19 Push Up Variations (& Modifications)

Fitness, Strength Workouts, Upper Body Workouts, Workouts

By: // October 19, 2022


Are you tired of doing push-ups? You know they’re good for you and you’ve learned to do them properly. Well good news, friends: the push-up fun squad has arrived with different types of push-ups that will change things up! What you really need is a push-up makeover. We’ve provided you with 19 different push-up variations and modifications that will take you beyond the basics and challenge you in a brand new way! Learn what muscles push-ups work and do them regularly for results!

For each push-up variation, we’re answering 3 questions:

  • Why are they great?
  • What muscles are worked?
  • How do I do it?

Different Types of Push-Ups

Incorporate these push-up variations one at a time into your workouts. Sprinkle one in this week; add another one next week. Or maybe try five reps of all of them today and thank us tomorrow. However you go about it, enjoy! And may you have endless years of push-up bliss!

1. Resistance Band Push-Ups

Why are these great?

Whether you do push-ups on your toes or on your knees, the resistance band adds more resistance and therefore shortens the number of repetitions you will need to maximize your work. It’s almost like having someone sit on your back!

What Muscles Do Resistance Band Push-Ups Work:

  • Chest
  • Arms
  • Back
  • Core

How To Do It:

1) Wrap band around back just under the armpits, while holding handles, loop the band an extra time around each hand to tighten it.

2) Kneel down placing handles against the floor then extend your legs long until you are in a plank position.

3) Slowly lower chest to floor keeping body long. Press back up until arms are long. Repeat.

2. Push-Up T

Why are these great?

Rotation is an underused part of fitness. The coordination and balance, not to mention shoulder stability, are more than just a step beyond a push-up – this push-up variation takes it to a whole new level!

What Muscles Do Push-Up T’s Work:

  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Lats
  • Core & Obliques

How To Do It:

1) Begin in a plank position with hands below shoulders, legs long and abdominals tight so your body is in a straight line.

2) Bend elbows lowering chest to the ground, keeping gaze in front of fingertips.

3) Press chest back to start position and open right hand and hip to the ceiling so you end up in a side plank position. Feet stay staggered and legs long.

4) Rotate right hand back to start position and repeat exercise, this time opening the left hand into a side plank. This is one repetition.

3. Push-Up Punch

Why are these great?

The punching motion causes you to pull your core in quickly. Think of it in terms of a jump squat only for the abdominals instead of the legs.

What Muscles Do Push-Up Punches Work:

  • Lats
  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Core & Obliques

How To Do It:

A) Begin in a plank position with your shoulders over your wrists, your feet together, and your body in a straight line.

B) Keeping your body straight, bend your arms to lower your body toward the floor.

C) Straighten your arms to push your body back up into plank position as you punch your right arm forward. Return your hand to the floor, lower back to the bottom of your push-up and repeat punching with your left arm.

4. Medicine Ball Rolling Push-Up

Why are these so great?

First, the action of rolling the medicine ball pulls the core stabilizers in tighter. Second, having one hand higher during the push-up forces that arm to work harder.

What Muscles Do Medicine Ball Rolling Push-Ups Work:

  • Chest
  • Core
  • Back
  • Shoulders

How To Do It:

1) Begin in a plank position with right hand on top of a medicine ball and left hand on the floor. Hands are directly below shoulders with arms long.

2) Lower chest toward the floor, bending your elbows and keeping your body straight. (If this is too difficult, bend your knees and place them on the ground.)

3) Press up to start position then roll the ball over to the left hand. Repeat the push-up with the ball under the left hand. This is one repetition.

5. Push-Up Jack

Why are these great?

Hey, a little extra cardio never hurt anyone! The jack motion will get the heart rate up and your low back will be put to the test. So engage that core and jump away with this push-up variation.

What Muscles Do Push-Up Jacks Work:

  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Back
  • Core
  • Glutes & Quads
  • Cardio & Heart Rate

How To Do It:

A) Begin in a plank position with your shoulders over your wrists, your feet together, and your body in a straight line.

B) Lower to a push-up while jumping feet to a wide position.  Keep abs tight and back straight.

C) Jump your feet back together as you straighten your arms to return to start. This is one rep.

6. Stability Ball Push-Up

Why are these great?

The stability ball provides two bonus features: instability and incline. Both put a fun (and challenging!) twist on the classic.

What Muscles Do Stability Ball Push-Ups Work:

  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Back
  • Core

How To Do It:

1) Begin in a plank position with feet on the ball and a hands-on floor just below your shoulders. Hold your body in a straight line.

2) As you inhale, bend your elbows to your lower chest toward the floor. As you exhale push back up to plank position.

7. Walking Push-Up

Why are these great?

Movement creates more heart rate and raises your metabolic burn. The simple act of walking your body to the side will accelerate your heart rate and engage dozens of small stabilizer muscles in your core, shoulders, and arms.

What Muscles Do Walking Push-Ups Work:

  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Back
  • Core

How To Do It:

A) Start with hands on the mat a fists distance apart from each other, legs long, and on toes in a full plank position with your abdominals engaged.

B) Walk your right hand and foot out to the side and lower to a push up by bending your elbows to the sides and lowering your chest towards the mat then press up straightening your arms and bring the right and left foot back to your starting position.  Repeat on the other side.

8. Spiderman Push-Up

Why are these great?

The obliques like the attention. Drawing your knee to your elbow works your oblique muscles and your entire core like crazy!

What Muscles Do Spiderman Push-Ups Work:

  • Core & Obliques
  • Shoulders
  • Chest
  • Arms

How To Do It:

A) Start with hands slightly wider than shoulders, legs long, and on toes in a full plank position with your abdominals engaged.

B) Drop into a push-up by bending your elbows out to the side and lowering your chest towards the mat and pulling the left knee toward the outside of your left elbow and holding for one count, then press up to plank returning your foot to mat. Repeat on the other side.

(Note: If this is too difficult for you, perform a complete push-up on both feet first, then pull the knee to the elbow once lifted. Work your way up to performing at the same time.)

9. Downward Dog Push-Up

Why are these great?

Taking the extra step to press into down dog gives you a well-needed stretch over the entire back of your body. Bonus: your shoulder and back muscles are involved, too.

What Muscles Do Downward Dog Push-Ups Work:

  • Chest
  • Triceps
  • Shoulders
  • Back
  • Center Abdominals

How To Do It:

A) Begin with your hands and feet shoulder-width apart, and your hips raised so that your body forms an inverted V.

B) Lower your hips to a push-up position. When your hips are parallel with the floor, perform a push-up. When you finish the push-up, raise your hips back up the position where they began so your body once again forms an inverted V.

10. Dive Bomber Push-Up

Why are these great?

The dive with arms close to the body engages the triceps and the press upward stretches the hips and the chest.

What Muscles Do Dive Bomber Push-Ups Work:

  • Chest
  • Triceps
  • Shoulders
  • Back
  • Center Core

How To Do It:

A) Begin with your hands and feet shoulder-width apart, and your hips raised so that your body forms an inverted V.

B) Keeping your shoulder lowered away from your ears, bring your chest forward between your hands as you bend your arms.

C) Continue to glide through as you straighten your arms and bring your chest up. Your hips will now be hovering just above the floor. To finish the push-up, reverse the glide, raising your hips back up.

11. Shoulder Tap Push-Up

Why are these great?

The tapping motion pushes your body to balance briefly, which engages your stabilizers. This push-up variation also allows one arm at a time to hold you up creating unilateral strength on each side.

What Muscles Do Shoulder Tap Push-Ups Work:

  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Back
  • Core & Obliques

How To Do It:

A) Begin in a plank position with hands directly under shoulders and feet hip-width apart. Keeping abdominals and legs tight as you slowly lower your chest toward the ground with elbows bending and pointing behind you.

B) Exhale as you push back up to lengthen arms into plank then lift your right hand to tap your left shoulder at the top. Repeat with the other arm tapping.

12. Tricep Side Push-Up

Why are these great?

We all need a little extra help on the back side of our arms. Regular push-ups only offer a minuscule amount of tricep strengthening. A tricep side push-up is a different type of push-up that targets the triceps, and you will feel them the next day!

What Muscles Do Tricep Side Push-Ups Work:

  • Triceps
  • Shoulders
  • Obliques

How To Do It:

A) Lie down on one side stacking your shoulders, hips, and feet. Bring top hand to the mat directly in front of your bottom shoulder. The bottom hand will be wrapped around your waist below your chest.

B) The top arm does all the work as you press yourself up and lower yourself to the mat to your starting position. You will feel the tricep muscles on the back of the top arm working. Repeat on the other side.

13. Three-Point Push-Up

Why are these great?

These are the absolute KING of challenging push-ups! They aren’t easy, but start with the modified version (shown next) and keep working on it. Once you are able to tackle the full-on exercise, you are going to be amazed at what it does for your core strength!

What Muscles Do Three-Point Push-Ups Work:

  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Core & Obliques

How To Do It:

1) Begin in a plank position with hands below shoulders, legs long behind you, and body in a straight line.

2) Bend elbows and slowly begin to lower chest to the floor while at the same time sliding right leg long under your body (keeping it lifted off the floor).

3) Tighten abdominals and press chest back up until arms are long again returning the right leg to the original position.

4) Repeat using left leg. This is one repetition.

14. Chaturanga Push-Up

Why are these great?

A chaturanga push-up variation is a strength move taken from yoga that focuses on your upper body and core. The chaturanga itself is focused on core strength but has a high dose of tricep strength involved as well.

Chloe Freytag demonstrating Chaturanga in a blue tank top and yoga pants

What Muscles Do Chaturanga Push-Ups Work:

  • Chest
  • Triceps
  • Shoulders
  • Back
  • Center Core

How To Do It:

1) Start in plank position with your arms shoulder width apart. (you can modify by doing a kneeling plank if the full is too challenging) Engage your core and keep your abs tight.

2) Lower your chest to a hover above the mat while hugging your elbows in towards your side body and keep elbows pointing straight back. Press up by straightening arms and return to plank position.

15. Decline Push-Ups

Why are these great?

Why decline? By putting the weight of your legs higher than the arms that are doing the pushing, you are creating move work for the upper body. Basically gravity to fight! Once you have the ability to do at least 10 full push-ups, you should be able to start incorporating some decline push-ups into your routine.

Chris Freytag demonstrating Decline Push Up on a purple yoga mat

What Muscles Do Decline Push-Ups Work:

  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Back
  • Glutes & Quads
  • Center Core

How To Do It:

1) Begin in a plank position with your feet on a step, your shoulders over your wrists, and your body in a straight line.

2) Bend your arms until you are in a low push-up position, making sure to keep your body in a straight line as you lower yourself toward the floor. Straighten your arms to return to start. Repeat.

Types of Push-Up Modifications

If you’re looking for push-up variations that make things a little easier, try these push-up modifications! Practice these regularly to improve your push-ups!

1. Modified Push-Up

Why are these great?

Modifying an exercise is a great way to build up your strength towards a particular move so you can one day perform the real thing. There is no shame in the modification game!

Chris Freytag doing modified push up on knees

What Muscles Do Modified Push-Ups Work:

  • Shoulders
  • Chest
  • Center Core

How To Do It:

  1. Begin in a kneeling position on a mat with hands below shoulders and knees behind hips, so the back is angled and long.
  2. Tuck toes under, tighten abdominals and bend elbows to lower chest toward the floor. Keep your gaze in front of your fingertips so your neck stays long.
  3. Press chest back up to start position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

2. Incline Push-Up

Why are these great?

An incline push-up is a nice balance between a kneeling push-up and a full traditional push-up. A traditional push-up is considered the best upper body move available, but most people struggle keeping good form and being able to do them fully on their toes at first. Kneeling push-ups are a great alternative but will eventually become too easy. This incline push-up gives you the perfect balance.

Chris Freytag performing an incline push up modification

What Muscles Do Incline Push-Ups Work:

  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Core

How To Do It:

1) Begin in a plank position with your hands on step, your shoulders over your wrists, and your body in a straight line.

2) Bend your arms and lower chest to the bench making sure to keep your body in a straight line. Press body back to plank. Repeat.

3. Modified Three-Point Push-Up

Why are these great?

Here is a modified version of the 3-point push-up variation. Start with this and when you have it down, go back to the full version and give it a try.

What Muscles Do Modified Three-Point Push-Ups Work:

  • Chest
  • Triceps
  • Shoulders
  • Back
  • Core & Obliques
  • Hamstrings

How To Do It:

A) Begin kneeling on all fours and then lift your left leg straight behind you.

B) Hold your left leg straight behind you as you bend your arms to lower yourself into a low push-up position. Straighten your arms pressing up to the start position. Repeat several times and switch legs.

4. Tricep Push-Up On Knees

Why are these great?

Tricep push-ups on your knees are a push-up modification that strengthens your triceps and tones the back of your arms. Toning and tightening your triceps is a great way to prevent flabby arms!

Chaturanga push-ups are a great way to tone up those triceps.

What Muscles Do Tricep Push-Ups on Knees Work:

  • Chest
  • Triceps
  • Shoulders
  • Core

How To Do It:

1) Begin in a kneeling plank position with arms directly below shoulders and body in a straight line back to kneed.

2) Lower chest 2 inches from the floor keeping elbows close to your side. Exhale and slowly push back to start position.

5. Shoulder Tap Push-Up On Knees

Why are these great?

If you can learn how to do a shoulder tap push-up on your knees, you will allow your body to learn proper push-up form and graduate to a full push-up on your toes in no time! Regular push-ups definitely give your shoulders a little burn, but this variation really takes it up a notch!

What Muscles Do Shoulder Tap Push-Ups Work:

  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Triceps
  • Back
  • Core

How To Do It:

1) Start in a kneeling plank position with hands on the ground below shoulders and back extended long to the knees.

2) Lower chest to the floor keeping abs tight. As you push back up to the kneeling plank, tap your right hand on your left shoulder then set it down.

3) Repeat the push-up but as you rise tap your left hand on your right shoulder.  Keep abs tight throughout and avoid the torso “tipping” to the side as you tap.

If your push-ups need a little practice, take our 28-Day Push-Up Challenge! Be sure to practice all different types of push-up variations and modifications weekly to strengthen your arms, chest, shoulders, back and core! 


Printed from GetHealthyU.com

5 Comments


on April 3, 2020 at 7:48 AM Reply

Thank you for this article I appreciate every single photo they show clear form/how to , in my opinion you need a strong fit person showing how to correctly perform


on November 6, 2015 at 9:31 PM Reply

Good article mam.. :)


on July 8, 2015 at 7:30 AM Reply

I am a Beachbody coach and I loved this article with the pictures attached to the text. Although I love the beautiful model, you should also provide pictures of people who are basically out of shape doing these same poses along with seniors. It's important to show the public that you don't have to be a gorgeous model or a young person to perform many simple workouts. The emphasis should be to offer more variety to people who do not want to exercise. Thanks.


    on July 13, 2015 at 4:49 PM Reply

    Ha ha! I'm the one in the pictures, not a model! But I know what you mean and we should feature more images of people who aren't fitness trainers! Good point! For this article I really wanted to show proper form and technique, thus it's me in the photos! :) Thank you for your suggestion!


    on July 13, 2015 at 4:40 PM Reply

    Thank you for your comments! The pictures are of me, and not a model ... ha ha! But I know what you mean, we should share more images of people who aren't fitness trainers! We will do!



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