5 Push-Up Variations For Beginners

Young athletic man doing push-ups


Pump up your regular exercise routine, and make it less boring!

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The 100-day Push-up Challenge has been around for a while, but it blew up Instagram and Facebook feeds during peak lockdown last year! Gyms were closed, so most gym bros were left to fend for themselves within the four walls of their homes. The push-up is considered to be one of the most basic, but effective moves for strengthening and conditioning your body. It targets and trains the muscles in your chest, shoulders, triceps, abs, and legs!

This regular, humble, muscle-building bodyweight exercise can be tweaked to quickly shift from an intensive chest workout to a killer ab exercise. Yes, the push-up comes in many variations. However, some, like the—archer push-up (and more) require near-superhero strength! Before you get to the Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) kind of fitness level, here are five variations that are suitable for both beginners and intermediate exercise enthusiasts.


Muscular man doing push up exercise on mat

Before you get too excited to try out the other variations, make sure that you nail the regular push-up!  This will form the base: Focus on the quality instead of the number of reps you can get in! Perfect posture and form are of utmost importance. Great push-up form starts with a rigid high plank. Your arms should be fully extended, with your hands, elbows, and shoulders all in line, and your feet should be no more than one foot apart.

Certified personal trainer and sports nutritionist, Bhaskar Shetty says, “As you get stronger, move the feet closer together. This will challenge you further by increasing the difficulty level and activate your core for stability.” Throughout the movement, your spine should be neutral, so that your body forms a straight line from your feet to the crown of your head. Remember to engage your core and thighs to keep your hips flat and level!

BEST FOR: Chest, shoulders, wing muscles (under your armpits), triceps and abs. 


Young guy with a perfect body in a cross fitness class doing push-ups over the wooden box

If you’re having trouble with the form or just doing the standard push-up, the incline push-up is a great option to fine-tune things and gain some strength! Incline push-ups are basically, an elevated form of a traditional push-up. All you need is a stable surface such as a table, desk, a wall or even a chair with good ground hold/grip. Place your hands on the edge of the table or bench, slightly wider than shoulder width (not too wide, though). Your body should be in perfect alignment: Vital to maintain head-to-toes in a straight line! b Also, make sure to complete each rep with full range of motion—meaning, from straight arms to your arms fully bent! This is ideal for beginners: It puts less stress on your elbows and significantly reduces the amount of body weight you are lifting!

BEST FOR: The upper-chest area.


young man training and working out

Decline push-up is the opposite of the incline variation, both in terms of difficulty and execution. Instead of your arms, it’s the feet that are elevated, and your hands are on the floor—which puts your body in a declined or downward angle. Put your hands on the floor, shoulders over your wrists and elbows at 45 degrees. Place your feet on top of the bench. Brace your core, glutes, and quads. Bend your elbows and lower your chest to the floor, keeping your back and neck straight. Push into the floor to return to starting position, extending your elbows. For this, you need a bench, step, or some other solid object to rest your feet on.

BEST FOR: Working your shoulders and upper pecs.


Young man doing diamond pushups

While all kinds of push-ups work the chest, shoulders and triceps, moving your hands closer than in a classic push-up puts the focus firmly on your triceps. Diamond push-ups are also a sizable step up in difficulty levels from the standard push-up: Don’t be disappointed if you fail after doing half as many diamond push-ups as you can normally manage with the basic one! Get on all fours with your hands together under your chest. Position your index fingers and thumbs so they’re touching, forming a diamond shape, and extend your arms so that your body is elevated and forms a straight line from your head to your feet. Lower your chest towards your hands, ensuring you don’t flare your elbows out to the sides and keeping your back flat. Stop just before your chest touches the floor, then push back up to the starting position.

BEST FOR: Triceps and inner chest.


Strong brutal tattoed and ripped male athlete shows how to do pike push-ups

The pike push-up is a power move. It can prepare you for harder moves and boost your shoulder strength! Start in a plank position on the floor, with hands firmly on the floor, right under your shoulders, toes firmly pressed on the floor. Keep core tight and back flat and engage your glutes and hamstrings. Your whole body should be neutral and in a straight line. Lift hips up and back until your body forms an inverted V-shape. Start to bend elbows, and then lower your entire upper body toward the floor. Stay there for a moment, then slowly push back up until your arms are straight and you’re in the inverted-V position. Make sure you maintain control throughout the movement! When done regularly, you’ll start noticing cuts on your shoulders!

BEST FOR: Shoulders 

The above variations all have different levels of difficulty. The trick is to take things slow in order to avoid injury. Make sure you have a trainer to guide or correct your posture and form if need be before you start doing it by yourself!

DISCLAIMER: Consult your doctor if you have any existing neck or shoulder injury before starting a new exercise routine!


[All Image Credits: Shutterstock]