LL COOL J does push-ups as host Vanessa Minnillo stands by during his appearance on MTV's Total Request Live, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2006 at MTV Times Square studios in New York. (AP Photo/Stephen Chernin)
Drop and give me… 82? That’s right. We at Greatist love — nay, adore — thepush-up. It’s one of the simplest and most functional exercises around, and it works almost every muscle we’ve got: the triceps and chest get a great workout, but the movement also engages the shoulders, core, lats, lower back, legs, and glutes.
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, arranged into five categories: beginner, intermediate, explosive, wxpert, and equipment-based. Just be sure to spend some time perfecting your form andnailing the basics before you jump into the variations that require increased strength, coordination, and balance.
Note: There is no International Push-Up Authority, Official Push-Up Certification Board, or anyone in charge of naming the different kinds of push-ups. Consequently what some might call a rotational push-up, others will call a T-push-up, and so on. We’ve strived for accuracy, but concede that some people might have different names for these movements than we do, and that’s why we linked a video for every one of the entries!
There’s no shame in starting at the beginning! These exercises will help 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 all the way to the floor is too difficult, scale back to a modified push-up on your knees 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 the 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.
3. On the Knees Nearly there! This is identical to a regular push-up, but performed on the hands and knees, with the feet raising off the ground as the push-up goes to the floor. This takes a lot of the work away from the abs and legs, making it a great way to practice for the real thing.
4. Standard 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 a friend for life.
5. 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.
6. 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 makes the exercise more isometric, which is a great way to boost strength.
7. Rotational This involves rotating the body into a side plank when the push-up is completed, holding the upper arm straight in the air so that the body resembles a "T." This works the shoulders and oblique muscles while also helping to improve balance.
9. Single-Arm Raised It’s all about isometrically strengthening the stabilizer muscles, and by sweeping the arm out in front at the top of the extension, this variation makes it much more difficult to balance, so the core gets a nice workout.
10. Single-Leg Raised This isn’t as crazy as it sounds! Perform a push-up, but extend one leg off of the ground so that it’s parallel with the floor. This adds some extra 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. Slowing down might even be more beneficial for fat loss, since it releases more lactic acid!
11. Knuckle A favorite of martial artists everywhere, these bad boys strengthen the wrist, toughen the knuckles, and improve balance.
12. Staggered By staggering the hands (that is, by placing one hand farther forward than the other), one is able to emphasize one side of the chest — a super useful variation for those whose strength is lagging on their non-dominant side.
13. Alligator Some people use this name for staggered push-ups, but we’re using it to refer to a staggered push-up that walks the body forward, just like an alligator crawling along the ground. Have fun with these!
14. Slow Negative This one’s simple: Lower the 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.
15. Spiderman This push-up brings out your creepy crawly side: Bring one knee up the side of the body toward the elbow during the “down” portion. This squeezes the obliques and will improve balance. Keep the knee in the same spot for a few reps before switching sides or bring it forward and back for each push-up.
16. Knee to Chest This movement is similar to the spiderman push-up, but the knee is brought up under the body, rather than around the side, so the abdominal muscles are worked more than the obliques. The name is a lot less cool though.
17. Pseudo Planche A regular push-up has the fingers pointing forward and in line with the chest, but this variation has them pointing toward the feet and sitting a little farther down the torso. This hand placement makes the 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 the quads, fire up the abs, and improve flexibility. Try to get the foot as far forward as possible.
19. Grasshopper There’s actually no hopping involved with this one — it’s similar to a corkscrew push-up (No. 18) but one leg stays straight while the other bends and turns with the body as it lowers. This is a great way to work the obliques and abdominal muscles.
20. With Toe Tap At the top of the movement, simply bend one knee to the side and bring the foot closer to the hip, then give the sole a tap with the opposite hand. This will give some extra work to the abs and legs.
21. Knee-to-Opposite-Elbow Like it sounds: twist the 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 the rib cage to the hips — yep, that includes the abs!
No wine with these push-ups (though maybe a little whine). They’re performed with the butt raised in the air, the feet together, hands under the chest, and the knees bent at about 45 degrees. The torso should be parallel to the ground at the top of the movement. As the body comes down to the ground, twist both legs sideways without further bending the knees, as shown in the video. This adds a whole new dimension to the abdominal workout while also working the quads and calves.
23. Diamond This is the gold diamond standard of tricep exercises. Simply put the hands together so that the thumbs and index fingers form a diamond, place the hands below the center of the chest, and start busting out reps.
24. Wide Place the hands placed farther out to the side of the body than they are for a regular push-up and you’ll put a lot more emphasis on the 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 the body to the side and kick. For example, the left leg should kick toward the right of the body. This will add some explosive power to the legs and obliques while firing up the core.
26. Tiger At the bottom of the push-up, flatten the forearms to the ground while raising the butt into the air and pulling the body slightly backward. This should look a little like a tiger ready to pounce. Reverse the movement and push up. Congratulate the triceps for all their hard work.
27. Elbow This is just like the tiger push-up (No. 26) but the body stays parallel to the ground at the bottom of the movement, so the butt doesn’t raise into the air. It’s a little harder, but you feel less like roaring.
Pike push-ups could be a category all of their own; they’re one of the best bodyweight exercises for the shoulders. Raise the butt into the air so the body forms a triangle with the ground. It looks a little like the downward dog, but the arms are more perpendicular to the ground. This is a fantastic way to work up to ahandstand push-up — just gradually elevate the legs!
30. Lateral Step Time to get mobile! This push-up steps the body sideways across the floor and requires a little more coordination and agility.
31. Typewriter Also called side-to-side push-ups, these require lowering the body to one side (so the chest is close to the hand) and then sliding the body over to the other hand, keeping the body just above the floor, then pushing up from that side. Come back down, slide the body over to the right, and push back up. To make these more difficult, slide left and right a few extra times before pushing back up.
33. Uchi Mata Similar to the single-leg raised push-up (No. 32), but bend the knee and push the foot up into the air as hard as possible when the body lowers. This variationincreases the activity of the lower back, hamstrings, and core.
34. Jackknife Bend the hips and jump both feet forward at each extension to work the abs and legs.
35. Single-Arm Off of a Table The best way to work up to a one-armed push-up is the same way one 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 the feet wide and the core engaged — even when elevated, this move requires considerable work from the obliques and triceps.
36. Isometric Push-Up Welcome to your new plank! In the bottom of the push-up, hold the body just above the ground. Start by holding it a few seconds at a time and and work up to a minute.