man doing deep dumbbell pushups

How to Make a Great Bodyweight Exercise More Challenging

There are many great bodyweight exercises available when either traveling or if you can’t make it the gym. Bodyweight exercises like pull-ups, squats and lunges are all beneficial. One of the best upper body exercises on that list is a push-up.

Why are Push-ups so Good?

The push-up is an extremely versatile upper body, multi-joint movement that can be done basically anywhere and at anytime. The exercise mimics a chest press exercise but without the weight while using only 64 percent of your bodyweight. To make the exercise more challenging over time, try the following push-up variations when it’s appropriate for your body.

Wide Hand Push-Up

Change the width of your hand placement as you get more comfortable doing the basic version of the exercise. Try a wider hand placement before attempting any type of narrow position. As a result, it will stress more of the outer chest and anterior aspect of the shoulder.

Single-Leg Push-Up

Simply raise one foot a few inches off the floor when performing the exercise. Keep the raised leg straight, hips level at all times, and the core engaged.

Close Hand Push-Up

As the name implies, perform the movement with your hands close together. The change of hand placement will stress more triceps.

Push-Up to Side Plank

This is a personal favorite. You get all the benefits of the exercise, in addition to some core and shoulder stabilization, for the effort.

Side view of muscular black man in sportswear doing push ups during workout on street of modern downtown with urban background.
The one-arm push-up, an advanced exercise, is not on our list but if it were, it would be listed at number ten in terms of difficulty alone.

Bench Push-Up

Elevating the feet during a push-up increases that 64 percent number mentioned above. Make sure you keep the body stiff and straight as a wooden board. Do not let the low back relax during the movement.

Drop Push-Up

Watch out for this one, going deep, in terms of range of motion may place too much stress on your shoulder. Keep it slow and controlled.

Incline Push-Up Depth Jump

This is an advanced exercise variation that can very challenging for many. Do not relax the low back while executing the movement.

Plyo Push-Up

Another great variation which takes a standard push-up to the next level. As you will see, you will not need to do many repetitions with this and the clap push-up.

Clap Push-Up

Want to overload the chest? This is your exercise. It can also be paired with another chest exercise as part of a superset.

You now have nine push-up variations to change things up a bit when basic push-ups start to get old. Remember, the body loves change and some of these exercises might be just the stimulus needed. The nine exercises have also been placed in order in terms of difficulty. Some might argue but I think it’s pretty close. Give them a try and let us know if you agree or disagree with our exercise order.

Stay Strong Together

Jefit, named best strength training app by Sports Illustrated, Esquire, GQ, Men’s Health, Greatest, Forbes Health, and many others. We offer a community responsible for 92,000,000 workouts to date! The app, which recently passed 10 million downloads, comes equipped with a customizable workout planner and training log. The app also has ability to track data, offer audio coaching cues, and can share workouts with friends. Visit our members-only Facebook group. Connect with like-minded people, share tips, and advice to help get closer to reaching your fitness goals.

Read the scientific paper published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research using the Jefit app. Also, a great Jefit app review was recently published by MUO that can be found here.

Michael Wood, CSCS
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