Yes, the gym has all sorts of complicated equipment that can help you on your fitness journey, but there is one exercise that needs absolutely none and which can truly help you transform your upper body – the push-up. Push-ups are versatile and completely free. You can do them anytime, anywhere, and all you need is you!
There are lots of different variations of the push-up – all as effective as each other in targeting your torso and helping to develop strength and tone. Read on to find out my top 10 types of push-up to transform your upper body.
Why You Shouldn’t Ignore The Push-Up
Push-ups are a compound movement. This means that they use multiple muscle groups/joints. They are different from isolation movements, such as bicep curls, that focus mostly on one muscle group. Compound movements should be an important part of your exercise routine for two reasons:
1. Because they utilize so many muscle groups, they increase your metabolic rate which will help you to burn more calories;
2. Because so many muscles are being torn and repaired, they can help to increase your overall muscle mass. Push-ups can also be considered a functional movement because they simulate getting up from a lying down position.
In general, push-ups target your arm muscles, chest, shoulders, triceps, biceps, back, and glutes. Different variations of push-ups, however, can target certain muscle groups more than others and can help take your workout regime to the next level.
Top 10 Types Of Push-Up To Transform Your Upper Body
Targets: Chest and shoulders
How to do it: Start in a high plank with hands flat on the floor and shoulder-width apart. Keep the body in one long line and bend arms to lower to the floor (until arms are bent at a 90-degree angle). Push back up to plank.
2. Hand release
Targets: Pecs and upper back
How to do it: Start in a high plank with hands flat on the floor – slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep the body in one long line and lower to the floor, keeping your elbows close to your body. Once your chest is on the floor, raise your hands and arms (your shoulder blades should squeeze together). Place your hands back in their original position and push back up to plank.
Targets: Chest and upper back
How to do it: Start in a high plank with hands flat on the floor and shoulder-width apart. Lower yourself to the floor but just before your chest reaches the floor, push your body back up with enough force that you can clap your hands beneath your chest. Put your hands back into the starting position and repeat.
How to do it: Start in a high plank with your hands flat on the floor, slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart. Keep the body in one long line with core and glutes engaged and elbows kept close to the body as you lower yourself to the floor. Push back up to the starting position and repeat.
5. Wide arm
How to do it: Start in a high plank with hands flat on the floor – slightly wider apart than the shoulders. Keep the body in one long line with core and glutes engaged and lower your body to the floor. Push back up to the starting position and repeat.
Targets: Abs, triceps, upper back, lower back, chest, shoulders, glutes, hamstrings
How to do it: Start in a high plank with hands flat on the floor and shoulder-width apart. Keep the body in one long line with core and glutes engaged and elbows close to the body and lower yourself towards the floor. As you start to lower, bend the left leg and draw the knee towards your left elbow (don’t let your leg touch the floor). Keep lowering your chest towards the floor until it’s almost touching before pushing back up and at the same time straightening your left leg and placing your left foot back on the floor next to the right one. Repeat with the right leg
Targets: Shoulders, pecs, upper back
How to do it: Start in a high plank ensuring your right hand is positioned directly underneath your right shoulder and extend your left hand out to the side. Keep your body in one long line, with core and glutes engaged and elbow tucked into your body, and lower yourself to the floor. Push back up to starting position and repeat on the other side.
Targets: Chest and shoulders
How to do it: Start in a high plank and place your hands on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Lift up your hips so that your body makes an upside-down “V” shape (keep arms and legs straight) and then bend your elbows to lower your upper body towards the floor until you can nearly touch it with your head. Push back up to the “V” shape.
Targets: Chest and abs
How to do it: Start in a high plank with hands placed on the floor – shoulder-width apart. Keeping your feet together, start lowering your body to the floor. As you begin lowering, lift your left leg off the floor, rotate at the hip, and thread your foot underneath the body so that it extends out to the right (keep your left leg off the floor). Keep lowering to the ground until you can’t go any further and then push back up to the starting position. Repeat on the other side
10. One arm
Targets: Shoulders, pecs, upper back
How to do it: Start in a high plank with hands placed on the floor – shoulder-width apart. Pick up your left hand and rest it in the small of your back. Now, keeping your body in-line, and core and glutes engaged, lower yourself to the floor. Push back up to the starting position and repeat using the other arm.
Using Proper Form
One thing that should never be forgotten with push-ups is how important it is to maintain proper form. This is both to make sure that you are getting the most of the exercise and to prevent injury.
1. Always keep your body in one long line, with the hips lifted. If you let them sag, you could end up damaging your lower back.
2. Engage your core. Making sure that your core is engaged the entire time you are doing your push-ups will make sure that you are getting the most out of the exercise. Remember that push-ups are a compound exercise.
3. Keep your hands in the proper position (depending on the type of push-up). Keep your wrists facing forwards, and don’t point them in or out as this could cause wrist or shoulder pain.
4. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Don’t hollow out your back as this will make the push-ups harder to perform and could cause front shoulder problems.
5. Keep your neck neutral. Don’t let your head drop too far down and don’t raise it up.
6. Use your breath. Inhale on the way down and exhale on the way back up.
Fancy Making Your Push-Ups Harder?
If you want to push yourself even further (no pun intended!), there are a few ways that you can make push-ups even harder:
1. Place weights on your back or wear a weighted vest. The push-up is usually a bodyweight movement, but adding some more weight on top of your own will make your muscles work that bit harder. Using a weighted vest is easier if you can get hold of one and is easier than balancing weights on your back.
2. Do it on a decline. Place your feet on a bench, sofa, or chair and your hands on the floor. This increases the amount of weight placed on your upper body and will make those muscles work harder.
3. Slow the pace of the reps down. This will keep your muscles engaged and working for longer.
The Final Word
As you’ll be using your whole body due to the compound nature of the exercises, you’ll also be increasing your heart rate and burning more calories in the process. Mixing up your workouts and alternating between free weights and bodyweight exercises such as the push-up is a great way to help increase strength, stamina and endurance. If you’ve time, read my article on bodyweight vs free weight exercises and how I think combining the two could help you achieve a really well-rounded, strong and flexible physique.
What do you think to these exercises, will you give them a go? Perhaps you have some other push-up variations you think are really effective but aren’t mentioned here, if so share them by commenting below!