Push ups are an amazingly effective bodyweight exercise that have been around longer than all of the protein powder businesses and Gold’s Gyms put together.
The variations and their valuable contribution to any exercise program is a testament that the best kinds of plans to get healthy and fit are really the most simplistic. You don’t necessarily need machines to tone the body, treadmills to burn calories, or even weights to gain strength. Bodyweight exercises are nothing to scoff at, and if maneuvering, hefting or lifting your own bodyweight is not challenging enough for you, it likely means that you aren’t being creative enough in the modifications that are available for the exercise that you’re doing.
For example, if you can do push ups from morning until night without breaking a sweat or experiencing muscle fatigue, why not try lifting a limb – or two – off of the ground in order to increase the difficulty for the remaining balancing arm and leg (not to mention all of the work that your core has to do to pull off such a move).
All of the variations below are bodyweight exercises that you can do without a single piece of equipment. They range from beginner level to very advanced, and a number of them target not just the typical chest and arm muscles of a traditional push up, but also the abdominals, lower back, obliques, deltoids, thighs, hip flexors and more.
Push Up Variations
Side Push Up - The Side Push Up, like the traditional version, targets the pecs and triceps, but it is also fantastic for toning the obliques, abdominals, and lower back. This is a great home upper body exercise that offers a much different range of motion than it’s more standard version and can help you get the line of definition down the center of your chest and pectorals.
Single Leg Push Up (Level 1) (Level 2) - If you don’t feel like the regular version is challenging enough for your fitness level, try this one. The Single Leg version is seriously demanding on your upper body and core strength but if you try this and still don’t feel as if your limits are being tested, simply modify the move by placing your feet further apart to make the exercise even harder. Master doing this move on hands and knees, and then move onto the harder version in order to engage even more muscle groups.
Tricep Push Ups (Level 1) (Level 2) - This modification effectively eradicates the dreaded “second wave” of any underarm jiggling by toning the biceps counterpart; the triceps. This variation also takes the challenge from the mid pec area to the lower pectoral muscles; further expanding your ability to engage a variety of muscles in order to have strong, well built chest muscles.
Push Ups Jacks - This is an advanced exercise that requires a good foundation of strength, cardio health, and flexibility. The Push Up Jacks exercise burns a great deal of calories due to all of the large muscle groups involved. This exercise works such a large number of muscles in such an intense fashion that your hair follicles will probably be sore the next day.
Wide Push Up (Level 1) (Level 2) - The closer your hands are placed while in a push up position, the more work your triceps will be doing. Wide stances give the tricep muscles a little break by forcing the chest to do more of the heavy lifting. They also target the upper pectoral muscles (as opposed to the center, as in a standard push up) and force your shoulder muscles to work harder in order to stabilize your body.
Burpees - A Burpee is a kind of a plyometric push up. Plyometric upper body exercises create a different kind of strength than traditional exercises do; athletes often use the training style to create explosive speed pertaining to specific movements they use within their sport. As an added bonus, Burpees burn a great deal of calories and provide allover toning.
Supine Push Up - A Supine Push Up is a fantastic way to target the muscles of the upper back during a home upper body workout. This exercise most specifically strengthens the rhomboids, and uses a very small range of movement. If you are especially inflexible in the upper back area, simply contract the rhomboid muscles and hold for 10-15 seconds in order to get a similar benefit.
Traditional Push Up (Level 1) (Level 2) - The original had to make this list; it is incredibly versatile in terms of the wide ranges of fitness levels that it caters to. Even those brand new to working out can execute this exercise in order to increase chest strength by doing the move against the wall.