I love pumps. This is a functional compound bodyweight exercise that mimics everyday natural movements while strengthening your pecs, shoulders, and triceps and strengthening your core. But it’s a difficult exercise to master and requires good form and an existing degree of core strength to maximize gains and prevent nasty injuries.
Some common mistakes include splayed elbows, leading with your hips, limited range of motion, and misplaced hands that add pressure to your shoulders and back. This trick will help you master a push-up, but if you’ve already figured out how to do a push-up, it might be time to revamp your chest workout with these nifty alternatives.
These five variations target the same muscles and strengthen your upper body while providing plenty of challenges for push-up pros looking for a chest boost. Find out what happened when our fitness editor tried Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine workout and try this full-body dumbbell workout to build strength, or read on to find out about these top-rated push-up variations .
Push-up variations to try
A CrossFit favorite, the less-than-humble headstand push-up is the ultimate upside-down alternative for stronger shoulders. This variation recruits muscles throughout your body, but primarily targets your shoulders, triceps, core, and back (namely, your trapezius muscles) and is guaranteed to deliver power and elevate push-up prowess.
How to do a handstand push-up:
Facing a wall, place your hands on the floor near the wall and spread your fingers apart to improve your balance. Take the handstand, creating a soft banana shape from head to toe without overextending the lower back. Bend your elbows, lower your head to the ground, then push back up to your starting position.
The diamond push-up is a high level tricep targeter. This variation of the push-up works your anterior deltoids (front shoulder muscles) and pecs with an emphasis on your triceps, using hand placement in diamond shape. Your triceps help with a multitude of exercises, including pull-ups and the delicate military press. Building tricep strength could therefore improve your lifts.
How to do a push-up diamond:
Create a diamond shape with your hands (index fingers and thumbs touching) and start in a push-up position with your hands under your chest. Perform a pushup by bending your elbows and lowering your chest to the floor, making sure your elbows don’t flare out to the sides and your hips don’t droop, then rise back up to your starting position.
The archer push-up is a great transitional exercise between a one-arm push-up and a regular push-up, placing more emphasis on one side of the body to strengthen and stabilize your shoulder, arm and pecs . This exercise also builds balance, stability, and coordination, helping to correct muscle imbalances without your weaker side taking over (a common problem with barbell workouts) by using a one-sided workout. The unstable environment also requires more core stabilization to control motion.
How to make an archer pushup:
Start in a push-up position, then spread your right hand slightly and crush it for a better grip. Engage your core, glutes, and thighs, maintaining a straight line from head to toe without your hips sagging. Pull your shoulders back and down, bend your right elbow while keeping it tucked in (remember, no flare) and lower your chest to the floor while extending your left arm out to the side. As you come back up, slide your “sleeping” arm inward. Switch sides.
Alligator push up
Alligator pumps are dreaded for good reason. This spicy strength exercise can double as a cardio endurance exercise when done with speed and works most of your body, including your chest, shoulders, arms, core, and legs. Performing alligator push-ups can also improve hip flexor flexibility while providing heavy sweating.
How to do an alligator push-up:
Start in a push-up position with your core engaged (imagine yourself being punched). Bring your left arm forward slightly while simultaneously pulling your right knee toward your right elbow as you perform a push-up (chest to floor). As you step back, step your right hand and left knee forward, continuing for reps.
Negative push-up deficit
This variation uses two approaches — one deficit to increase your range of motion at the bottom of the push-up and a negative known as time under tension (TUT) to keep your muscles contracted for longer. Both are push-up progressions designed to build muscle and strength.
During the eccentric (lowering) phase of the push-up, move slowly with control – working your muscles longer – then push quickly with power. You can create a deficit by elevating your hands using equipment like kettlebells, which allows you to increase your range of motion at the bottom of the exercise, requiring more strength and mobility.
How to do an elevated negative push-up:
Begin in a push-up position with your hands raised on two weights or your feet elevated behind you and your shoulders stacked over your wrists. Maintain a straight line from head to toe. Bend your elbows and perform a push-up down for four seconds with a pause at the bottom. Push back to your starting position. Try to bring your chest as close to the ground as possible with each repetition.
Not sure what to try next? Elevate your back and shoulders day by learning how to do lateral pulldowns and an Arnold press correctly. Plus, Daisy Keech shared her top 3 exercises to develop your glutes.
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