5 Awesome Push-up Variations

5 Awesome Push-up Variations

Think push-ups are too easy and won’t improve your athletic performance? Think again.

Push-ups are one of the most underrated upper body exercises for athletes, but they get no respect because they’re often deemed too easy by coaches. I’m here to tell you that not all push-ups are “too easy.” In fact, when using a few variations, push-ups quickly become one of the most challenging upper body exercises. To prove that, here’s a list of my top 5 push-up variations.

1) Suspended Push-ups
Suspended push-ups can be performed with gymnastic rings, blast straps, TRX, or any other suspension trainer. This is an advanced push-up variation and should only be performed by athletes who have mastered the art of a bodyweight push-up. In addition to having good upper body strength, this exercise requires a lot of stability in the core and shoulders.

Sets: 3-5
Reps: 8-15
*If strength is your goal, stay on the lower end of the rep range. If hypertrophy is your goal, stay on the higher end of the rep range

2) Chain Push-ups
Chain push-ups are an excellent way to introduce external load into the push-up. Just drape the chains around your neck and you will be ready to go. If you suffer from neck issues, drape the chains across the middle to lower part of your back. This position will really force your core to stabilize by resisting hip extension. When using multiple chains, drape them across your back like an X, just like the video below.

One of the added benefits to using chains instead of straight weight (such as a plate), is they work with your natural strength curve. When you’re at your weakest and most vulnerable position (the bottom of a push-up) the chains deload and the external resistance is minimal. Inversely, as you perform the concentric phase, your body is at its strongest and so the chains are at their heaviest.

Sets: 3-5
Reps: 8-15
*If strength is your goal, stay on the lower end of the rep range. If hypertrophy is your goal, stay on the higher end of the rep range

3) Chain Suspended Push-ups 
Would you be interested if I told you we could have both the benefits of chain push-ups and suspended push-ups together? Enter chain-suspended push-ups, a great exercise for athletes already doing a ton of suspended push-ups with proper technique. Instead of changing the exercise, just add in some external resistance (chains) to optimize the training effect.

Sets: 3-5
Reps: 8-15
*If strength is your goal, stay on the lower end of the rep range. If hypertrophy is your goal, stay on the higher end of the rep range

4) Power Wheel Push-up
Power wheel push-ups are another great push-up variation to improve upper body strength endurance along with shoulder and core stability. Please note this is one of the most challenging finishers you will ever do, and so you want to make sure your body and hips do not rotate during this exercise. Work to stay as tight as possible by bracing your core. Check out Jason Ferruggia’s video demonstrating the movement below:

Sets: 1 set
Reps: As many as possible
*Although, I prefer to perform this push-up variation as a finisher, it can also be performed or multiple sets of high reps.

5) Handstand Push-ups
Handstand push-ups are the most advanced and challenging exercise on this list. While all the exercises on this list require a ton of core and shoulder stability, the handstand push-up requires the most. Knowing that, progress to this exercise slowly by mastering the push-up vacations above, and by practicing isomeric handstand holds along with mini reps.

Upon mastering this variation, progress to full handstand push-ups:

Sets: 3-5
Reps: 3-12

My top 5 push-up variations for athletes are all very worthy upper body exercises, but these variations are just the tip of the iceberg if you want to gain strength and add lean muscle mass. Want more advanced push-up variations? Drop a comment below and let’s get the ball rolling!

P.S Do you want to learn the secrets to building serious muscle and size while staying healthy? Check out Bodyweight Bodybuilding from my man Zach Even-Esh.


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