Push-ups are one of the ultimate exercises. They’re part of practically every fitness routine, and for good reason. They utilize every muscle in your body and build upper-body strength—no equipment required. The benefits are too good to pass up!
In recent years, the fitness community has developed six types of push-ups that engage specific muscle groups. When combined, they make a killer workout that tackles even the smallest muscles.
The basic chest push-up is your foundation. It’s the best way to learn how to properly engage your entire body, making it a full-on compound exercise. It activates the pectorals, deltoids, triceps, biceps, the upper and lower back, abs, glutes, and even the legs. Yeah, the push-up is a real, full-body exercise.
To do it correctly, you first need to form a plank, placing your palms a bit wider than your shoulders. Make sure to activate your core by lifting your belly button up toward your spine. The goal is to be as straight as possible so try to keep your lower back from arching or your hips from dropping.
Inhale and slowly bend your elbows, lowering yourself toward the floor, until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle.
Exhale and slowly start extending your arms by pushing off the floor. Make sure your core is tight and strong, and the space between your shoulder blades is wide. Keep pushing and exhaling until you reach the starting position. Don’t lock your elbows completely. Then, inhale and repeat.
You can also modify by placing your knees on the floor or separating your feet into a wider stance, which really helps with balance and leg muscle engagement.
Wide push-ups activate your chest, back, and shoulders (especially in the front). They stretch and open up way more than they do during a basic push-up. Studies have shown how efficient these are for targeting the often neglected muscle that spans your upper ribs, the serratus anterior.
Some might find these easy at the beginning, but as you progress to about the 10th rep, your shoulders will be burning.
Set up your starting position the same way you would for a regular push-up, but place your hands a palm or two wider. Face your fingers forward or slightly outward if you don’t have the mobility in your wrists.
Inhale and begin lowering your body until your elbows reach a 90-degree angle. Exhale and slowly push yourself back up to the starting position.
If your shoulders are stretching more than you can handle, bring your palms a bit closer to your chest. Again, you can always modify by bringing your knees to rest on the floor or separating your legs in a wider stance.
This cool-looking variation targets your triceps and shoulders, makes your abs burn, and even challenges your balance. Diamond push-ups are much harder than they look. Don’t be embarrassed if you need to modify by resting your knees on the floor or spreading your legs wider for better balance.
To start, get down on all fours with your hands under your chest. Place your hands so your index fingers and thumbs are touching, creating a diamond shape, and then extend your arms. Lift your knees from the floor to activate your abs and upper back. Inhale and slowly lower your chest toward the diamond, like you’re going to lie on your hands.
Keep your elbows as close to your body as possible. As you exhale, push upward from the floor and extend your arms. If you make a wider stance with your legs it will help you maintain your balance. You can also lower your knees to the floor if you need to without sacrificing form.
In addition to this, there’s a leveled-up version, during which you place your hands below your ribs. Then, as you lower your body, it’s your belly button that’s trying to touch your hands.
Up for the challenge?
If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to do a one-arm push-up, practicing archers is a good place to start. Targeting each arm separately while the other provides leverage helps you strengthen each side of your body instead of always letting one prevail.
To start, come to a plank until you really feel a good grip on the floor with both arms. Widen your palm-stance just as you would to do a wide push-up. Inhale, tighten your abs, and bend your left elbow, keeping your right arm extended with your fingers facing outward.
Lean left, and feel the weight of your entire body on your left shoulder and left upper back muscles. Push away from the floor with your right hand so your shoulders are squared. Exhale and bring yourself back up to the starting position, before repeating it all on the other side.
It’s best to alternate archer push-ups so you can use some momentum to help you out. As always, you can modify by placing your knees on the floor or separating your legs in a wider stance.
The only push-up variation not done in a plank position is the pike. It’s not any easier, though, as lifting your hips actually puts more pressure on your neck and shoulders. You’ll be sore after doing these.
To start, form a V-shape with your body, separating your legs as wide as you can without being uncomfortable. You can also rest your legs on a bench or box if you want to place even more weight on your shoulders.
With your fingers facing forward and your palms placed slightly wider than your shoulders, inhale, tighten your abs, and lower your head toward the floor without losing the V-shape. Exhale and push yourself back up to the starting position.
Always make sure to leave some space between your ears and shoulders. This will prevent you from causing too much compression, which can lead to headaches or muscle strain.
The most challenging push-up on this list, supermans really open up your latissimus dorsi muscles, as well as your armpits. They also put a ton of pressure on your upper back and core, which prevents your hips from collapsing and your lower back from arching.
To begin, come to a plank with your hands under your shoulders and engage your entire body. Place your hands a foot or two in front of your head to really engage your abs and legs. Inhale, and slowly lower your chest toward the floor, making sure your hips don’t drop.
Exhale and push your entire body into the ground, with your legs doing just as much work as your upper body. Slowly return to the starting position.
As this one can be hard to master, bring your knees to the floor if you need to. It’s better to start there and progress correctly, rather than trying to do the full version and risk getting injured or falling flat on your face.
If you’re bored with the classic push-up, incorporate any of these variations into your workout. Challenge yourself and take your fitness sessions to the next level by working some often-neglected muscles.