3 Awesome Push-Up Variations You Need to Do

Push-ups are incredibly effective — and versatile — bodyweight exercises. Mix it up with these 3 unusual variations.

By Nick Tumminello | January 24, 2015

The beauty of the push-up isn’t just that it’s an effective bodyweight exercise that can be done anywhere and anytime, it’s also an extremely versatile exercise that allows for a large amount of variation. Here are three push-up variations you’re probably not doing, that you can immediately use to add a new challenge to your workouts.

Stability-Ball Squeeze Push-Up



When training for hypertrophy, we want high volume and constant muscle tension. This unique push-up variation delivers big on that because the addition of the ball squeeze creates a tremendous amount of tension on the pectorals, shoulders and triceps.

Set up: Begin in a push-up position with both hands pointed on top of a stability-ball, with your fingers pointed downward and your feet shoulder-width apart. The key is to place your hands lower on the sides of the ball than with normal stability ball push-ups.

Action: Perform a push-up by lowering your chest toward the stability ball until your elbows reach just below 90 degrees or your torso contacts the ball. Then press yourself away from the floor until just before your elbows straighten. While keeping your elbows slightly bent, squeeze on the ball by driving you hands towards one another. Pause at the top for 1 to 2 seconds before lowering down to perform the next repetition.

Coaching Tips
  • Turning your hands outward so your fingers are pointed down toward the floor not only makes this exercise more wrist-friendly, but it also places your hands in a position that’s conducive for be able to strongly squeezing on the ball.
  • At the bottom of each push-up, your elbows should be against the sides of your body.
  • A weight vest or elevated foot position can be used to increase overload.
  • Perform 2 to 4 sets of 10–20 reps

Break-Dancer Push-Up





Don’t let the name fool you — you don’t have to have any breakdancing skills to be able to do this variation. All you need is the desire to do a push-up variation that really challenges your core musculature while you also hitting your chest, shoulders and triceps. Not to mention, this one will impress your friends at the gym.

Set up: Begin in a push-up position with your hands and feet shoulder-width apart.

Action: Perform a push-up, and at the top of the repetition, rotate your entire body toward your left side, driving your right knee to your left elbow while keeping your left hand touching your jaw. Reverse this motion by rolling back to the push-up position. Perform another push-up and repeat this action on the opposite side, touching your left knee to your right elbow.

Coaching Tips
  • Roll all the way to the sides of your feet at the top of each repetition.
  • Keep your body in a straight line throughout.
  • Do not bring your elbow down to your knee, which causes you to lose your alignment. By keeping your hand in contact with you jaw, you’re forced to bring your knee up to your elbow.
  • Perform 2–3 sets of 12–20 reps.

Push-Back Push-Up





This push-up variation is very shoulder intensive, as it resembles the motion your arms go through when performing a incline bench press, which makes this move a great option for training your shoulders, especially when you can’t get to the gym.

Set up: Begin in a push-up position with your hands and feet shoulder-width apart.

Action: Drop into the bottom of the push-up. Instead of pushing up out of the push-up in the traditional manner, soften your knees and push yourself backward toward your feet, keeping your hips as low as possible. Reverse this motion and drop into the bottom of the push-up to complete one rep.

Coaching Tips:

  • Don’t push your hips up toward the sky on each push-up. As the name implies, you want to push your hips backwards while allowing your knees to bend and your arms to fully extend.
  • When coming back for the next rep, don’t keep your arms straight and shift back to the top of the normal push up position. Instead, stay low to the ground and extend your legs back straight driving your torso forward while you simultaneously bend at your elbows so you end up with torso hovering just above the floor.
  • Perform 2–3 sets of 10–20 reps.


About the Author

Nick Tumminello

Nick Tumminello

Nick Tumminello has become known as “the trainer of trainers.” He’s the owner of Performance University, which provides Fitness and personal trainer continuing education. He is also the author of the book Strength Training for Fat LossNick lives in Fort Lauderdale Florida were he trains a select group of individuals and teaches mentorships. You can check out his DVDs, books, seminar schedule and very popular blog at PerformanceU.net.