Pump Up and Push Through

Pushup variations build upper body strength

One Arm Pushup1
Photography by Denise Baratta.

These variations kick up the challenge level over the classic pushup. Ben Taucher, the club manager of Anytime Fitness in Central Point, offers these suggestions and tips to try variations on this classic fitness exercise. Beginners should master the classic pushup form before moving on to these more advanced variations. Once you’re ready, aim for 10 of one of these pushup variations at once. People with  more advanced skills should try to do 10 of each move.

Decline Pushup

Decline Pushup1Decline Pushup2

This more challenging variation builds strong chest muscles and emphasizes the shoulders. By raising your feet, you’ll be lifting 75% of your body weight.

How to do it: Assume the classic pushup pose with your hands on the floor, but with your toes on a step or a box. Lower your chest to the floor and press back up.

Form tip: It’s especially easy on this one to let your hips sag downward, so focus on keeping your body straight.


Shoulder Pushup

Shoulder Pushup1 Shoulder Pushup2

Most variations of pushups emphasize working the chest muscles. This version targets the shoulders, which as a unit, have eight muscles connecting three bones and protecting the shoulder joints.

How to do it: Assume the classic pushup pose, but point your fingers toward each other, with your elbows out. Now, walk your feet forward a few steps until you are in a pike position, with your legs aimed at a 45° angle upward and your torso aimed at a 45° angle downward. Bend your elbows and lower your forehead to your hands, then push back up.

Form tip: Keep your waist bent, but your legs and your back straight.


One-Arm Pushup

One Arm Pushup1 One Arm Pushup2

Using this variation engages a lot more muscles to help your stability than the classic two-arm version. It also ensures each of your arms is as strong as the other. Taucher says it’s also fun to have a moment of feeling like fictional prizefighter Rocky Balboa of movie fame.

How to do it: Place one hand on the floor directly underneath the center of your chest, and the other hand behind your back. Widen your feet or knees as far apart as needed to maintain balance. Lower your chest to your hand and press back up again. Then repeat on your other side.

Form tip: In order to reduce pressure on your wrist, slightly rotate your hand toward your opposite side as you lower your chest to the floor.

Like this article? Share it:
Share on reddit
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Share on pocket

More to Explore



Sept. 2020 TOC:

  • Take to the River: Social distance on the water
  • Menobelly & Metabolism: Hormone changes and weight gain during menopause
  • Flexible & Functional: How KT tape works with the body to offer support and lessen pain
  • This Little Piggy: With the proper care, guinea pigs can be an endearing home companion
  • Pump Up and Push Through: Pushup variations build upper body strength
  • Mama Mia, Zucchini! 5 ways to enjoy abundant zucchini and summer squash
  • The Skinny on Sweeteners: Choosing natural sugars can have health benefits