10 Most Effective Push-Up Variations to Boost Muscle Strength

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Now there are literally 50-100 different styles and variations to a regular push up. And for the calisthenics or body weight training , it might get a little mind-numbing to select the effective ones for the right intensity. But don’t worry, we got you covered.

These are tested and handpicked variations for training your pushing strength. This list especially emphasises to train arms at each angle.

So, here are the 10 most effective push ups variations you can do anywhere, anytime, regardless how busy you are. (Literally no excuse)

1. Regular Push-Ups

Effectiveness and benefits:

  • This is rather obvious. The regular push-up is literally the fundamental to all pushing exercises. It is one of the 6 core fundamentals of whole calisthenics
  • This movement contracts and engages your chest, triceps, shoulders and core significantly. By mastering the regular push-up, you are going to be able to learn the accurate form. It is the first exercise you need to perfect, to be able to move on to all the other advanced variations.

How to do:

  1. Position your hands shoulder width apart or a little wider.
  2. Bend your elbows and lower down until your chest almost or touches the ground.
  3. Press back up and repeat the movement to complete the required reps.

2. Archer Push-Ups

Effectiveness and benefits:

  • Archer Push-up especially emphasises on strengthening each arm separately. As you push your body with single arm majorly, this works effectively for significant gains.
  • This variation is great when you’ve developed a substantial amount of strength in both arms, and you want to raise the level. If so, you can start doing the push-ups with one arm.
  • Each rep requires a lot more control and more muscle fibre engagement. Also by mastering this push up, you can get closer to more advanced moves such as “One Arm Push Ups”. An excellent variation for strengthening your pushing strength. It also stretches your chest from inner side to outer side effectively.

A little harder to master, but will definitely bring that strength to your arms.

How to do:

  1. Place your hands wide apart in a push-up position.
    Thumbs facing forward and fingers to the side, to avoid any wrist injury.
  2. Now bend your elbows and lower down to one side with chest touching (or close to) the hand, while stretching the other hand out straight.
  3. Push back up and do the same on the other side.

3. Diamond Push-Ups

Effectiveness and benefits:

  • Diamond Push-ups are one of the most known and well recognized variations. Applying the close hand placement instead of shoulder width makes it a lot harder than normal push- ups, but also making it a lot more effective.
  • Having your hands placed in the diamond position tends to increase the engagement of your triceps to inner chest.

The classic, an evergreen one at that. You need to be doing this to enhance that overall body control.

How to do:

  1. Get down in the push-up position and place your hands close to each other, forming a triangle/diamond with fingers.
  2. Bend elbows, lower down and push back up.

4. Typewriter Push-Ups

Effectiveness and benefits:

  • The key factor of this variation, is that you are constantly engaging the various muscle fibres involved. This exercise strengthens each arm separately.
  • This movement involves application of constant load throughout the arm and chest, during the entire repetitions, as there’s no rest point.
  • You’re going to need a lot of control to be able to do this exercise, making it a lot more harder but, at the same time, a lot more effective.
  • You’re isolating each component of chest as you’re applying more weight while going through each side, therefore developing your triceps and chests individually.

Possibly the choice for many of you, we don’t want to waste your precious time, do we?

How to do:

  1. Start just like the archer push-up, with hands placed wide apart.
  2. Thumb pointing forward and fingers spread to the side.
  3. Come down on one side.
  4. Now, Instead of coming back up vertical to the initial position, stay low and push to the other side horizontally while stretching your other arm straight. This will be your rep.
  5. Repeat the same and keep exchange sides without going back up to complete the set.
  6. You can adjust the wrists to your favourable position, as you switch sides (if required).

Note: The hand/finger placement is not absolute and you can adjust it to your preference to an extent. We don’t want that wrist to injure now, do we?

5. Explosive/Explosive Negative Push-Ups

Effectiveness and benefits of Explosive Push-Ups

  • It works on your chest, shoulders and triceps majorly, but also requires engagement of other muscle groups as well to add on.
  • The explosive push-up variation is especially effective for strengthening “fast-twitch muscle fibers”
  • Looking out to increase your punching power? This is the exercise that you should apply. This exercise increases your explosive punching strength ten folds.
  • Every rep performed in this extreme condition counts as a double.

This move is the starting progression of more advanced moves such as “Front and back clap Push-ups” and “Superman Push-ups”.

How to do:

  1. Assume a push-up position with hands slightly wider than shoulder width.
  2. Bend down with chest almost/or touching the floor.
  3. Press yourself up explosively, so that your hands leave the floor.
  4. Land back on the floor and repeat.

Really great for building big powerful punches. Can’t get any better, can it? Trust me, it does. 

If it is still not hard enough for you, try Explosive Negatives Push-Ups. 

Well, the explosive variation can be coupled with other variations to further add up the intensity. Thus having further several types, like wide group explosive, staggered explosives to mention few.
Out of all these, I’ve found the explosive negatives to be the most effective. This variation is the combination of Explosive and Slow Motion Push-ups, thus working your pecs, shoulders and arms even more.

Effectiveness and benefits:

  • A trump card for developing that explosive pushing strength.
  • Demands a complete 100 % each rep.
  • Contracts the muscles for a longer period of time, especially emphasizing on fast and slow twitch muscle fibres.
  • Requires even more control per rep and making it a lot more harder but a lot more effective than regular explosive push-ups.

How to do:

  1. Start at regular push-up position.
  2. Bend down in a slow speed, as you would do in the slow motion push-ups.
  3. As you reach the bottom, press explosively just like you would do for explosives.
  4. Land back on the floor and descend slowly. Repeat to do the reps.

Disclaimer: Violence ain’t cool, only use those punches for self defense.

6. Elevated Push-Ups

  • Performing the push-ups in elevation allows you to put more weight onto the pushing movement making it a great exercise to increase the intensity.
  • Emphasizes on your upper chest to develop your upper pecs.
  • Also with the elevated angle of the feet, you can have a greater range of motion allowing this to be way more effective than your regular push-ups.
  • Pushing in an elevated position is going to allow you to build strength for advanced moves such as “Handstand press, Handstand Push-ups, and 90* Push-ups”.

How to do:

  1. Start in a regular push-position.
  2. Elevate your feet on a higher surface.
  3. Bend the arms and lower down till chin/chest almost touching the floor.
  4. Come back up at starting position and repeat.

Sweet, we’re cooking those arms. Keep reading.

7. Pseudo Push-Ups

Effectiveness and benefits:

  • Executing push-ups with your hands placed closer to the waistline puts a lot more of your body weight on your arms. This raises the intensity 10 folds.
  • To be able to even hold the push-up stance, you are going to have to put an extra effort to keep the balance and control. This requires you to significantly engage your core muscles, to keep you from falling forward.
  • Also engages your glutes, to be able to hold the perfect form in order to carry out the movement.
  • Mastering Pseudo Push-ups with your hands placed all the way down to your waistline is going to train your strength for more advanced moves, such as Full Planche Push-ups.
  • Frankly speaking, this exercise develops your “Super Human Strength”.
  • Closer you get to the waistline, less you leverage the ground, more intense it gets, making this even more effective, and perhaps one of the best one in this list.

How to do:

  1. Instead of placing your hands in normal push-up position below your chest, place your hands down close to your waistline.
  2. Place your thumb facing forward and finger spread to the sides.
  3. Bend down while leaning forward a bit in control, keeping your hips straight aligned with your torso and legs.
  4. Come back up and repeat to complete the set.

For those desiring that superpower since childhood. This is a must for super strength.

8. Slow Motion Push Ups 

Effectiveness and benefits:

  • Having good control throughout the range of motion is going to increase your pushing power drastically.
  • Performing this exercise also covers all your weak points, throughout the movement allowing you to actually master the push-ups.
  • As we all know, doing the exercise perfect, and doing it slow is the key for building strength.
  • Not going to lie, because of the intensity level, this is one of the hardest to crank up at higher sets than any other in the list.
  • So this variation really emphasises to improve your overall strength making it really effective.

How to do:

  1. Start at a regular push-up position.
  2. Now, bend down as slow as you can keeping the control throughout the motion until you reach the bottom.
  3. Similarly, push back slow all the way to the top.
  4. Repeat to perform the reps.

A superpower can’t come without super control over it, now can it? Gotta build this one spec for that.

9. Pike Push-Ups Elevated


Effectiveness and benefits:

  • Elevated Pike push-ups drastically build your shoulder strength and stability.
  • It also promotes in developing super-human strength.
  • Pike Push-up is a great exercise for developing complete upper body strength, as it works on shoulders, arms, chest, back and core.
  • This variation is one of the major progressions for advanced movements including “Handstand Press, Handstand Push-ups, 90* Push-ups”.

How to do:

  1. Start in an elevated push-up position.
  2. Lift your hips up as high as possible, making an inverted V shape.
  3. Keep your legs flat, your legs and arms should stay as straight as possible.
  4. Bend the elbows and lower the body, until your head nearly touches the floor.
  5. Hold for 1-3 seconds in that position and push back up.

Bigger the shoulders are, the bigger the arms look. Strength is priority, but aesthetics isn’t completely undesired, is it? 

10. Fingertips Push-ups

Effectiveness and benefits:

  • This variation puts less strain on joints, reducing the possibility of wrist damage.
  • This push-up also demands considerably more core engagement, thus working your abs too.
  • The movement also strengthens your grip and forearms.

 Also this movement requires more overall engagement of arm and promotes better constriction of respective muscle groups.

How to do:

  1. Hold the push-up position on fingertips.
  2. The position of fingertips is critical for this movement. If done incorrectly, can lead to serious injuries and severe pain.
  3. Place your pinky and thumb at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock respectively.
  4. Keep your fingers bent in claw shape.

After placing your fingertips correctly, bend down and press up to do the regular movement.

So, there you go, you have the most effective push-up variations to optimize your workout routine.

Author Bio: 

Jatin Thakur is a freelance health and fitness specialized copywriter and himself is an aggressive hardcore experimentor for self improvement. He is obsessed with learning and improving himself everyday as much as he can. Contact him at: jatinth689@gmail.com.