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8 Intense Push Up Variations To Up The Difficulty & Pummel Your Chest

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Everyone knows (and mostly hates) the push up. It was likely the first time your muscles actually did anything significant, way back when in gym class. It was probably also the first exercise you dumped once sexy moves like the bench press, dumbbell chest press, and cable crossovers strutted along.

Poor form, poor form.

Lean on the basics. The push up HAS to be a staple in every workout repertoire — either as an end-of-workout burnout move, warm-up, or primary growth driver. Even though it looks relatively tame, it’s still (read: it hasn’t gone anywhere) one of the most complete upper body exercises and one of the best for effectively working the entire front half of the body. Plus it’s modular as a platform for full-body devastation. The classic not only plasters the pecs, but it also works the front deltoids, triceps, and core; in addition to the deeper stabilizer muscles in the shoulders and back.

Most people mindlessly isolate the chest, press away until they collapse, and forget about the rest of the muscle chain — that’s wrong. The push up is, by design, a full-body move that extends from fingers to toes, literally. Your core HAS to be engaged—not wilting like floppy spaghetti—and so does your upper body. FEEL the contractions and let them burn slowly.

Every. Single. Rep.

Once you’ve got the foundation locked down (and most people still don’t), simple upgrades can provide radical opportunities for diversified stimulation, progressive advancement, and muscular challenge. Those are all things that muscle growth is predicated on.

You’re like a human Transformer. The push up is your medium. Use it to your advantage.

And if you still can’t do a regular push up—not any of this half-assed on-your-knees nonsense—make that your priority and LEARN IT. Everyone should have enough strength to do a full a push up, gender notwithstanding.

Baby steps. Once you’ve got the classic under control, take it up a notch and graduate to the upper echelon of the push up kingdom. We’ve pulled together 8 of our favorite, lovingly-intense push up variations to amplify the difficulty and pummel your chest. Not only will your chest get dominated, but you’ll bring your core and cardio into center focus.

Did we miss one of your favorites? Drop it in the comments.


8 Intense Push Up Variations To Up The Difficulty & Pummel Your Chest

*Click each exercise name for a pop-up video demo.


Push Up Variation 1: Spiderman Push Ups

  • How They’re Different: Spiderman Push Ups bring the core into direct focus and produce a strong contraction through the obliques. They also help with hip mobility.
  • How To: On the way down, powerfully bring your right knee into your right elbow. Your back stays flat and your leg should be in line with your torso. Shoot it back out and repeat for the left side. Continue to alternate.



Push Up Variation 2: Rotational Push Ups

  • How They’re Different: Rotational Push Ups effectively combine a push up with a side plank and activate the obliques. They also puts significant tension on the triceps and delts.
  • How To: Do a push up. At the top, roll over onto your right hand, stagger your feet, and reach your left arm straight overhead. Hold for 1s and return down to the bottom. Do another push up and repeat for the opposite side.



Push Up Variation 3: Suspended TRX Push Ups

  • How They’re Different: Because the bands are suspended individually, Suspended TRX Push Ups require significant stabilization, which activates your chest and deep stabilizers to a much higher degree. They also allow for a much deeper range of motion and hit the outer part of the chest.
  • How To: Grab two TRX bands and prop yourself up at a 45º angle. Lower all the way down and explode back up. Focus on lowering under control and really squeezing the contraction at the top — because the bands are wobbly these are much more difficult and require extreme concentration.



Push Up Variation 4: Decline Swiss Ball Push Ups

  • How They’re Different: Decline Swiss Ball Push Ups mimic an incline press and hit the upper part of the chest. Because your feet are on an unstable surface, they require immense core stability across a long duration.
  • How To: Place your feet on top of a Swiss ball and extend out into push up position. Lower all the way down and explode back up until your body is parallel with the floor. Keep your core tight and torso flat at all times — don’t wilt.

Push Up Variations: 1-4 | 5-8


Bryan DiSanto

Bryan DiSanto

Owner & Editor-in-Chief at Lean It UP
Bryan DiSanto is the Owner & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP, a culinary student at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, an ACE-CPT & CSN, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid, and all-around fitness/nutrition nutjob.

He also contributes to Men's Health Magazine.

When he’s not working on his (or somebody else’s) abs, whipping up Eggocados, or running a Tough Mudder, he’s probably off yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.
Bryan DiSanto

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