Drop and give me… 82? That’s right. We at Greatist love — nay, adore — the push-up. It’s one of the simplest and most functional exercises around, and it works almost every muscle you’ve got.
With a standard push-up, your triceps and chest get a great workout, but the movement also engages your shoulders, core, lats, lower back, legs, and glutes. Talk about a ton of bang for your buck.
Doing the same old push-ups day in and day out can feel a little vanilla, so we’re here to shake things up. Variety can supercharge a workout and throw a whole range of new muscles into the mix.
Ever tried a Spiderman push-up? See No. 15 below. How about an alligator (No. 13) or a jackknife push-up (No. 34)?
There might be no end to the different spins (and cool names) we can give this classic exercise, but we’ve done our best to bring you as many as we could find.
The exercises are divided into five categories — beginner, intermediate, explosive, expert, and equipment-based. Choose your flavor.
Be sure to spend some time perfecting your form and nailing the basics before you jump into the variations that require increased strength, coordination, and balance.
Please note there is no International Push-Up Authority (but wouldn’t that be cool?), Official Push-Up Certification Board, or anyone in charge of naming the different push-ups. Consequently, what some might call a rotational push-up, others will call a T push-up, and so on.
We concede that some people might have different names for these movements than we do. That’s why we’ve linked a video for as many entries as possible.
There’s no shame in starting at the beginning! These exercises will help you build the foundation of strength required for the more advanced variations.
Plus, anyone who’s done a good old-fashioned standard push-up knows that it provides a dynamite full-body workout all by itself.
Remember: Don’t take on an exercise unless you can manage a full range of motion. If taking a push-up to the floor is too difficult, scale it back.
Maybe try a modified push-up resting your knees on the floor or a wall push-up (both of which are explained below). Good luck!
1. Off the wall
This is the first step on the path to push-up dominance. It’s basically a standing push-up done against a wall, which greatly reduces the amount of weight your muscles have to support.
2. Off a table
The trick to building up to a standard push-up is to start from the wall and gradually get more horizontal. Push off of a table or chair on your way down, and you’ll be there in no time.
Nearly there! This is identical to a regular push-up but performed on your hands and knees, with your feet rising off the floor as your upper body lowers.
This takes a lot of the work away from your abs and legs, so it’s a great way to practice for the real thing.
Congratulations! This is the real McCoy, one of the most fundamental bodyweight exercises on Earth. Treat the push-up with respect, and it’ll be your friend for life.
5. Hand tap
Pause at the top of the push-up and use one hand to give the other a friendly tap. Switch hands with each rep. That brief pause helps improve balance and shoulder stability.
6. Shoulder tap
This is great for all the same reasons as the hand tap push-up, but it’s a slightly longer hold that’s better for improving balance.
This involves rotating your body into a side plank at the top of the push-up, holding your upper arm straight up in the air so your body forms a T shape. This works your shoulders and obliques while also helping to improve balance.
8. Thigh tap
Tap, tap, taparoo! A tap to your outer thigh at the top of the push-up will help strengthen those stabilizing muscles while giving your triceps one more extension for the road.
It’s all about isometrically strengthening the stabilizer muscles. By sweeping your arm out in front at the top of the extension, this variation makes it much more difficult to balance, so your core gets a nice workout.
This isn’t as tough as it sounds! Perform a push-up, but extend one leg behind you so it’s parallel with the floor. This adds some instability and recruits your abs for extra balance.
This is where you’ll earn your bachelor’s degree in push-ups and the kind of advanced bodyweight skills that will come in handy for the rest of your life.
For those keen to up the ante, it’s good to remember that slowing down any exercise will make it more difficult. So don’t be afraid to relax the pace of your push-ups.
A favorite of martial artists everywhere, these bad boys strengthen your wrists, toughen your knuckles, and improve your balance.
By staggering your hands (that is, by placing one hand farther forward than the other), you emphasize one side of your chest — a super useful variation if your strength is lagging on your nondominant side.
Some people use this name for staggered push-ups, but we’re using it to refer to a staggered push-up in which you walk your body forward, just like an alligator crawling along the ground. Have fun with these!
14. Slow negative
This one’s simple: Lower your body very slowly, but keep the “up” part of the movement as fast as ever. This is called a “slow negative” movement, and it’s one of the best ways to build size and strength in any exercise.
This push-up brings out your creepy-crawly side. Bring one knee up the side of your body toward your elbow during the “down” portion. This squeezes your obliques and will improve balance.
You can keep your knee in the same spot for a few reps before switching sides or bring it forward and back with each push-up.
16. Knee to chest
This movement is similar to the Spiderman push-up, but you bring your knee up under your body rather than to the side.
This exercise works your abdominal muscles more than your obliques. The name is a lot less cool, though.
17. Pseudo planche
In a regular push-up, your fingers point forward, in line with your chest. This variation has them pointing toward your feet and sitting farther down your torso. This placement makes your shoulders and biceps work much harder.
18. Outside-leg kick
Hi-ya! At the top of the extension, kick one leg out to the side hard to strengthen your quads, fire up your abs, and improve your flexibility. Try to get your foot as far forward as possible.
There’s actually no hopping involved in this one. It’s similar to a corkscrew push-up (No. 22).
In this version, one leg stays straight while the other bends and turns with your body as it lowers. This is a great way to work your obliques and abdominal muscles.
20. Toe tap
At the top of the movement, simply bend one knee to the side and bring the foot closer to your hip, then give the sole a tap with your opposite hand. This will make your abs and legs do some extra work.
Like it sounds, twist your body and bring a knee to the opposite elbow at the top of the movement. This is another great move to work the rotational muscles that run from your rib cage to your hips — yep, that includes your abs.
No wine with these push-ups (but maybe a little whine). They’re performed with your butt raised in the air, feet together, hands under chest, and knees bent at about 45 degrees. Your torso should be parallel to the floor at the top of the movement.
As your body comes down to the floor, twist both legs sideways without further bending your knees, as shown in the video. This adds a whole new dimension to the abdominal workout while working your quads and calves.
This is the
gold diamond standard of triceps exercises. Simply put your hands together so your thumbs and index fingers form a diamond, place your hands below the center of your chest, and start busting out reps.
Place your hands farther out from the sides of your body than they are for a regular push-up. You’ll put a lot more emphasis on your chest muscles, particularly the outer chest.
25. Cross-leg kick
This is even trickier than the outside-leg kick push-up (No. 18). At the top of the movement, turn your body to the side and kick.
The left leg should kick toward the right side, and vice versa. This will add some explosive power to your legs and obliques while firing up your core.
At the bottom of the push-up, flatten your forearms to the floor while raising your butt into the air and pulling your body slightly backward.
This should look a little like a tiger ready to pounce. Reverse the movement and push up. Congratulate your triceps for all their hard work.
This is just like the tiger push-up (No. 26), but your body stays parallel to the floor at the bottom of the movement, so your butt doesn’t rise into the air. It’s a little harder, but you’ll feel less like roaring.
Pike push-ups could be a category all their own — they’re one of the best bodyweight exercises for your shoulders. Raise your butt into the air so your body forms a triangle with the floor.
It looks a little like Downward-Facing Dog, but your arms are more perpendicular to the floor. This is a fantastic way to work up to a handstand push-up — just gradually elevate your legs!
29. Feet elevated
Just prop your toes on a chair, a bed frame, or even a stability ball. This adds body weight to the exercise and emphasizes your upper chest muscles.
30. Lateral step
Time to get mobile! This push-up steps your body sideways across the floor. It requires a little more coordination and agility.
These are also called side-to-side push-ups. Your body will mimic the motion of a typewriter.
These require lowering your body to one side (so your chest is close to your hand), sliding your body over to the other hand (staying just above the floor), and then pushing up from that side.
Come back down, slide your body over to the first side, and push back up. To make these more difficult, slide left and right a few extra times before pushing back up.
This variation builds serious shoulder strength. Because you rely on the wall for support and balance, it doesn’t require gymnastics skills to pull off.
Stand close to a wall, facing away from it. With your hands and head on the floor, place your feet on the wall behind you and walk them up until your body (arms included) is straight. Bend your elbows, lower your head toward the floor, and then push back up. Voilà!
Raise one leg in the air during the exercise without bending it. This is a great way to help strengthen your glutes and hamstrings.
33. Uchi mata
This is similar to the single-leg-raised push-up (No. 10), but you’ll bend one knee and push the foot up into the air as hard as possible when your body lowers. This variation increases the activity of your lower back, hamstrings, and core.
Similar to doing a burpee, in this one you’ll bend at your hips and jump both feet forward at each extension to work your abs and legs.
The best way to work up to a one-arm push-up is the same way you would work up to a regular push-up: Start by pushing off of a wall, then move to an elevated surface like a table or chair.
Keep your feet wide and your core engaged. Even when you’re elevated, this move requires considerable work from your obliques and triceps.
Welcome to your new plank! In the bottom of the push-up, hold your body just above the floor. Start by holding it a few seconds at a time and work up to a minute.
Also known as a Hindu push-up because of its origin in India, this variation requires great form, strength, and flexibility. It’s a little like the yoga move chaturanga dandasana.
From a Downward-Facing Dog position, lower your body and pull your head toward your hands. Then, push up into a Cobra pose, but keep your body off the floor.
Don’t reverse the move! Keeping your arms straight, bend at your hips and come back to the starting position.
38. Dive bomber
These look a lot like yoga push-ups, but the dive-bomber requires you to bend your arms to get back to the starting position, effectively reversing the movement and bringing your head back past your hands and elbows.
Because they work the fast-twitch muscles, explosive exercises are great for building muscle, power, and speed. Mixing explosive sets into a workout, either before or after exercises, is a great way to improve overall strength.
Push so hard off the floor that your upper body soars into space and your hands are briefly in midair. Since this exercise puts extra impact on your wrists, be sure to stretch them before and after.
Remember the staggered push-up (No. 12)? Start in that position, push into the air, and then switch the positions of your hands on each rep. This makes sure each side of your chest gets a proper workout — and it’s a lot of fun.
41. Explosive jacks
It’s not quite a jumping jack, but close. Kick your feet to the sides as your body lifts off the floor, and then kick them back together on the way down.
Some people like to simultaneously sweep their hands past their head as their knees open away from one another, which looks more like a standing jumping jack (but is a lot harder).
Push off so hard that you can clap your hands together before landing. If it helps, sing along to Fitz and the Tantrums, of course.
Get your whole body to leave the floor with each push so you’re briefly in midair. Fly safely!
Sure, you could just clap twice in front of your chest, but where’s the fun in that?
Up the ante even more by clapping once in front of your body and once more behind it before landing. Needless to say, this requires a lot of practice and considerable power.
Clap in front, clap behind, clap in front, and then land. This is some elite-level stuff!
Also known as the Rocky, this requires a one-arm push-up that’s so explosive the landing hand can be switched in midair.
47. Double thigh tap
Push your whole body off the floor and slap your thighs with both hands before landing.
We’d like to go on the record saying that the risk of injury might be too high for this one. Nonetheless, the Marine in the video makes it look deceptively simple.
Push into the air, bend at your hips, touch your feet to your hands, spring back, and land. There’s a good chance this move requires some of that “Crouching Tiger” flying magic.
As always, be careful when attempting new exercises. Remember that it can take years to work up to some of these, so only give them a try once you’re positive you have the strength and coordination to perform them safely.
Slide one hand way out to the side as your body lowers and bring it back as you push up. This often works better when the hand can slide on a slider or small towel.
This makes a one-arm push-up slightly easier by bracing your body against the wall and taking some of the load off your pushing arm. But be warned: This exercise is no cakewalk!
51. Feet on the wall
There’s probably a cooler name for these, but we don’t think they need one. Brace the soles of your feet against a wall and perform a push-up, a pike push-up (No. 28), a feet-elevated push-up (No. 29), or anything in between.
This puts extra emphasis on your legs, abs, and upper chest… and, well, your whole body.
52. Yoga on a wall
All the difficulty of a yoga push-up (No. 37) plus the difficulty of a feet-on-the-wall push-up (No. 51)? Pinch me, I’m dreaming! Skip to the end of the video tutorial to see how it works.
The all-time classic. Single-arm off a table (No. 35) and wall-braced single-arm (No. 50) are good ways to work up to this advanced variation.
Having your knees out wider than your hips will make it a little easier to balance, while keeping your elbow close to your body will make it more difficult.
Feeling like a Man of Steel? Then lie on the floor and stretch your arms way out ahead of you like you’re flying through the clouds.
Then put your palms on the floor and, keeping your arms relatively straight, raise and lower your body by bending at your shoulders. This is a difficult exercise that’s great for your abs and back.
Like the feet-elevated push-up (No. 29) but with one arm and a lot more work from your obliques. Not for the faint of heart!
This variation requires a huge amount of strength in your forearms and fingers. The fewer fingers on the floor, the more strength is involved.
Bruce Lee was known for performing one-arm push-ups on one finger (watch 20 seconds into the video), but we’re not recommending anyone try that at home!
Jack Lalanne is one of the first fitness celebrities. He’s often credited with opening the world’s first modern health club. The Jack Lalanne fingertip push-up is as tough as its namesake.
It’s a Superman push-up (No. 54) performed on the fingertips. This exercise requires finely tuned functional strength, from fingers to toes.
A move worthy of an elite gymnast, this push-up is performed with your hands closer to your waist and your feet hovering above the floor. This takes a lot of work to build up to, but follow these pointers if you’re game to try.
Push-ups rule the world of bodyweight exercises, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be improved with supplemental equipment. These variations make use of medicine balls, resistance bands, dumbbells, and more.
Place one hand on a medicine ball and one on the floor to perform this push-up. It’s a great way to strengthen one side of your body while building balance and coordination.
This is a more explosive variation of the single hand on the medicine ball (No. 59) and requires a good deal more coordination and balance.
Without rolling the ball, push up and over to the side so you can switch the elevated hand. These can also be performed with a box or another object of the same size.
Managing a push-up with both hands on medicine balls requires an enormous amount of stability, control, and body awareness. Plus, it really fires up your abs.
Put both hands on medicine balls and both feet on another, and don’t forget to breathe!
We all saw this coming. If you can manage one rep of this exercise, you have the balance of a stone statue — congratulations!
Ah, the old stability ball. A great way to challenge your balance and add ab work to an exercise.
When you perform a simple feet-elevated push-up (No. 29) on one of these, your entire core needs to work extra-hard to keep the ball from rolling away.
These are tough with your hands on top of the ball. They’re even tougher when your hands are on either sideof it, since you’ll need to push your hands together during the push-up, engaging more of your chest muscles.
66. Hands on a BOSU
Whether your hands are on the flat side or the squishy ball side, push-ups on a BOSU (a balance trainer that has a rubber dome on one side and a flat surface on the other) require a lot of stabilization, coordination, and abdominal work — welcome guests in our workouts!
I mean, we’ve come this far. Put your feet on a stability ball and your hands on the flat side of a BOSU and do a push-up. Or put your feet on a BOSU and your hands on a stability ball — we won’t judge.
Pushing off dumbbells will help strengthen your wrists. If the dumbbells have screwlocks (you know, the screws that lock the plates in place), you can try loosening them slightly.
That way, keeping them in place becomes more difficult, which adds some instability to the move.
These push-ups are just like No. 68, but you pull one dumbbell back into a row at the top of the movement. This fires up your back muscles, creating a true full-body exercise.
This is just like the rotational push-up (No. 7), but the dumbbell in each hand makes it far more challenging for the muscles in your back and core.
Keep the screwlocks loose enough that the dumbbells can roll but not so loose that the plates clank around.
Allow the dumbbells to roll out to the sides as your body lowers, then reverse the move. It’s a chest fly on the floor — simple but not at all easy.
Balancing both hands on a kettlebell (or, for the fearless, on a kettlebell handle) is a great way to mimic a diamond push-up (No. 23) but with more instability.
Same as above but with two kettlebells. Pushing up off of kettlebell handles is a big challenge for your forearms and rotator cuffs, and it’s easy to turn them into renegade push-ups (No. 69).
Perform the previous exercise (No. 73) with the kettlebells flipped upside down to amp up the intensity (skip to 2:09 in the video to see it). Kettlebells don’t balance well on their handles, so this takes an awful lot of stability and muscle control!
To add some tension to your legs, perch your toes on the handle of a kettlebell. Celebrate the fact that you’re such a badass.
Like No. 75 but with your feet on two ’bells (skip to 1:45 in the video). It probably isn’t possible to do these with the kettlebells upside down, but props if you’ve got the control!
Let’s just go ahead and say that there are almost as many push-ups on top of kettlebells and medicine balls as there are push-ups without them. This variation has one foot on a kettlebell and the other pushing into the air.
You can also do this off of a stack of weights, between two benches, or in any manner that lowers your body past your hands, which recruits more muscle fibers in your outer chest.
Resistance bands are a super-portable way to turbocharge any workout, and they’re great for improving explosive speed in push-ups. Simply lay one or more bands across your back and tuck the ends under your palms. Now, push up.
80. With chains
Chains work a lot like resistance bands in that the resistance increases as you move farther off the floor. Plus, you look like a total badass.
Push-ups with chains make you work harder at your strongest point and have great carryover to the bench press, especially the top part of the movement (the lockout).
It’s best to put the chains across your upper back. Draping them across your neck may cause excess strain. While Hugh Jackman is a fan, they might be a little risky!
Probably the best way to add resistance to bodyweight exercises, a weighted vest makes functional movements more challenging in all the right ways. Try them with as many exercises as you can.
82. Suspension strap
Performing a push-up while holding on to the handles of a suspension strap like a TRX or Mostfit is one of the most challenging ways to add instability to the move. After all, balancing on two wibbly-wobbly handles suspended in the air is no easy feat.
Note that it’s also easy to turn these into deficit push-ups… although we wouldn’t exactly call them easy.