Mastering your bodyweight also means to master push ups. This exercise comes in countless variations and is a foundational movement that everybody should not only learn but master. Here we show you 22 most important push up variations ranked, from beginner to expert. We’ll explain you in detail which variation offers the best benefit for your current level and goal.
What you will learn in this article:
Push Up Variations – Very Easy
Wall Push Ups
This exercise is perfect for absolute beginners, overweight or elderly people with a low level of physical fitness. The wall push up is the easiest of all push up variations because the angle reduces the amount of body weight you are lifting. If you are able to do a lot of them with ease you can move on to the next variations on level 1.
Incline Push Ups
Incline push ups are similar to wall push ups because you also modify the angle at which you are pushing yourself up and down. The big benefit of incline push ups is that you can change the angle from almost vertical to nearly horizontal and with that adjust the basic push up movement to your individual level.
Knee Push Up
The next beginner variation is the knee push up. Here you also reduce the amount of body weight you are moving by simply shortening the lever.
Negative Push Up
Another beginner variation is the negative push up. Here you only work with the negative part because it’s way easier to let yourself down than to push yourself up. Now we continue with level 2 and here we start with regular push ups. If need help and are looking for workout plans for beginners, check out our training programs!
Push Up Variations – Easy
Regular Push Up
This should be your main goal as a beginner. To be able to move your bodyweight up and down for a couple of reps is a clear sign of proper physical strength and body control.
Diamond Push Up
A little bit harder are diamond push ups. This variation has a strong focus on your triceps but also works your shoulders and chest. Here you try to push more from your elbows instead of focusing on the range of motion of your shoulders and shoulderblades.
Push Up Variations – Medium
Decline Push Up
This variation is harder than the regular ones because you change the angle more towards an overhead position. This emphasizes the upper part of your chest and your shoulders. We strongly recommend doing this exercises on push up handles, parallettes or any kind of object that allows you to do this movement with full range of motion and proper body tension.
Ring Push Up
The ring push up is very good to add an additional stability component. It’s also one of the best variations to modify the standard push up because the rings allow you to move your arms freely in any direction. This can be a great benefit in terms of shoulder health and muscle activation. With the rings you are not only able to bend and extend your arms but also to abduct, adduct and rotate them.
Spiderman Push Up
This exercise emphasizes your obliques more than the regular push up. When you go down you rotate your torso a little bit, so that the side which is closer to the ground has a slightly increased range of motion.
Knee to Elbow Push Up
This Push up variation emphasizes your complete abdominal muscles. It is similar to the spiderman push up but here you move the knee towards the opposite elbow. As in the spiderman push up you have to rotate your torso a little bit. Again the side which is closer to the ground has a slightly increased range of motion and more work to do.
Sphinx Push Up
This push up eliminates the shoulder movement completely and focuses on elbow flexion and extension. This makes the sphinx push up much harder than the regular one because you mainly work your triceps and got nearly no shoulder or chest support. To make this exercise even harder you can change the placement of your elbows or do it on an object to increase the range of motion.
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Push Up Variations – Hard
Now we move on to level 4 of these push up variations from beginner to expert. At this point you can call yourself an expert. The exercises on this level require a lot of strength and body control.
Archer Push Up
Here you shift your weight more to one side and extend the arm of the opposite side. This variation is not easy because the extended arm can produce way less force than the bent one. So it’s a precursor of the one arm push up.
Clapping Push Up
This exercise requires a lot of explosive strength and we only recommend to do it if you are able to maintain proper joint stability and muscle tension. If you just started with explosive push up training we suggest to master the hand release push up first, because it allows you to work with different progressions on your way to more explosiveness.
Pike Push Up
The pike push up has a very strong focus on your shoulders because you push yourself up and down in a more vertical than horizontal line. Always try to move your shoulders in front of your wrists and keep the right angle when you push yourself up and down. To make it even harder you can increase the range of motion by doing this variation on parallel bars. It’s the same principle we explained for decline push ups.
Planche Lean Push Up
Another more shoulder focused variation is the planche lean push up also known as the Pseudo Planche Push Up. The more you walk forward the more your shoulder moves in front of your wrist and the more your shoulder has to work, which makes this exercise harder.
Handstand Push Up
This is also a shoulder focused variation. The handstand push up works similar to the pike push up but is harder because your feet are placed on the wall. We highly recommend doing the handstand push up with the belly facing the wall because it allows you to do this movement with a straight spine and the right shoulder alignment.
Tucked Planche Push Up
The last shoulder focused variation on this level is the tucked planche push up. It works similar to the planche lean push up but without feet support on the ground. Here it’s very important to extend the arms at the top and always maintain a horizontal position of your upper body.
Push Up Variations – Very Hard
Our push up variations, from beginner to expert, are now moving to a higher level. Now it’s time for the master variations. All exercises on this level require exceptional strength and coordination.
One Arm Push Up
Maybe you think this exercise could also be ranked on level 4 but done right it’s hard as hell. The goal is to keep your upper body in a horizontal line and don’t twist or rotate your body. The one arm push up not only requires a lot of shoulder, chest and triceps strength you also need a significant amount of abdominal strength to stabilize your body.
Free Handstand Push Up
Here you not only need the strength to push your complete bodyweight up and down in an overhead position you also need a lot of coordination to not lose the balance. As in the pike and wall handstand push up you can make this exercise even harder by doing it on parallettes or parallel bars.
Tigerbend Push Up
The tigerbend push up is very similar to the handstand push up but requires even more coordination and body control because you switch between the bent arm handstand and the forearm stand in every rep.
90 Degree Push Up
This combines the free handstand push up with the bent arm planche. So you already need to be able to do a couple of free handstand push ups before you can even try this master push up variation. A good way to learn it is by starting with feet assisted 90° push ups in addition to the free handstand push up and bent arm planche training.
Planche Push Up
The last of our variations, for the ranking beginner to expert, is the planche push up. Here you not only got no feet support on the ground you also need an extreme lean to stay in balance.
Ok guys these were the 22 most important push up exercises ranked from beginner to master. Please keep in mind that the exercises are ranked based on all factors that influence the difficulty. Besides from the levels we also ranked the exercises in the levels itself. So the first exercises we show in each level are the easiest ones and the exercises we show at the end of a level are the hardest ones.
Please don’t forget that all push up exercises mainly train muscles like your chest, triceps, shoulders and abs. So If you want a complete workout guide that trains all muscles of your body check our Workout Programs.
Watch the push up variations – beginner to expert – in action
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