Can’t even do one push-up? Want to challenge yourself beyond the normal push-up? We’ve got everyone covered in this expansive guide to one of the most popular calisthenic workouts 

BEGINNER

Wall push-up

Fitness trainer and host of a fitness channel on Youtube, Rekha Ganguly suggests wall push-ups for the novice. 

How: Stand facing a wall, arms-length away, with feet slightly apart and legs straight, knees not locked. Place your hands on the wall, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep your head in a neutral position, bend elbows, and lower your upper body towards the wall and go as far as without touching the wall. Straighten your arms and return to the starting position. Place feet further from the wall for increased difficulty. 

How many: 12 X 3

Wall Pushups

Cheater’s push-up

On his channel Beer Biceps, Youtuber Ranveer Allahbadia recommends this variation of the classic push-up for first-timers. 

How: Position yourself on the knees, and cross your legs behind you. Place our arms on the floor and hinge your body weight on the knees and arms. Keep your arms slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Bend elbows to lower your body, almost touching the ground and push yourself up. Make sure your body is in a straight line.

How many: 12 X 3

Cheater's Pushup

Beginner Tips

  • Inhale while going downward, exhale returning upwards
  • Ensure proper hand-and-elbow position
  • Tuck in your hips
  • Complete full reps

INTERMEDIATE

Fitness trainer Prasad Shirke, whose clientele includes the likes of Hrithik Roshan, explains four basic push-up variations that can be part of an amateur’s routine. 

Classic push-up

How: Get into a plank position with your hands under your shoulders, and engage your core. Keep your chest lifted and eyes gazing out in front of you, so that your spine stays in a neutral position. Bend your elbows and lower your body to the floor as you inhale, then push up and exhale as you rise back to a neutral position. Don’t let your hip lose form. Remember, your body should remain in a straight line from head to toe.

How many: 10 X 4/5

Classic push-up

Wide-grip push-up

How: The classic push-up engages all of your chest, shoulder, and triceps muscle groups, along with the core. If you want to focus on only the chest, start from a normal push-up position, but spread your hands wider than shoulder length. Perform the same range of motion and practice good form to avoid risk of injury.

How many: 10 X 4/5

Wide-grip push-up

Diamond push-up

How: The diamond push-up will help you to concentrate on the triceps. The body remains in the same position as in the conventional push-up, but the arms need to be closer together, narrower than shoulder width. Position your hands together so your two indexes and thumbs are touching, and forming a triangle. Complete your first set right, and feel that burn in your triceps.

How many: 10 X 4/5

Diamond push-up

Close-grip push-up

How: If you find it harder to execute the diamond push-up, it’s easier to allow your elbows to flare out to the side while lowering yourself. From a normal push-up position, place your hands just a few inches apart from each other underneath your chest, and lower your body. This will also employ more of the triceps.

How many: 10 X 4/5

Close-grip push-up

Pro-tips 

  • Most people don’t use their back muscles while doing push-ups, resulting in a hunched posture
  • Focus on scapula retraction by rounding out your shoulders to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder blades
  • Focus on lower body muscles in a 3:2 ratio to the upper body. Say, you’re doing 10 reps of upper body workouts, do 15 of the lower body to maintain the right balance

ADVANCED

Trainers on the Home Workout app, which has a 4.9/5 rating and millions of downloads on Google Play Store, suggest a bunch of complex push-up variations for advanced training. I used it during the lockdown last year, and still do for quick, high-intensity sessions. 

Staggered push-up

How: This involves positioning yourself into the regular push-up position, but the variable here is the placement of the hands. One hand should be situated in front of the other, which should still remain in line with your shoulder. Doing a push-up in this position will force the rear arm to do most of the work. Upon finishing your set/reps on one side, swap, and repeat. 

How many: 16 X 4

Staggered push-up

Decline push-up

How: Start on all fours, with your knees tucked under your butt and hands under your shoulders. Then elevate your feet on a chair or medicine ball, and push your body up and down, mainly employing the arm muscles. Make sure to keep your body in a straight line. 

How many: 16 X 4

Decline push-up

Clap push-up

How: This explosive variation of the push-up engages shoulder, chest, and arm muscles big-time. The starting point of this version takes cue from the traditional push-up. The clapping push-up begins once you lower yourself to the ground. While coming upwards, you really need to propel off the ground so that you have enough time and space to clap your hands before landing in the starting position. This is one rep.

While landing, you need to ensure that your elbows are slightly bent, in order to absorb the momentum. Use this landing energy to spring yourself back up again. Newbies can start without the clap. Alternatively, you can also begin on your knees, just like the aforementioned cheater’s push-up.

How many: 6-8 X 4

Clap push-up

Spiderman push-up

How: This final push-up challenges your entire body. Start in the normal push-up position. Then lower your body and bend your left knee and bring it closer to your left elbow. Return to the neutral position and repeat with the other leg. There’s also a superman (flying) version, which is a hybrid between the clap and the spiderman push-ups, and is actually the peak of push-up strength. Try it under expert supervision.

How many: 20 (10 each side) X 4

Spiderman push-up