As one of the most common chest exercises for men and women, push-ups have become synonymous with working out. For serious athletes, they’re a benchmark of fitness.
If you can’t do them, you’re falling behind – so get training.
Being able to perform a certain amount is the entry standard for various military and sport programs. Most gym users can do repetitions of normal press ups easily. Clearly, an extra challenge is needed.
Luckily, the standard push-up (also called a press-up) can be adapted in lots of ways, creating intense chest-boosting workouts that are not for the faint hearted.
What muscles do push-ups work?
The standard push-up targets the following muscles:
- Serratus anterior
- Triceps brachii
However, the adaptions we’ll be discussing target all kinds of muscle groups to give you a punishing all over workout.
The best push-up workout possible
Build a powerful upper body with a press-up routine that takes you out of the ordinary and launches you into the ranks of beast. Even the toughest athletes will struggle with some of these variations.
It’s time to embrace the challenge and increase your pushing power with these eight press-up progressions.
Push up technique
You can make big improvements to your push-ups by having the best practice technique.
- Place your hands shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your arms lowering your chest to the floor but keeping your body straight.
- Once your chest is near to the floor.
- Push yourself back to the start position.
Build a strong back and chest by placing your grip as wide as possible and performing reps. Adding additional strain to the standard press-up, this exercise targets the outer pectoral.
Close grip push-ups
Turn your hands slightly inwards, place them together so your thumbs and forefingers form a triangle. Perform a press-up with your arms tucked. This focuses on the inner pectoral and tricep.
With either a weighted vest or a weights plate placed on your upper back, you can add a huge amount of resistance to your standard press up. Adding resistance causes more muscle recruitment and more micro-tears, helping to build more mass as a result.
Resistance band push-ups
Get a resistance band, hold the handles in each hand with the strap looped over your back and perform push-ups. This will create tension that forces you to control each rep.
A simple but rewarding way to add resistance to your push-up is to perform plyometric push ups. Explode upwards on your press so your hands leave the floor. Perform a clap to measure how far off the floor you get.
Place two objects (usually a small workout step, but can be replaced with books) that can take your weight on each side of you, then perform the downwards portion of a push up on them.
Drop your hands in the middle, to the floor, and then press up and ‘jump’ back up to the objects with your hands.
One arm push-ups
For the true mavericks amongst you, the one arm press- up is a terrific way to build mass in the arms and chest and also prove your strength. Place your feet wider than normal and keep your elbows close to your body.
The ‘elite’ variation of the push-up, handstand press-ups can first be trained against a wall. They’re amazing for shoulder strength and building your chest, arms and wrists. Perform them by kicking up into a handstand and resting your feet against a wall, then press down so your head is almost touching the floor before pressing back up.
Once you’ve trained against a wall, you can experiment with free standing handstand press ups by learning to balance. If you’re overbalancing with your feet falling forward, dig in with your fingers. When under balancing, back towards your feet, you’ll need to dig in with the ‘heel’ of your hand.
Push up workout routine
To fit these variations in, build a routine that incorporates three or four of the exercises at a time. Include them in your barbell and dumb-bell chest workouts as a finisher or dedicate a session to them.
Example ‘A’ day:
- 3 x 20 Plyometric push up
- 3 x 6 Dumbbell bench press
- 3 x 10 Wide grip push ups
- 3 x 10 close grip push ups
Example ‘B’ day:
- 3 x 6 barbell bench press
- 3 x 6 dropping push ups
- 3 x 10 one arm press ups (5 on each side)
- 3 x 5 handstand press ups
Ensure your post-training nutrition is up to scratch, consuming protein to help support a growth in muscle mass and creatine to support increases in physical performance during short-term, high intensity, repeated exercise bouts. A minimum of 3g of creatine should be consumed per day.