The push up is a classic upper body mass builder. It’s an exercise that’s relatively simple to learn and is the foundational exercise upon which all great chests are built.
But, for most lifters, the traditional push up is no longer a challenge.
Once you’ve gained a reasonable amount of muscle and strength, it’s not uncommon to be able to rep out multiple sets of 20+ push ups, which is when most lifters abandon the bodyweight exercise altogether in favor of the bench press, pec dec, and cable crossover.
But, with these 5 advanced push up variations, the humble push up can once again become a bread-and-butter muscle building exercise in your weekly training program.
Alternating Medicine Ball Push Ups
This push up variation helps increase explosiveness and addresses strength imbalances between each side of your chest. To perform the alternating med ball push up:
- Assume a standard push-up position with a medicine ball beneath your right hand, left hand on the ground.
- Perform a push up then (while remaining in plank) roll the ball from your right hand to your left hand, and immediately perform another push up.
- Continue rotating back and forth between sides until all reps are complete.
Side-to-Side Push Up
Begin in a standard push up position, and as you lower your torso to the ground, lean to one side. Pause for a brief second, then push back to the top. On the following rep, you will lower your torso to the opposite side and continue rotating back and forth until the set is complete.
For an even more intense version of the side-to-side push up, lower yourself to one side, then while remaining in the lowered position with your torso close to the ground, transition your upper body to the other arm, and then push up.
This will have your chest screaming for mercy!
TRX or Ring Push Ups
Using suspension training improves core and shoulder stability during the push up and forces you to maintain a tight upper body throughout the movement as any extraneous flailing of the arms will cause you to fail on a rep.
To perform the TRX or ring push up:
- Get into a standard push-up position grabbing hold of the TRX straps or rings.
- Brace your core, “screw” the shoulders down and back and perform a push up in a slow and controlled manner.
Spider-Man Push Up
Spider-Man push ups are a great way to build upper body pressing strength while simultaneously improving coordination, mobility, and balance. To perform the spider-man push up:
- Begin in a traditional push up position.
- Lower your torso close to the ground, keeping your elbows close to your body
- At the bottom of the movement, bring your left knee up to your left elbow and then return it back alongside your right foot.
- Press your torso up and repeat the exercise bringing your right knee up to your right elbow.
- Repeat for desired reps.
Single Arm Assisted Push-Ups With Hand On Wall
The single-arm push up is considered by many bodyweight athletes as the “gold standard” of upper body pressing strength, coordination, and balance. But many people struggle with developing the necessary motor control to even begin to attempt a single rep.
That’s where the single-arm assisted push-up with hand on wall comes in.
To perform this exercise:
- Set up in a classic push up position about an arm’s length away from the wall.
- Place the hand of the arm closest to the wall on it and “suction” your fingers and palm to the wall
- As you lower your torso to the ground, apply only enough pressure to the hand on the wall as is absolutely necessary to keep you from falling down. Remember, the goal of the exercise is to train the movement pattern for a 1-arm push up. Therefore, you only want to use as little assistance as needed to complete the exercise.
- Also, be sure to keep your torso square to the floor throughout the exercise. Due to the offset positioning of this exercise, it can be easy to allow your body to rotate during the raising and lowering phases of the exercise.