Variations to a basic push-up can give you a total upper body workout and do it in 15-20 minutes tops. No more excuses!
First and foremost, I am a runner. Incorporating running into my exercise routine is easy for me. Like a lot of runners, however, I neglect other important areas of fitness like strength training, core strengthening, and flexibility.
Sometimes I’ll start a run and tell myself that I’m going to do a quick upper body circuit afterward. This rarely comes to fruition. Whether you’re a runner or just a busy person who struggles to find time to exercise, here’s a quick way to obliterate your entire upper body:
- Pick five of these variations.
- Do 10 reps of each variation with little to no rest in between.
- Take a two-minute rest and repeat the circuit.
- Too hard? Reduce the number of reps or add rest in between each variation.
- Too easy? Add a sixth variation, more reps, or do a third circuit.
The Basic Push-Up
This is a good place to start because it’s the easiest and everyone knows how to do it. Keep your butt down and your core engaged.
The Incline Push-Up
This is just like a normal push-up except you will position your hands on a raised object, usually a bench, instead of the floor. For safest execution, and to keep the focus of the exercise on your chest, make sure your arms are perpendicular to your body when they are fully extended. You can vary the height of the bench to hit different areas of the chest and to create varying levels of difficulty.
The Decline Push-Up
Instead of putting your hands on a bench, flip around and prop your feet up on the bench this time, with your hands positioned on the floor. As with the incline push-up, you can vary the height to your liking.
The Diamond Push-Up
This one will obliterate your triceps. From the basic push-up position, bring your hands together so that your two thumbs are touching and your two index fingers are touching (in the shape of a diamond).
The Rotational Push-Up
While you’re bombarding your chest, you might as well give a little extra attention to your core as well. To execute this one:
- Perform a basic push-up.
- At the top of the movement, take your left hand off the floor and rotate your body into a side plank position. You will be supporting your entire body with just your right hand on the floor.
- Hold for a split second and return to the basic push-up position.
- Then repeat on the other side.
The Elevated Wall Push-Up
This is one of my absolute favorites and great for your core as well. To execute, position your feet against a wall so that, when your arms are fully extended, your body is parallel to the floor. Don’t be surprised if you can’t do as many reps with this one. It is a truly advanced exercise.
The Offset Push-Up
Time to hit the shoulders a little bit, too. With your hands directly under your shoulders in basic push-up position, march your right hand out away from your body about 3-4 inches. Now execute your push-up. This will work your left shoulder. Do five on this side and then repeat on the other side. As with all of these exercises, stick with a comfortable range of motion and do not hyperextend.
The Knuckle Push-Up
Aside from making you feel like a total BEAST, knuckle push-ups are another great way to isolate your shoulders. Get into basic push-up position. Only this time, you will be on your fists. If you want to make it even more challenging, move your hands 3-4 inches back toward your waist. This will put much more emphasis on those shoulder muscles.
The Push-Up With Row
A true total upper body push-up, get yourself a couple lightweight dumbbells. The amount of the weight is pretty irrelevant. With your hands resting on top of your dumbbells, do a basic push-up. At the top of the movement, execute a row with your left hand. All of your weight will be supported by your right hand and your core will be heavily engaged. Lower your left hand and then repeat on the other side.
Bodyweight exercises are fantastic ways to build strength and tone muscles. Push-ups are the most tried and true of all bodyweight exercises. They don’t require any fancy equipment and you can literally roll out of bed and start hammering them out. Find yourself a good routine, add variation, and you will undoubtedly get stronger.