Top 11 Push-up Variations To Try

runner doing pushups

As a runner, push-ups are not the first thing that comes to your mind when it comes to improving your running performance.

But, by the end of this post, I hope you will change your mind and start adding this awesome exercise to your strength workouts.

Why Strength Matters for Runners

Push-ups, thank God, are some of the best and most efficient exercises you can do to increase strength and endurance in your upper body.

If your upper body is not up to the task, then you will tend to slouch and lose form faster than you want.

That’s why I’m writing an in-depth piece on the many variations of the push-ups.

Hopefully, after reading this whole post, you will have a great wide range of push-ups to choose from, and the willingness to start doing them on a regular basis.

The Benefits of Push-ups For Runners

Here are the three main reasons why you need the push-up:

  1. Push-ups are key for building strength and endurance in the upper body and the core. They also improve spinal stability.
  2. Push-ups are the type of upper body exercise that you can crank out almost anywhere—even in your own bedroom. Push-ups require no equipment (except for your bodyweight of course).
  3. With the many incarnations of the standard push-up, you can target a while range of muscles, including your chest, core, shoulder, back, triceps and more.

The Top 11 Push-up Variations You Need to Know About

Why I’m adding all these variations here?

Well, the classic push-up might be just what the doctor ordered, but if you keep doing it, over and over again, it quickly loses its challenge and becomes a real bore.

Plus, the variations will also help you hit other muscle groups in different ways, which is always a good thing.

In addition, variety is the spice of life, and when it comes to push-ups, this is no exception.

As result, if you are serious about taking your push-ups to the next level, check out these 11 variations.

runner doing Push-up Variations

1. The Standard Push-up

The starting position

Start off by laying down on all fours with your arms positionned at a slightly wider position than your shoulders.

The up and down motion

On the inhale, bend your elbow and lower your body to the ground.

Lower your body until your chest is touching or almost touching the floor.

On the exhale, push away from the ground until you have fully extended your arms.

Your elbows

Don’t let your elbows move past your wrists, either out to the side or behind the wrist.

Instead, do your best to keep your elbows above your wrists the entire time.

The elbows should form a 90-degree angle.

Don’t slouch nor sag

This is a common mistake.

Slouching the hips downward and/or pushing them upwards are some of the tricks people use to the push-up less challenging.

Make sure your body is forming a straight line from head to toe, and do your best to keep it straight the entire time.

In other words, keep your hips in line with your torso the entire time, please.

Your head

Keep your head in a neutral position.

If you jut your knee toward the floor, you will be increasing the risks of injury as well as undermining the push-up.

The modified version (for beginners)

If the standard push-up is too much for you, then you can always do the modified version where you rest on your knees instead of your toes.

You can also perform this variation when you are really tired and can’t crank out a push-up with good form.

2. Walking Pushup


The walking push-up is great for working on your shoulders strength and stability and toning the core.

Proper Form

Get into a standard pushup position on, preferably, a soft floor, and place your feet on a towel or a sliding disc.

Next, while keeping your back straight and upper body steady, walk with your hands across the room, then walk back to back to starting position.

3. Plyometric Pushups


This variation builds explosive strength and coordination—ideal for improving speed and endurance.

Proper Form

Assume a standard pushup position on a well-padded carpet or exercise mat.

Next, perform a push-up, but explode up with enough force for your hands to come off the floor and clap midair.

As soon you hit the floor, go immediately into the next push-up, exploding up again as hard as possible with good form.

4. Resistance Band Push-ups


This variation will put your muscles under tension throughout the exercise, even during the relaxation phase—when your lower down to the floor—making the push-ups more difficult.

Proper Form

Grab a resistance band and wrap it around your upper back and under your hands.

Next, start performing the standard push-up in a controlled and slow manner.

5. Diamond Push-ups


If you are looking to target your biceps more than your chest, then the diamond variation will come in handy.

This one hits the triceps much more heavily than a traditional push-up.

Proper Form

Get into a standard push-up position but this time place your hands close together, thumbs and index fingers touching to form a shape of a diamond.

Make sure your hands are below the center of the chest.

That’s your starting position.

Next, starting performing push-ups by lowering your chest down to your hands, then pressing up to starting position while keeping the diamond shape intact.

6. Decline BOSU Ball Push-ups


This variation requires a lot of balance, thereby you will need to engage your stabilizer muscles the entire time.

Plus, they also build strength and stability in the shoulders.

Proper Form

Assume a standard push-up position with your feet elevated on a box or a bench and both hands on the BOSU ball.

Next, perform a push-up, touching your chest to the BOSU ball, then press back up, and repeat

7. Dumbbell Push-ups with Row


This is a compound exercise that incorporates a pushing exercise and a pulling exercise.

Therefore, this variation is one of the best exercise you can do to strengthen your upper body in the shortest time possible.

Proper Form

Assume a standard push-up position with both hand in a neutral grip on dumbbells and feet shoulder-width apart for balance.

Next, while keeping your back flat and core engaged, perform as push-up, pause, then row the dumbbell in your right hand to the side of the chest, bending your arms as you pull it upward, pause for second, then lower the dumbbell back down, and switch sides.

Do this movement in a slow and controlled manner, please.

runner doing pushups

Image Credit – Only Atoms via Flickr

8. Outside Leg Kick Push-up


This variation will not only help you build strength and endurance in your shoulder and chest, it will also increase strength and flexibility in your hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors.

It’s also a great core toner.

Proper Form

Get into a standard push-up position.

Next, lower your chest down, then at the bottom of the push-up, kick your right leg out to the side as close to a 90-degree angle as possible while keeping the knee straight, pause for second, then move your leg back to the starting position, and switch sides to complete one rep.

9. Dive Bomber Push-ups


This variation targets almost every muscle in your body and it’s a great cardio exercise.

Plus, dive bombers are also great for increasing flexibility mobility in the hamstrings, back, and shoulders.

Proper Form

Begin this variation with hands shoulder-width apart, feet spread wide and hips raised toward the ceiling.

Make sure your body is forming an inverted “V” shape.

That’s the starting position.

Next, bend your arms, drop your head down, then slowly slide your head toward the ground, and glide your chest forward, brining it between your hands and up toward the ceiling.

Make sure to drive your head upward until your arms are straight.

Pause for a moment, then reverse the full movement you are back in the starting position.

10. The Three Medicine Balls Push-up


This variation is ideal for building strength in the shoulders, back and core as you fight your way to keep your balance.

It’s also ideal for improving stability, body awareness, and control.

Proper Form

First of all, get three medicine balls and position them around your body.

Next, balance your back feet on one, then place your palms on the other two, and start performing the push-ups.

Make sure to engage your core and squeeze your inner thighs together to keep your balance.

This is a hard one so aim for at least 8 push-ups with good form.

If you can do more, then be my guest.

11. Handstand Push-ups


This is one the hardest and most challenging bodyweight exercises there is, and that’s why it’s a must move in the CrossFit world.

The handstand push-ups increases shoulder strength, mobility and stabilization.

Proper Form

With your back to awall, bend at the waist and place both of your hands about 8 to 12 inches away from the wall at shoulder width.

Next, kick your legs up into a handstand position against the wall with arms firm, back flat and core activated.

To perform the push-up, lower down to the floor until the top of your head almost touches the floor (If you can’t make it that far then feel free to go half-way).

Pause for a moment, then push back up slowly until your elbows reach full extension. That’s one rep.

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Hopefully you loved the above 11 push-up variations. Now make sure to take action and do them regularly. There is nothing to it but to do it.

In the meantime thank you for reading my post.

Feel free to leave your comments and questions below.

David Dack.

Featured Image Credit – Urban Shake via Flickr



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