woman performs a push-up
Workouts

20 Push-up Variations for You: Ranked from Easy to Hard

9 min read


Push-ups are one of the most accessible, versatile, and comprehensive bodyweight exercises available out there. They come in clutch whether you’re a beginner or advanced and they can be put to use relatively anywhere, at any time. If you truly want to improve your athleticism, don’t sleep on push-ups. For those of you wanting to get started on a push-up journey, or interested in widening your current knowledge, here are listed 20 push-up variations for you, and as extra little something, they’ve been put in a progression order going from easiest to hardest.

One thing to note is, don’t stress too much about your feet positioning when in a push-up stance: should they be wide apart, close together, or shoulder-width apart? Forget all that and position them in a way that is comfortable for you; when feet positioning does matter push-up exercises tend to bring them to your attention, otherwise, your feet are simply there to provide stability.

01. Wall Push-up

Difficulty level: Easy
Body parts worked: Chest, Core, Shoulders, Triceps

Wall push-up demonstration.

This variation is the easiest available and is very beginner-friendly as injury risks are very minimal and remaining on your feet through the motion means that you’re not dramatically put outside of your comfort level. If you have any concerns or worries with push-ups, start here.

02. Incline Push-up

Difficulty level: Easy
Body parts worked: Chest (lower chest), Core, Shoulders, Triceps

Incline push-up demonstration.

An incline push-up follows the same concept as a wall push-up, where the more upright your body is, the easier the movement is. As you lean further forward and your body gets closer to a horizontal position, the harder the movement gets.

Modifier
The steeper the incline, the easier the movement gets. Whereas, you can raise a leg off the ground to make the movement more challenging.

03. Knee/Modified Push-up

Difficulty level: Easy
Body parts worked: Chest, Core, Shoulders, Triceps

Knee push-up demonstration.

The progress from an incline push-up to a knee push-up is substantial but the benefit it comes with is that it introduces you to the strain your body will go through when you eventually get to a standard push-up. Although you’re almost in a standard push-up position, the knee push-up is easier because it reduces the amount of weight you have to control by being on your knees. Once you master this movement and the push-up variations before, the upgrade to standard push-ups should feel natural.

04. Negative Push-up

Difficulty level: Easy
Body parts worked: Chest, Core, Glutes, Shoulders, Triceps

Negative push-up demonstration.

The aim of this push-up is to fight gravity and very slowly go down to the bottom. This will teach you the muscle strains you are expected to feel when doing a standard push-up and ready those muscles. The slower you go down, the harder the exercise is.

As you’re fighting gravity to keep form through the movement, you not only engage your core but also your glutes, so that you don’t slump.

Modifier
Switch to your knees if going down in a standard push-up position is too difficult.

05. Isometric/Hold Push-up

Difficulty level: Easy
Body parts worked: Back, Chest, Core, Glutes, Shoulders, Triceps

Isometric push-up demonstration.

This variation is similar to a negative push-up but the only difference is that instead of focusing on going down slowly, you’re focusing on holding the bottom position for as long as you can while keeping your core and glutes tight and engaged through the hold. When your strength gives out, you can get out of position however you want and then restart again.

Modifier
If holding the push-up position is too hard, you can do this variation on your knees, whereas if holding the position is too easy, you can perform a standard push-up where you just hold it at the bottom then after a 5‒8 count, you push back up and complete one repetition.

06. Standard/Traditional Push-up

Difficulty level: Medium
Body parts worked: Chest, Core, Shoulders, Triceps

Standard push-up demonstration.

To execute a traditional push-up with proper form, your arms need to hit about 90 degrees minimum when descending then you can return back up. If you’re unsure whether or not you’re reaching the appropriate depth then a good way to take the guesswork out is either by just having your chest make contact with the ground when descending or placing a toilet roll on the ground and having your chest make contact with the roll when descending.

Modifier
Raise one leg off the ground to make the movement more challenging. To make the movement easier, revert to knee, incline, or wall push-up variations.

07. Staggered Push-up

Difficulty level: Medium
Body parts worked: Chest, Core, Shoulders, Triceps

Staggered push-up demonstration.

By having your hands staggered, more load is placed on one side of the body instead of the strain being evenly distributed, which, in turn, requires your core and shoulder to be more engaged. Among the push-up variations we’ve seen until now, this variation is good to utilize if you want to build up to a one-arm push-up as that, too, is a motion where one side of the body goes under more strain than the other.

08. Wide Stance/Grip Push-up

Difficulty level: Medium
Body parts worked: Back, Chest, Core, Shoulders, Triceps

Wide stance push-up demonstration.

By adopting a wider arm stance, this positioning sees more emphasis placed on the shoulders, chest, and back, while reducing the load placed upon the arms. The key thing to note with this push-up is to avoid stressing the shoulders by going too wide.

09. Decline Push-up

Difficulty level: Medium
Body parts worked: Chest (upper chest), Core, Shoulders, Triceps

Decline push-up demonstration.

The decline push-up sees your legs get elevated, and you’ll notice as you hit out reps that your shoulders will experience a lot more stress. Therefore, like with all push-ups where the emphasis on the shoulders increases, make sure not to overdo it; your joints don’t recover as easily from injuries compared to other body parts.

Modifier
The steeper the decline, the harder the movement. Raising a leg also makes the movement more challenging.

10. T Push-up/Push-up to Side Plank

Difficulty level: Medium
Body parts worked: Chest, Core, Shoulders, Triceps

T push-up demonstration.

For the most part, anyone comfortable with doing a standard push-up shouldn’t have too much trouble with the T push-up. The challenge in this position comes with how it will test your core strength and ability to balance. If you struggle with the rotational component of the push-up, perform the turn slower.

11. Military/Narrow Push-up

Difficulty level: Medium
Body parts worked: Chest, Core, Shoulders, Triceps

Military push-up demonstration.

A lot of people find this push-up style difficult to execute because the narrow stance causes the triceps to do more work. Therefore, if your triceps are lacking, you’ll find this move hard to execute, but similarly, if you want to build reliable triceps strength, this is a great move to put into your program.

Note that for proper form, your elbows should not flare out/to the sides; you want to fight to keep your elbows tucked in, essentially brushing against your sides through the motion.

12. Spider-Man Push-up

Difficulty level: Hard
Body parts worked: Chest, Core, Shoulders, Triceps

Spider-Man push-up demonstration.

This push-up variation incorporates a lot of your upper body and is a great way to activate your core and engage it more than the previously listed versions.

13. Diamond Push-up

Difficulty level: Hard
Body parts worked: Chest, Core, Shoulders, Triceps

Diamond push-up demonstration.

Like the military push-up, this stance switches the core focus of the push-up onto the triceps, but what you will find is that this movement is much harder than the military-style push-up.

Modifier
If the diamond push-up is too hard for you, a way to make it easier is to bring your hands further away from each other (widen the diamond); the closer your hands are (the smaller the diamond is), the more challenging the movement is. So find your sweet spot and progressively work towards laying one palm over the other.

14. Archer & Typewriter Push-ups

Difficulty level: Hard
Body parts worked: Chest, Core, Shoulders, Triceps

Archer & typewriter push-up demonstration.

The archer and typewriter push-up variations are almost identical, where the only difference is that with the archer push-up, you return all the way up and switch to your other side whereas, with the typewriter, you stay at the bottom and switch from side to side.

Since you rise up with the archer push-up, you can opt to hammer out a number of reps on one side before leaning over to the other side and doing the same numbers. Since you stay to the ground with the typewriter, you don’t have the option of performing a number of reps on one side before doing the next side.

15. Pike Push-up

Difficulty level: Hard
Body parts worked: Chest, Core, Shoulders, Triceps

Pike push-up demonstration.

Emphasis on the chest dramatically decreases with this move, as it turns onto the shoulders and triceps. If you want to get good at performing handstand push-ups, this move is the building block; the higher your feet come off the ground and the closer you get to being upright, the harder the movement becomes (as you’re shifting and increasing weight load).

16. Divebomber Push-up

Difficulty level: Hard
Body parts worked: Chest, Core, Shoulders, Triceps, Lower Back

Divebomber push-up demonstration.

If you’re looking for a total upper body push-up movement, this is it. Not only does it work several muscle groups but it’s also a good movement to tackle mobility and flexibility. Other similarly beneficial push-ups would be the T push-up and archer/typewriter push-up variations; incorporating several different planes of motion in a controlled and steady manner is very beneficial to your overall health and fitness.

17. Pseudo Planche Push-up

Difficulty level: Very Hard
Body parts worked: Chest, Core, Forearms, Shoulders, Triceps

Psuedo planche push-up demonstration.

The pseudo planche push-up marks the first of the very difficult push-up variations. The difficulty in these push-ups lies in the amount of natural strength you must already possess alongside the accurate use of technique and form.

If you are strong but fail to execute these movements, your technique is likely what needs fixing.

Form ques for a psuedo planche.

18. Plyometric/Explosive & Clap Push-ups

Difficulty level: Very Hard
Body parts worked: Chest, Core, Forearms, Shoulders, Triceps

Plyometric push-up demonstration.

If you can do a plyometric/explosive push-up then the skill is directly transferable to a clap push-up. The idea is to push off against the ground through your hands with as much force as you can generate with these two push-up variations.

Modifier
Performing the explosive or clap push-up on an incline makes the movement easier.

19. Explosive Push-up Variations

Difficulty level: Very Hard
Body parts worked: Chest, Core, Forearms, Glutes, Shoulders, Triceps

Form ques for explosive push-up variations.

The secret with all these explosive variations comes down to technique. If you can perform normal explosive push-ups then you should have the strength to perform the advanced variations; strength shouldn’t be your handicap, it’s a matter of sorting out your technique.

20. One-hand Push-up

Difficulty level: Very Hard
Body parts worked: Chest, Core, Forearms, Glutes, Shoulders, Triceps

One-arm push-up demonstration.

Once more, technique is key. There are a variety of ways to perform a one-handed push-up where some versions make the movement easier while others make the movement more challenging. Have fun and attempt them all!

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