Some people hear “advanced push-up variations” and think of balancing a beer on their head while banging out 50 quick ones at a party.
And sure, that sounds like a fun time as far as it goes.
But if your push-up game is already strong, chances are you could use some new exercises to keep developing your pressing strength.
(If your push-ups could use some work, go check out our push-up tutorial!)
The variations we’ll show you in this article aren’t just fancy party tricks (though they’ll definitely help you in that department!). They’re some of my favorite exercises for building advanced pressing strength.
Top 20 Advanced Push-Up Variations
There are countless “Push-Up Variations” tutorials out there on the interwebz, each one trying to outdo the one before with the number of variations included.
Seriously, I recently saw a “75 Push-Up Variations” video on Facebook, followed a couple of days later by a “101 Push-Up Variations” video from another company–literally nobody needs that many push-up variations.
So, that’s not the purpose of this article. At all.
I’m not going to claim these are the best or the coolest or the most unique push-up variations. But the exercises I’ve included are some of my favorite variations for safely working up to advanced training goals.
Below we’ll go through each of these exercises in detail, focusing on who should be doing which exercises and the benefits of each.
How to Choose the Best Push-Up Variations
Of course, adding 20 new exercises to your routine at once wouldn’t make much sense and would be a recipe for burnout and injury.
So, here you can see how to choose the right exercises based on your goals:
- Wide Push-Up
- Fingers Out Push-Up
- Superman Push-Up
- Clapping Push-Up
- Walking Push-Up
- Spiderman Push-Up
- Scorpion Push-Up
Single Arm Strength
- Narrow Push-Up
- Side to Side Push-Up
- Around the World Push-Up
- Screw Up Push-Up
- Archer Push-Up Version 1
- Archer Push-Up Version 2
- Staggered Push-Up
- Single Arm Push-Up
Before we go into detail on each of these exercises, let’s look at some common barriers to keep in mind.
Common Barriers to Building Pressing Strength
These exercises are obviously advanced and not meant for beginners. But even if you have sufficient strength and training experience to work on these exercises, but still struggle with them, you may need to overcome some of the following common barriers:
- Wrist weakness or discomfort
- Sore or creaky elbows
- Tight or painful shoulders
- Limited spinal mobility
Work on the linked routines for the areas you’re experiencing trouble with, and you’ll see great improvement in your pressing strength.
1. Wide Push-Up
The wide push-up is a challenging exercise that targets the pecs, with less of an emphasis on the triceps than in standard push-ups.
Important Details for the Wide Push-Up:
- Even though you’re doing a push-up with wider hands than usual, follow the same cues you would in a regular push-up: tight core, squeeze your legs and butt, and don’t let your chest sag.
- Be sure not to flare your elbows outward too much. Although they won’t be pinned to your sides like we recommend in the standard push-up, they should be angled at about 45 degrees relative to your torso.
- Start with your hands just a bit wider than shoulder width to test out your form. Keep widening your hands, rotating your fingers outward, as you get stronger with this exercise.
Who Should Practice Wide Push-Ups?
If you’re specifically looking to target your pecs, either from a strength standpoint or a physique standpoint, the wide push-up is a great exercise for you.
2. Fingers Out Push-Up
This variation is a great option for working around injuries in the wrists or shoulders. It targets similar muscles as you would in a standard push-up, while releasing some of the pressure on your joints.
Important Details for the Fingers Out Push-Up:
- Make sure to keep your elbows driving in to your sides as you lower yourself.
- Don’t let your shoulders shrug up toward your ears. Keep them pulled back and down throughout the movement.
Who Should Practice Fingers Out Push-Ups?
If you have any injuries or experience discomfort in your wrists, shoulders, or even elbows when practicing standard push-ups, this might be a good option for you.
3. Superman Push-Up
Let’s face it–mastering the superman push-up will make you feel like superman. It’s a crazy challenge to the core and lats, and is definitely not for the faint of heart.
Important Details for the Superman Push-Up:
- The biggest key with this exercise (with all three variations I demonstrate) is to make sure your body doesn’t sag. Really engage the core, legs, and lats to keep yourself in good alignment.
- Start with your hands just a bit in front of you and work your way to a fully extended superman push-up.
Who Should Practice Superman Push-Ups?
If you’re looking for an advanced challenge, particularly for your core, you’ll love this exercise. If your core strength could still use some work, I recommend working on the hollow body hold.
4. Clapping Push-Up
This variation is excellent for building explosive strength, as you press your body off the ground with speed and power to bring your hands together and back down to the ground.
Important Details for the Clapping Push-Up:
- Lower yourself with control, then as you explode off the ground, make sure you are maintaining good alignment in your body. Don’t let everything go loosey goosey as you clap mid-air.
- As you improve with this exercise you can play with clapping multiple times or exploding higher into the air.
Who Should Practice Clapping Push-Ups?
If you do CrossFit or any other sports that require explosive strength, the clapping push-up will be a fantastic supplement to your training. It’ll help you build the power you need for your favorite activities.
5. Walking Push-Up
While the walking push-up may not seem as explosive as the clapping push-up, it’s also a great way to build power. With each step, you have to propel your body forward with strength and control.
Important Details for the Walking Push-Up:
- Maintain good body alignment and engagement as you move your body forward.
- When you’re comfortable with this moving push-up, you can practice going slower or faster with it.
Who Should Practice Walking Push-Ups?
This is a great variation for martial artists who do a lot of grappling or groundwork, as it will make you incredibly strong while moving on the ground.
6. Spiderman Push-Up
This push-up variation is one of our favorite advanced locomotive exercises to help build amazing pressing strength. It’s a natural progression from the Bear Walk.
Important Details for the Spiderman Push-Up:
- Stay low to the ground as you move forward. There’s a tendency to let the hips come up, so be careful about that.
- Keep the rear elbow pinned in tight to the body.
Who Should Practice Spiderman Push-Ups?
The spiderman push-up is a great way to build motor control, mobility, and coordination. Similar to the walking push-up, this is a good variation for grapplers. It also works well for climbing, as we explain in this tutorial.
7. Scorpion Push-Up
In addition to improving pressing strength, the scorpion push-up is a great way to improve mobility through the anterior side of the body. As you extend one leg, you’ll stretch that entire side of the body, including the hip flexor and torso.
Important Details for the Scorpion Push-Up:
- Keep both elbows tucked in to your body as you rotate down.
- Stay up on the toes of the bottom leg, rotating just the top leg.
Who Should Practice Scorpion Push-Ups?
This is another great variation for anyone who does a lot of groundwork or grappling, or for anyone who wants to improve their hip mobility in particular.
8. Narrow Push-Up
This is the first variation I recommend working on if you eventually want to get a single arm push-up. It may not seem related to the single arm push-up at all, but if you think about the positioning of the arm in the single arm push-up, it’s quite similar to the narrow push-up.
Important Details for the Narrow Push-Up:
- Make sure to tuck the elbows in to your sides.
- Keep the head in a neutral position–don’t jut it forward.
Who Should Practice Narrow Push-Ups?
If you’ve got the single arm push-up as a goal, the narrow push-up is a good place to start. It’s also a good variation for targeting triceps strength. And if you do a lot of bench pressing, the narrow push-up will help with that.
9. Side to Side Push-Up
In this next variation for the single arm push-up, you’ll start working on loading one side of your body in the bottom position.
Important Details for the Side to Side Push-Up:
- Keep your head in a neutral position, and don’t let it lean to the side as you move.
- Stay low to the ground and maintain good body alignment as you move side to side.
- Don’t let the elbows flare out.
Who Should Practice Side to Side Push-Ups?
The bottom position of the push-up (and the single arm push-up) tends to be the weakest position for most people, so it’s beneficial to work on that part of the exercise. If you want to work toward a single arm push-up or improve any other push-up variation, the side to side push-up will be good for you.
10. Around the World Push-Up
This variation targets many angles of shoulder mobility under load. It will also help you work up to a single arm push-up, as you are beginning to isolate pressing to one side.
Important Details for the Around the World Push-Up:
- Go slow with the movement, especially as you are learning the coordination of it.
- Try to hit each part of the circle. You may find you are weaker in certain parts of the circle. That is good information for seeing what you need to work on the most.
Who Should Practice Around the World Push-Ups?
Anyone who wants to improve shoulder mobility and strength will do well with the around the world push-up. It’s also a good way to get comfortable with isolating pressing on one side of the body, so it will help you work on single arm strength.
11. Screw Up Push-Up
The screw up push-up targets shoulder and elbow strength through a wide range of motion. It may take some time to get used to this one, as you may not be used to such deep extension and flexion in these areas.
Important Details for the Screw Up Push-Up:
- Keep the elbow tucked in to your side.
- Make sure the rest of your body is engaged, without letting the torso sag.
Who Should Practice Screw Up Push-Ups?
This is another variation that’s great for working toward the one arm push-up. It’s also another good one for grapplers. To prevent injuries, be sure to work on your shoulder mobility before attempting this variation.
12. Archer Push-Up Version 1
For this variation, I recommend placing the hands on something that will slide easily along the ground, as I demonstrate in the video.
Important Details for the Archer Push-Up Version 1:
- Keep your body tight and lower yourself with control, all the way to the bottom push-up position.
- Once you’re in the bottom position, extend one arm to the side with control.
Who Should Practice the Archer Push-Up Version 1?
As you get more comfortable with the previous variations for working toward the one arm push-up, this variation will be a good added challenge. You’ll load one side of your body in the bottom position.
13. Archer Push-Up Version 2
The second version of the archer push-up is quite a bit more challenging than the first version. Rather than lowering yourself before extending the arm, those actions will happen simultaneously. This is a great variation for working up to the single arm push-up.
Important Details for the Archer Push-Up Version 2:
- Move slowly and with control–don’t jerk your hand out to the side, but rather, move it with intention.
- Make sure you’re keeping the rest of your body tight and engaged.
Who Should Practice the Archer Push-Up Version 2?
If you’re working up to the single arm push-up, this variation is an important one for learning to move your body with control as you load one side of the body.
14. Staggered Push-Up
The staggered push-up is the last progression before you’re ready to work on the single arm push-up–exciting! This variation will get you ready for loading one arm, and it’s a great challenge in and of itself.
Important Details for the Staggered Push-Up:
- At the risk of repeating myself too much: keep those elbows in!
- Don’t let the head jut forward or the torso sag. Keep everything in good alignment.
Who Should Practice Staggered Push-Ups?
Pretty much anyone who wants to master the single arm push-up will have to spend some time working on the staggered push-up. It’s an essential progression before working on the full movement.
15. Single Arm Push-Up
Here it is–the culmination of what you’ve been working on. The single arm push-up is one of the more impressive bodyweight strength exercises. I mean, it’s not as impressive as the no arm push-up, but I couldn’t demonstrate that one on video 😉
Important Details for the Single Arm Push-Up:
- Start out by using your other hand as a training wheel, coming up on your fingers just as a support. Eventually, work on taking the hand behind your back to isolate the other arm.
- Use the same positioning cues you’ve been working on with the other variations, that have been preparing you for fully loading one arm at a time.
Who Should Practice Single Arm Push-Ups?
This is an advanced exercise, so you should only practice the single arm push-up once you’re comfortable with the other progressions, and you’ve developed significant single arm strength and control.
16. Hollow Body Push-Up
This is one of my all time favorite exercises, and it is a lot harder than it looks. While I have it listed above as being good for working toward the planche, because of the forward lean, the hollow body push-up is good for building all around strength for many other goals.
Important Details for the Hollow Body Push-Up:
- Start in a solid plank position, then hollow out your upper back. It’s important to keep your hips low as you do this–the focus is on the upper part of the spine hollowing out.
- Maintain that hollow position as much as possible, as you lower yourself down to the ground.
- Your elbows will naturally tend to flare out, but don’t let this happen. Keep them tucked in tight, as usual.
Who Should Practice Hollow Body Push-Ups?
Honestly, this variation is good for almost anyone to practice, once you’ve got your regular push-up down. Working on the hollow body position will help you with everything from handstands to pull-ups to planches.
17. Mountain Climber Push-Up
The mountain climber push-up is a serious challenge for the core, and will help you improve the forward lean position for planche work.
Important Details for the Mountain Climber Push-Up:
- Keep the hips low as you pull your legs inward–make sure you’re squeezing your butt and core.
- Just as with all the other variations, keep your elbows in and maintain good body alignment.
Who Should Practice Mountain Climber Push-Ups?
This is another variation that can be beneficial for just about anyone who’s already quite strong with standard push-ups. The forward lean position will help you feel more comfortable with working up to the planche.
18. Floating Push-Up
For this variation, you’ll get into a tuck planche position, then do push-ups from that position. If you need help working up to a tuck planche position, see our full tutorial.
Important Details for the Floating Push-Up:
- Pay attention to where your knees are, and keep them tucked in tight throughout the movement.
- Don’t let your elbows flare out.
Who Should Practice Floating Push-Ups?
Planche work is quite advanced, so this variation requires a relatively high amount of base level strength and control.
19. Floating Push-Up to Extension
This next progression toward the planche allows you to use the feet as training wheels, as you get comfortable with extending the legs with your body in a forward lean position.
Important Details for the Floating Push-Up to Extension:
- When you extend the legs back, make sure to keep your body low–don’t let the hips come up too high.
- Keep everything tight and engaged so you can move with control.
Who Should Practice the Floating Push-Up to Extension?
Obviously, this is the next progression toward dynamic planche work, so make sure you’re comfortable with the previous progression before working on this one.
20. Float to Float Push-Up
As I said in the video, this is my absolute favorite push-up variation. It’s a tuck planche push-up to a planche, back to a tuck planche push-up. This one is an impressive party trick that demonstrates very good upper body strength.
Important Details for the Float to Float Push-Up:
- Don’t throw your legs outward–move with control and intention.
- Keep everything tight, including keeping the elbows tucked in to your sides, and move slowly.
Who Should Practice Float to Float Push-Ups?
This variation is really only possible once you’re fairly comfortable with planche variation work, you’ll need to have put a lot of time under your belt with that before attempting this.
Build Impressive Pressing Strength
Working on any combination of the above exercises will help you build amazing pressing strength, but one way to kick your progress up a notch is to add parallettes into the mix.
Our Parallettes One program uses mini-parallel bars that help you increase your pressing strength and core strength, while relieving pressure from the wrists and hands. That means faster and safer progress–win-win!
If your goals include single arm strength, planche work, and overall pressing and core strength, P1 will help you tackle your goals in a systematic and fun way.
Systematically Improve Your Pressing Strength
P1 includes 3-4 months of pressing skills scalable to any fitness level. It builds a foundation of strength and control for more advanced skills.