Updated: Sep 30, 2022
When it comes to training at home, equipment is often quite limited.
We're often stuck to using just our own bodyweight, or a very limited supply of resistance options such as a couple of light dumbbells or a resistance band.
And when it comes to chest training, the push up will be the most commonly performed exercise at home. It's basic, effective and traditional.
But for the advanced trainees out there who can do sets of 30+ without too much effort, the push up becomes more of an endurance exercise than it is a strength and muscle building exercise.
Luckily there are tougher variations we can do, to maximize the gains we're making at home specific to our goals.
Whether you're more advanced and need a new stimulus or are just looking to try something new and shake it up a bit, here are the best push up variations you can do at home.
Exercises Ordered in Ascending Difficulty
Decline Push Ups
Video by ScottHermanFitness
These will work your upper chest more, as you're elevating the feet and changing the angle that you press at.
This push up variation is inherently more difficult than a regular push up, just like how you are able to press less weight on an incline bench press than you can on a flat bench press.
For anybody training with their bodyweight at home, we'd definitely recommend doing these if you can, no matter your fitness level.
This is because developing the upper chest helps create a fuller looking chest in general, and we recommend doing at least two sets of decline push ups every time you do a chest workout at home.
Negative Explosive Push Ups
These will help provide you with a new stimulus, and they're performed by going quite slow on the eccentric (lowering) portion of a regular push up, and pressing back up as hard as possible, with the intent of getting your hands high off the floor.
This is more of a power exercise, and will really help shake things up a bit.
This push up variation is not only providing you with a new training style, but it will also help you build up some explosive strength to do cooler exercises in the future, such as back clap or superman push ups!
Check out Jonathan Noreña's awesome demonstration below to see what this looks like!
Pike Push Ups
Video by Jake Gay
Pike push ups are done with highly elevated feet, placed closer towards the center of your body.
They target the shoulders the most, with a little bit of upper chest activation. It's a similar pressing movement to the barbell overhead press, where you're pressing the weight up and above your head.
Well technically, in this case you're pressing below your head. Pike push ups are one of the best bodyweight shoulder exercises you can do, and will help you build up the strength to eventually do handstand push ups if you train for long enough.
Like the decline push ups, we'd recommend incorporating these into your program regardless of your fitness level, as they're a great overall exercise to help round out the front side of your upper body.
Archer Push Ups
Video by Victory Calisthenics
Archer push ups are the next step towards a single arm push up, which we know many trainees out there dream of being able to show off.
They're done by taking a wide hand position, with fingers turned out to the side.
You'll lower yourself down to one side, keeping your other arm as straight as possible. Then, you'll press yourself up on that on side, and do the same on the other side.
This movement requires a lot more strength in the chest, shoulders and triceps than the regular push up, and is a great alternative if you're a more advanced individual and are looking to keep focusing on strength and muscle gain instead of building muscular endurance.
Typewriter Push Ups
This push up variation is quite similar to the archer push up we talked about above. Essentially, you're doing the same movement, but sliding yourself from one side to the other instead of pressing yourself up.
You'll feel the majority of the tension shifting from one pec to the other, with the pecs working hard the entire time to keep holding you in that slightly elevated position.
This is a great exercise to use if you're looking to shake things up, as it'll help provide a new challenge on your muscles, and prevent the workouts from getting too boring as well.
Check out Victory Calisthenics' awesome video demonstration again below to see what this looks like!
Pseudo Planche Push Ups
Video by FitnessFAQs
These are actually quite similar to regular push ups, except you'll be pressing more of your bodyweight.
The pseudo planche push up is done by placing the hands closer to your hips, with the exercise becoming harder and harder the further back you place your hands.
You also lean forwards a little on the toes, as that places more weight onto the chest, shoulders and triceps.
While this exercise can be extremely difficult, it can also be easily progressed up to a point by simply starting with your hands closer to normal push up placement, and gradually bringing them back.
One Arm Push Ups
This is the next step up from archer push ups, as you'll receive no assistance from the other side when you perform this exercise.
It requires a ton of chest, shoulder and tricep strength, but also a lot of oblique and ab strength to keep stable.
The feet are usually placed wider apart to assist with balance, and the non-working arm is placed behind your back.
This is probably the furthest most trainees will ever be able to perform, as the ones following this are extremely, extremely difficult and will likely require years of calisthenics training experience to be able to perform with good technique.
Check out Kinobody's epic video below to see how it's done!
Handstand Push Ups
This is an extremely advanced push up variation.
The ability to press one's bodyweight overhead is quite impressive, and not a feat that the average lifter or trainee will be able to do.
With the handstand push up, not only are you doing practically that, but you're also fighting against gravity to keep yourself balanced at the same time.
This is the next progression from a pike push up, and will really test your bodyweight control.
To perform it, get yourself into a handstand (you can do these against the wall to start with), and press yourself up and down, with the bottom of the movement ending right before your head hits the ground.
This is a great exercise to build shoulder strength, and is definitely a great addition to your home workout program fi you can perform them safely.
Check out Noa Man WORKOUT's video below to see what this looks like!
Full/Straddle Planche Push Ups
Video by Austin Dunham
These are the next step up from pseudo planche push ups, and along with the handstand push up are amazing feats of bodyweight strength that would impress the majority of the population.
Planche push ups can be done on the ground or on a pair of parallettes, and essentially you're performing a push up with your feet floating above the ground.
So you're pressing your entire bodyweight with your chest, shoulders and triceps, and also holding the weight of your legs steady for quite a while with your abs.
This exercise requires an insane amount of strength across the body, and is definitely a great variation of the push up to keep making strength and muscle gains at home if you can do these.
A full planche means having your legs straight and together like they would be in a normal push up on the ground. A straddle planche means having your legs spread out and possibly a little bent to help assist with balancing and holding yourself in that tough position. Straddle planches are an easier version of the full planche push up.
90 Degree Push Ups
These are probably the hardest bodyweight pushing exercise you can do, and they involve you starting out at a handstand on a pair of parallettes or just on the ground, and lowering yourself down to a flat bent arm planche, before pressing yourself back up into a handstand.
All the while having to keep your body in a perfect straight line, using your abs. It requires immense strength in both the handstand and planche position, and will likely take you years and years to fully master.
It's probably one of the coolest party tricks out there, and is sure to not only impress, but help build further strength and muscle in your chest, shoulders, triceps and abs.
Check out the awesome video below to see a demonstration by Simonster Strength!
You're not just limited or stuck to the basic push ups that we all learn at as kids when you're training at home or with just your bodyweight.
Whether you're more advanced and need more out of your push ups or are still learning the movements and building up your basic strength, there are variations that you can do to keep progressing quickly.
You just have to know what they are!
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