Besides the classic push-up, there are a variety of twists to the exercise to target almost every part of your body. The push-up is one of the best exercises there is, and they’re included in most upper body workouts. Best of all it requires no equipment, can be done anywhere, and it is easy to learn the proper form. To turn the classic push-up into a full-body workout routine, keep reading to see which ones hit which muscles.
1. Standard push-up – chest, shoulders, core, and triceps
Great push-up form starts with a rigid plank position. Your arms should be fully extended, with your hands, elbows, and shoulders all in line, and your feet should be no more than 12 inches apart. Throughout the movement, your spine should be neutral so that your body forms a straight line from your feet to your head. Remember to engage your core and thighs to keep your hips flat and level throughout the movement. Always move slowly and controlled, there is no reason to rush. Focus on your breathing, inhale when lowering and exhale when pushing back up.
To protect your shoulders, lower your chest just past the level of your bent elbows so that your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
The standard push-up provides the most stability and the greatest opportunity to train for strength in your chest, shoulders, core, and triceps.
2. Diamond push-up – triceps
The diamond or triangle push-up strengthens the upper body and core, with more focus on the triceps.
Begin a plank position, with your hands together and angled inward at 45 degrees so that your index fingers and thumbs touch under your chest. The space between your two hands should form a diamond or a triangular shape. Keep your elbows tight to your body and bend them to lower your chest toward the diamond or triangle. Push back to the top and repeat, keeping the diamond below your chest throughout the exercise.
3. Spiderman push-up – obliques
Turn the push-up into an ab burner with the superman push-up. Set yourself up in a standard push-up form, and as you lower yourself down, bring your leg toward your elbow on the same side, squeezing your obliques. Return to the starting position and repeat, alternating legs each rep. This is a great ab exercise and you should feel a burn in your obliques fairly quickly.
4. Sphinx push-up – triceps and core
The sphinx push-up is a variation that works your arms, shoulders, and particularly your triceps. As an added bonus, you’re also getting a big stretch throughout the back of your arms.
5. Incline push-up – shoulders and chest
The incline push-up is like the standard push-up, except your hands are elevated while your feet are on the floor. Grab a bench, box, or another elevated surface, and put your hands shoulder-width apart on top of it with your feet on the floor. This variation is easier than the traditional push-up, but it hits your shoulders and chest muscles more than doing it on flat ground. If you struggle with push-ups this is a great place to start.
6. Wide hand push-up – chest
The wide-hand push-up strengthens the core and front shoulders, with more focus on the pectoral muscles.
Do a standard push-up, but with your hands farther out to each side (approximately 2.5 to 3 feet apart), the farther apart, the more difficult and the more you will work your chest.
7. Pike push-up – shoulders
The pike push-up strengthens the upper body and core, with more emphasis on the shoulders.
Begin in a downward dog yoga position, with your hands and feet just wider than shoulder width. Keep your hips high, heels low, and maintain the inverted V position. Bend your elbows and lower your head toward the floor between your hands. Push back up and repeat.
8. Archer push-up
Assume a wide-hand push-up position, with your hands, angles outward at about 45 degrees. Lower yourself at an angle to one side so that you bring your shoulder down to your hand on the same side, while the other hand stretches to become fully extended. Push back up to the starting position and repeat, alternating sides every rep. Keep your feet wider to help.
This applies a higher percentage of body weight to one arm, while the opposite arm assists. This is a good exercise if you’re looking to build up to a one-arm push-up.
9. Clap push-up – chest, triceps, and shoulders
There are multiple variations of clap push-ups, each one harder than the last. They help to develop power in the chest, triceps, and shoulders.
Take a standard push-up position, lower your chest until your upper arms are parallel to the ground, and then push up with enough force so that your hands come up off the ground by a few inches. Land with soft elbows in push-up form, continue to lower toward the ground, and repeat. Remember to keep your back flat and hips level throughout the movement.
Once you’ve gotten a handle on that, progress to adding a clap between coming off the ground and landing again. This requires more power and airtime. Perform the above push-up, and while your hands are in the air, clap below your chest.
Once you have mastered this, try behind-the-back claps. Perform the same exercise, but instead of clapping below your chest, try clap behind your back. Be careful not to bend at the hips.
Now for the hardest one, the triple clap push-up. Do the same exercise, but this time clap below your chest, then behind your back, and then below your chest again, all before touching the ground. This is very difficult but with dedication, you can get there.
10. One arm push-up
Probably the hardest push-up, the one-arm push-up doubles the weight on a single arm and further activates the core for stability.
To perform a push-up with one arm, have one arm centered below your chest and the unweighted arm behind your back. It helps to keep your feet wider for more balance. Maintain a flat back and level hips throughout the movement, don’t let them twist.
Now drop down and get to sweating.
Check out our wide selection of workout programs. Take our survey to get the best program for you.