Top 5 Push-up variants: Variety & progression in the push-ups

push-up variants

Push-ups are among the most popular bodyweight exercises at all. They are easy to perform yet highly efficient at building strength and muscle. In this blog post, we want to introduce you to the five top push-up variants. Regardless of whether you are a beginner or an advanced user, with these exercises, you will feel your way step by step, challenge your muscles appropriately, and, on top of that, set new stimuli for your progression.

What muscles are used in push-up exercises?

During the push-ups, your upper body and core (your core) are stressed.

  • Chest muscles (pectoralis major muscle)
  • Shoulders (deltoid muscle)
  • Triceps (triceps brachii muscle)
  • Serratus or sawtooth muscle (serratus anterior muscle)
  • Straight abdominal muscle (rectus abdominis muscle)

Push-ups: an exercise for all fitness levels

A considerable advantage of push-ups is that beginners can make progress quickly. You can quickly switch to the conventional variant with more practice and strength. In addition, even experienced exercisers can always push themselves to their limits.

Increased performance in the push-ups

As with any exercise, push-ups can have a habituation effect. What many refer to as a performance plateau can be prevented with alternative exercise versions. For this reason, we would now like to introduce you to our best push-up variants for beginners and advanced users. So, the progression succeeds at every level.

Top 5 push-ups for beginners and advanced users

To begin with, you can start with raised push-ups or push-ups on your knees to take the strain off your shoulders and arms.

Raised/inclined push-ups (e.g., push-ups on the box)

In this variant, an upright upper body performs push-ups. It makes the push-ups easier because there is less load on the arms and shoulder joints.


  • Level: Beginner
  • Load: low
  • Focused muscles: chest, arms (light), shoulders (light), core (light)

Kneeling Push-ups: Push-ups on your knees

This variant is also easier for most beginners. It is due to the shorter load arm. Performing on your knees will reduce the load on your arms and shoulders.


  • Level: Beginner
  • Load: low
  • Focused muscles: chest, arms (light), shoulders (light), core (light)

Push-up variants for more progression in training

Deficit push-ups

To perform deficit push-ups, place the hands on a pedestal. It increases the range of motion. An increased range of motion means for your body at the same time: more stress and a higher training stimulus.


  • Level: advanced
  • Load: medium
  • Focused muscles: chest (high), arms (medium), shoulders (medium), core (medium), serratus (high)

Weighted Push-ups: Push-ups with additional weight

Weighted means “with additional weight.” And more weight means a higher load. This way, you can increase the exercise stimulus and work in low repetitions to train strength and hypertrophy. You can use a resistance band as additional weight or place weight plates on your lower back.


  • Level: advanced
  • Load: medium to heavy (depending on weight)
  • Focused muscles: chest (high), arms (medium), shoulders (medium), core (medium), serratus (medium)

Push-ups on rings

Rings are an incredible way to take your bodyweight training to the next level. Push-ups on the rings create instability. Your body wants to counteract this instability. Intramuscular coordination is required, and more strength is necessary to balance the instability. In addition, the path will continue here as well. That means more work for your muscles!


  • Level: advanced to professional
  • Load: high
  • Focused muscles: chest (high), arms (medium), shoulders (medium), core (medium), serratus (high)

Push-ups with different grip widths

Different grip widths mean shifts in the loads during push-ups. It makes it very easy to direct the focus to other muscle groups.

The wider the distance between your hands, the greater the burden on your chest. The muscles on the back of the upper arm (triceps) and the front shoulder only have a subordinate effect.

Diamond push-ups

Diamond push-ups are a relatively demanding variant of push-ups. Due to the very close position of the hands and feet, the load is directed onto the triceps. The core also must work more actively to compensate for the instability. The name Diamond comes from the word for diamond and describes the palms’ shape when they are placed close together.

Push-ups with straight arms / extended push-ups

The push-ups with straight arms are also known as extended push-ups or superman push-ups (with the superman push-ups aiming for a jump at the end of the eccentric phase). In this variant, the arms are stretched overhead. The way to the floor is shorter, but the load on the shoulder and chest is very high.

Jump off push-ups

Jumped push-ups are an excellent way to get new momentum in your training. The extra effort you need to get your upper body and hands off the floor increases the effort. You also need more force to cushion the “impact.” But please forget about clapping.

Tips for advanced users

Like any other strength training exercise, push-ups can be broken into three main parts: the concentric, eccentric, and isometric parts-everything within one movement.

The concentric part is synonymous with contraction (in the case of push-ups, the downward movement). The eccentric portion is the extension of the muscle (the upward trend in push-ups). And during the isometric part, the muscle remains static in the position (the hold position).

  1. Make push-ups more difficult by increasing your concentration

By doing the concentric part of the push-ups more slowly, you increase the load. It makes the push-ups even more intense. In detail, you can: 1 second (dynamic) up, 3 seconds down

  • Push-ups in the pyramid:

If you want to intensify your push-ups training, we can recommend the pyramid or ladder. To do this, start with one repetition, without a break, then continue with two repetitions, then three, then four. Take a short break, and it goes down again—five repetitions, four, three, and so on.

  • Reduce the area with fingertip push-ups.

Fingertip push-ups have a smaller contact surface because you use your fingertips as support instead of the palm. However, fingertip push-ups are only recommended for those who want to ensure a high stress level.

Conclusion: Push-ups are just awesomeThe push-ups are not so famous for nothing. The exercise is so versatile that there are practically no limits to creativity. We hope that our tips have given you a little inspiration for your workouts. With this in mind: Keep pushing!