It’s chest day, and you know what that means. Today we’re doing push-ups. Push-ups can be tough, but they’re also fun, versatile, and a great exercise for overall chest development—with a little bit of tricep thrown in. It’s also one of the most accessible exercises available, especially during quarantine when many of us are restricted to our homes. Push-ups, and their many variations, are still the best at-home chest workout.
There are numerous push-up variations, each of which can be adjusted based on your skill level. You can make it easier by having one or both knees on the floor while conducting your press. You can make it more difficult by slowing down the exercise on the negative (lowering) and explosively pushing up during the pressing motion.
For a solid chest workout, I suggest you pick four exercises from this list and try to complete 50 reps total. That’s a great place to start, and as you get more comfortable (and stronger!), you can add more reps or sets overtime to build up even more strength!
As always, here are my baseline rules you should consider before diving into your home workout. Take these four pieces of advice to heart in order to make sure you’re getting the most out of your regimen.
1. Form matters more than anything else. If you’re not performing the exercise well, there’s an increased risk of injury. For example, while doing bodyweight exercises like dips, push-ups, and pike push-ups, controlling the movement is very important. It’s not a priority to go as fast as possible. Remember, quality over quantity.
2. It’s ok to be a beginner. We all have to start somewhere. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t make it to 30 seconds on certain exercises, 20 is just fine. Now you have something to work towards.
3. Exercising is a never-ending process. There is no end, which means you will have a lifetime of accomplishments ahead of you.
4. Consistency is key. As long as you keep consistent, you will see progress. Not feeling sore does NOT mean you didn’t have a good workout. Don’t let it fool you.
The traditional push-up is arguably the most recognizable strength exercise ever developed. Its ubiquity is earned, as it truly provides the best strength training possible from such an accessible exercise.
To begin, get into a push-up position. You begin with your arms straight and shoulder-width apart, back flat, and core tightened. If it’s drastically uncomfortable to stay static in a traditional push-up position, then consider dropping onto your knees to reduce the strain a bit. You’ll be in a full position in no time.
Slowly lower your weight towards the floor; you want to aim to bring your elbows to a 45-degree angle, which will hit your chest best. Flaring out your elbows can be detrimental to your shoulders. You should always aim to get as low as possible (nose to the floor) and fully extend your arms on the way back up. All variations will still follow these same guidelines.
Luckily for us, the names of different push-up variations are pretty self-explanatory. For close push-ups, you’ll want to replicate everything from the traditional push-up but with your hands positioned closer together on the floor. This variation puts more pressure on your triceps, activating them in addition to your chest. You should have your hands just a tad closer than shoulder-width apart. How close you go is really up to you and your comfort level.
How do you do a wide push-up? You guessed it. Get in your traditional push-up position and then scoot your hands a little farther apart than shoulder-width. Much like how the close push-ups activate your triceps, the wide grip will activate your shoulders. If you go wider than appropriate, it could put undue pressure on your shoulders. So make sure to listen to your body, and always increase exercises in small increments.
This one is another variation for those looking to step up the difficulty level of their push-up routine. To complete this exercise, you’ll be in a traditional push-up position with your arms shoulder-width apart, but with your feet up on an elevated surface. The higher you go, the more difficult it will be.(but also will add more shoulders into the exercise) It’s especially important to maintain an engaged core during this variation; you don’t want your back to slouch. This variation will make the push-up feel heavier and can help to engage your upper pecs more than the traditional exercise.
Unlike the decline push-ups, this variation is great for more beginner lifters who are having trouble doing traditional push-ups. You use your traditional grip, but with your hands placed on an elevated surface. The higher you go, the easier it will be. This is a great variation for beginners who are looking to work up to some of the more advanced variations on the list.
I love this variation. This is a traditional push-up, but with one addition. When you’re at the bottom of the exercise, pause for a second or two (or three if you’re feeling extra strong) before exploding back up. You can also add this element to almost any of the variations on the list for an added challenge.
This one is extra tough. To complete, stretch the negative (when you’re going towards the floor) out to a 5-10 second move. This one will really burn as you hold. Make sure to keep your core engaged because this exercise, like a plank, will also really help to strengthen your core.
Push-ups aren’t always dynamic enough if you’re looking to incorporate a little bit of cardio. After doing your traditional push-up, move one arm to the side (to get into a wide push-up position), do a wider push-up, return to a regular position, do a push-up, alternate to the other side (bring the other hand to a wider grip) and repeat.
This is a cool variation for isolating one side of the chest. To complete, get in a traditional position but with one hand on an elevated surface. This will put much more pressure/weight on the non-elevated hand, allowing you to really work each pec separately. You can use this exercise to build muscle if you’ve noticed any asymmetry, or just use it as a way to further isolate either pec.
Spiderman’s in pretty good shape, so any exercise with his name in it has got to be a great option. To complete, utilize a traditional push-up position, but as you lower your body, bring your knee up to your elbow. This will add a level of difficulty to the reps and will target your obliques.
It’s in the name. Treat this variation like a traditional push-up, but you should come up much more explosively. The goal is for your hands to lift off the floor at the peak of the repetition. If you’re feeling extra cool, you can even throw in a clap to make sure you’re off the ground.
For when close push-ups just aren’t close enough, there are always diamond push-ups. Disclaimer: these are super hard and not a good option for beginners. To complete, you should have your hands close together in a diamond shape. Then complete your push-up like you would with a regular grip. This variation activates the triceps in a big way and is one of the most difficult variations on the list, so only do it if you’re feeling comfortable with many of the other options.
This is also pretty self-explanatory. Like the diamond push-up, it’s one of the more difficult options on the list, so try it at your own risk. With one hand behind your back, center the other hand and do a push-up. That’s really all there is to it, but it’s difficult even for those with a seasoned chest routine.