Improve The Move! Power Up Your Push-Ups with 15 Variations

By Nicole Glor of NikkiFitness

I’ve written about improving your push-up power for beginners, and about my 100 push-up boot camp, but what if you want to break the mold and try some new tricks for the pecs? In honor of my intense Slimnastics workout book coming out this June, I wanted to share with you my favorite variations on the amazing arm toner move we all love (and love to hate).

1-Old Fashioned: the traditional move with arms wider than shoulder distance, so that when you lower, your elbows stack over the wrists

2-Traveling Push-Up: do the old fashioned, but after the first one, come back to plank, and cross the right hand over the left and then open the left up so that you have traveled a few feet to the left. Do a push-up here. Then cross the hands again and push-up at center. Cross again farther to the right and do a push-up, then cross the hands and push-up in the center. Repeat to the left, center, right and center.

3-Triceps Push-Up: same as the old fashioned, but put the hands much closer lined up under the shoulders and hug your elbows to your rips as you lower down. This will work the triceps and shoulders more.

4-Alternating Push-up:

5-Push-up Row: do a push-up with your hands on two heavy weights. At the top of the move, when at plank, lift the right weight off the floor and raise the right elbow to the sky (a row). Put the weight down and repeat on the left, then perform another push-up and repeat.

6-Side Step Push-Up: get into plank with your right hand on top of a step or a block. Do 20-30 push-ups here, then repeat with the other hand on the higher surface.

7-Spiderman Push-up: do a push-up but on the way down, pull your right knee toward your right shoulder (same side). Press back up and repeat on the left. This also works the obliques.

8- Knee Twist Push-up: Working the other set of obliques, you do a push-up and then twist your right knee toward the opposite (left) elbow. Push-up and repeat with the left knee toward the right elbow.

9-Diamond Push-up: put your hands together under your heart to form the shape of a diamond. These are hard as diamonds!

10- Push-Up Side Plank: do a push-up, then a side plank, balancing on your right hand, then push-up and plank on the left. Repeat.

11- Push-Up with Glute Raise: do a push-up balanced on the right toe, with the left leg lifted (keeping the knee straight) and pulse it once at the top of the move. Switch to balance on the left toe, do a push-up then pulse up the right leg up.

12-Incline Push-Up: do an old fashioned with your upper body elevated on a step, bench or stability ball.

13-Decline Push-Up: do an old fashioned with your legs elevated on a bench or a stability ball.

14-Down Dog Push-Up: Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder width in plank. Lift your hips up to the sky so your body forms and inverted V (like the yoga pose) with head between the elbows and your gaze on your knees. Bend the elbows so that the crown of the head almost touches the floor and return to down dog. This move with work the tops of the delts (shoudlers) more.

15-Airplane Push-Up: Do a traditional push-up but lower all the way to the ground and then extend the arms out to the sides so your body forms the letter “T.” Lift your head, shoulders, hands, knees and feet off the ground, balancing on your belly. Lower back down to the floor and place the hands under the shoulders to return to a push-up plank. This works the upper and lower back more to balance out the pecs.

It is critical to balance out your muscles and work the opposing group – your trapezius and rhomboids muscles in your upper back with this last airplane move, and also dead rows, reverse flys, and machines. Some great hard core yoga poses like the wheel, wheel push-ups, forearm stand and handstand will work the opposing muscle groups. For my upper back moves, email

Fitness – fit it in with power. Nikki