The Ultimate Guide to Push Up PROGRESSIONS

With everything going on right now, working out from home has become the new normal. Let’s talk about one of the best bang for your buck upper body exercise that involves no equipment at all, and that is the push up.

This exercise not only gives you the amazing benefits of strength and hypertrophy, but also has an array of very cool variations to keep you progressing forever without ever getting bored.  

But not many of us have earned those progressions, yet. 

Perfect The Quality & Quantity of Push Ups

The push  up is a staple exercise you will see in any group exercise class, fitness program, sport practice, and youth gym class.  Recently it was even used as an Instagram challenge, which sadly exposed a lot when it came to properly performing an “optimal” push up. 

In my opinion, like Mr. Miyagi once said, “It’s usually not a bad student, but a bad teacher.” 

The individual doing the push up was probably never coached on how to properly perform the exercise from day one, nor corrected over time, which has ultimately set them up for failure.

Sadly, what ends up happening is that the individual never shows any improvement. They  continue to do quarter reps, demonstrate excessive hyperextension of the lower back, or will forever just default to their knees.

What people also forget is that doing any movement improperly could eventually lead to injury.

Before you can take 3 steps forward, sometimes you have to take 2 steps back.

When it comes to training, my mindset is always QUALITY OVER QUANTITY and BE PATIENT AND PERSISTENT in order to get those long lasting RESULTS.

Before we look at what to do, let’s take a minute to look at what NOT to do. 

Here are 2 push ups we see on a regular basis that become a default or “go to” for people who have not properly progressed.  I’m sure you have seen these as well. 

Knee Push Up Without Understanding Core Control & Stability.  

Mini Reps Without Establishing Upper Body Strength and Understanding Scapular Mobility 

Don’t do that, try this instead:

The 3 Step Plan For Better Push Ups

Here is my STEP BY STEP plan for a better push up.

STEP 1: Lets Start at the initial SET UP of the Push Up itself.

  • Hand and shoulder placement.

  • Proper positioning of the hips.

  • Set up with your fingers gripping the floor, arms straight and stacked under the shoulders with elbows at 45 degrees.
  • Glutes squeezed and core braced.
  • Steadily lower yourself down until your arms are at a 90 degree angle or less. 
  • Once your chest touches the floor a pause slightly and then explode back up until you’re back into the starting position.

Once we can understand these key points and learn to create that internal tension throughout the body. Now we can start putting them into play as we begin our progressions for a better push up. 

Now it is time to work!

Step 2:  Properly Progressing Your Push Up

The Incline Push Up (This can be done on a desk, couch, bed, bench, smith machine, etc) The higher the object, the easier it is.

Work on trying to get at least 8 full controlled reps on any given height, then find a lower object and start that process again.

 Push Up with Chest Touching Elevated Surface  (any object you can stack under your chest: Airex Pads, Step with Risers, Books, Pillows, etc.)  

When you can do at least 8 perfect and pain free reps, lower the surface. 

Step 3: Earning Your Upgrades

Once you have your baseline and have completed ALL these 3 STEPS, you not only have improved your push up technique, but also your overall relative strength and joint health.

Now it’s time to make sure your push up game stays fresh forever with this ULTIMATE PROGRESSION list. 

We will go from bodyweight progressions to upgrades using specific tools to fill your toolbox. 

DISCLAIMER… These progressions should only be implemented once you can perform at least 10 complete push ups with pristine form as discussed above.   

“More is NOT Better, Better is Better!” – John Rusin 

Enjoy!

Top 50 Push Up Variations For Size, Strength & Shoulder Health

As a rule of thumb, you should always master the bodyweight positions of a movement FIRST before loading. So that’s exactly where we’ll start this ultimate list, bodyweight progressions for beginners.

#1 Eccentric Push Up

  • Maintain proper position through the body. 
  • Slowly lower yourself down to guarantee control and sending as many signals to the activating muscles as possible.
  • Explode back up when you get to the bottom. 

#2 Hand Release Push Up

  • Maintain proper position through the body at all times. 
  • Lower yourself down until your chest hits the floor, remove your hands from the floor and squeeze the upper back to activate.
  • Put your hands back in proper position under the shoulders and explode back up. 

#3 Pike to Push Up

  • Start at the top of your push-up and push away from the floor driving your hips to the sky.
  • Drive your head between your arms and drive your heels into the floor. This will get you a good stretch of your upper back, lats, shoulders, hamstrings, and calves. 
  • Lower yourself down back to push up position but make sure to keep the core braced to avoid your hips sagging due to momentum.  This will force the core to work harder. 
  • Proceed to your normal push up, but when you get back to the top push away again to go back into your pike to start the next rep. 

#4 Push Up Plus

  • This one is not only effective but also great for your shoulders. 
  • Maintain proper position through the body at all times. 
  • Lower yourself down until your chest hits the floor and drive back to the top like a normal push up. 
  • When you are back in the starting position push your hands deeper through the floor and let your scapula protract and upper back become rounded.  
  • Reset your upper back and start again. 

#5 Feet Elevated (Decline) Push Up 

  • Find an elevated surface to put your feet on. The higher the surface the more challenging it becomes. 
  • Neutral Spine and hips, core engaged, glutes squeezed, and shoulders down and back. 
  • Lower yourself down until your chest hits the floor and drive back to the top while maintaining that pristine position. 

#6 Quadruped Push Up

  • Time to shock the shoulders and light up the core.
  • Start in all 4 Position.
  • Lift your knees slightly off the floor, keep flat back, and core engaged.
  • Keep elbows at 45 degrees and lower yourself down, bringing that upper chest toward the floor.
  • Push yourself back to the quadruped position, keeping your knees off the ground at all times. 

#7 Single Leg Push Up

  • Set up in your push-up position and light one leg off the ground.
  • Still maintaining neutral spine and hips, core engaged, glute squeezed, and shoulders down and back. 
  • Lower yourself down until your chest hits the floor and drive back to the top while keeping that foot elevated off the floor. 

#8 Push Up with Alternating Shoulder Tap

  • Start in a push up position with wide feet. 
  • Do your push up. At the top touch your left hand to the left shoulder and then your left hand to your right shoulder. That’s 1 Rep.
  • Start that whole process over and repeat for reps without losing position. 

#9 Push Up with Knee Drive

  • This variation will get the core more involved.
  • Do your push-up. As you get to the top of the rep, drive one knee hard toward the chest and pause it at the top.
  • Reset the feet back to starting position and start your next push up, driving the other knee for the next rep. 

#10 Plank to Push Up

  • Another one to fire the core, the goal here is to complete these with minimal movement of the hips. 
  • Start in a plank position on your forearms with wide feet. 
  • Climb up to the top of your push up position without swaying. 
  • Complete your push up and climb back down to your forearms. Keep core braced and repeat for reps. 

Now that we’ve gone through 10 bodyweight beginner push up variations, lets keep progressing into some intermediate variations to continue to challenge this exercise and movement pattern.

#11 1.5 Push Up

  • Get a killer pump with this variation.
  • Start in a push up position, but maintaining proper position throughout the whole body is a must at all times.   
  • Slowly lower yourself down until your chest touches the floor and slowly back up and pause at the half point, then lower yourself back to the bottom and drive all the way back to the top. That is 1 rep! 
  • Repeat for reps. 

#12 Staircase Push Up

  • Maintain proper position through the body. 
  • Slowly lower yourself down until your chest touches the floor and slowly back up by pausing every second to guarantee control and send as many signals to the activating muscles as possible.

#13 Push Up Jack

  • Get a killer pump and get the heart rate jacked up with this variation.
  • Start in a push up position, maintaining proper position throughout the whole body is a must.   
  • As you lower yourself down, jump your feet out wide.
  • At the bottom of the rep, your feet are now wide. As you drive yourself back to the top, jump your feet back in to the narrow starting position. 
  • Repeat this for reps while keeping that flat back and neutral spine the whole time. 
  • Increase speed to increase difficulty. 

#14 Push Up with Opposite Knee Touch

  • Another one to fire the core, the goal here is to complete these while maintaining neutral hips and spine. 
  • Start in your push up position with wide feet. 
  • Complete your push up and at the top drive one knee up and meet it halfway with the opposite hand. 
  • Reset to the starting point and do another rep, this time meeting the other knee and hand at the top. 

#15 Spiderman Push Up

  • This variation will get the core more involved as you establish activation of the upper body.
  • Do your push up. As you get to the bottom of the rep, drive one knee out wide toward the same elbow. 
  • Drive yourself back to the top resetting the feet back to starting position. Start your next push up, driving the other knee out wide toward the elbow for the next rep. Repeat for reps. 

#16 Push Up to Sit Out

  • This combo will require coordination and control while increasing your heart rate.
  • Do your push up. As you get to the top of the rep, drive one leg through into a sitout.
  • Reset back to the push up starting position and start your next push-up, driving the other leg through or the next rep. 

#17 Push Up with Offset Shoulder Touch

  • Pump that chest and smash that core with this variation. 
  • Start in a push up position with wide feet. 
  • Do your push up. As you get to the top touch your left hand to your right shoulder and hold.
  • Maintaining 3 points of contact to the floor with core engaged and neutral spine. Hold this for about 3 seconds.
  • Start that whole process over and repeat with the other side for reps without losing position.

#18 Lateral Moving Push Up

  • This combo will require coordination and control while maintaining perfect position of the body at all times. 
  • Do your push up. As you get to the top of the rep, step laterally moving the opposite and and opposite foot.
  • When you reset back to the push-up starting position, do your next push up, and continue to move in the same direction or back to where you began. Repeat this for reps! 

#19 Drop In Push Up

  • Fire up the legs and shoulders with this technical variation. 
  • Start in a squat hold and hands up in front of your body.
  • Fall forward while maintaining position and catch yourself softly into a push up.
  • Keep elbows at 45 degrees and lower yourself down, bringing that upper chest toward the floor.
  • Push yourself back up to the squat hold position and stand up tall. Squat back down and start again.

#20 Typewriter Push Up

  • This variation will completely light up the upper body.
  • Do your push up. As you get to the bottom of the rep, shift your body to the left aiming your nose toward your thumb. Now while still holding that position at the bottom, shift all the way to the right aiming your nose to your thumb.  
  • Return to the center at the bottom and drive yourself back to the top resetting to starting position. That is 1 rep.
  • You must maintain perfect position of your body throughout the whole movement. Repeat for reps. 

#21 Rocking Push Up

  • This combo will light up your shoulders and require mobility, coordination, and body control while increasing your heart rate.
  • Do your push up. But push away sitting the butt back toward the heels of your feet.
  • Reset back and go to the bottom of the push up and repeat this for reps.

Now lets get into some advanced progressions, shall we?

#22 Toadie Push Up

  • This total body combo will require power, mobility, coordination, and total body control while increasing your heart rate.
  • Do your push up with feet about shoulder width apart. When you get to the bottom, explode up and land in the bottom of a squat. 
  • Put your hands back on the ground and kick the feet back returning to the start of the push up.
  • Repeat this for reps.

#23 Plyo Plank to Push Up

  • Another combo to completely torch that core, the goal here is to complete these with minimal movement of the hips. 
  • Start in a plank position on your forearms with wide feet. 
  • Power up to the top and softly catch yourself in a push up. Touch your chest to the floor and power back up.
  • Landing softly on your forearms in plank position while maintaining that braced core and neutral spine the whole time. Lock in and repeat for reps. 

#24 Plyo Push Up

  • Here is a go to progression for establishing crazy upper body force and power.
  • Set up in your push up position with feet about shoulder width apart. Keep your body straight, core braced, and your hands under your shoulders. 
  • Lower your chest to the floor and drive hard back up with enough force for your hands to leave the ground.
  • Land softly, transitioning immediately right into your next rep.

#25 Clapping Push Up

  • Here is a fancy variation of the plyo push up for establishing crazy upper body force and power.
  • Set up in your push up position with feet about shoulder width apart. Keep your body straight, core braced, and your hands under your shoulders. 
  • Lower your chest to the floor and drive hard back up with enough force for your hands to leave the ground. 
  • In mid air, clap your hands and Land softly. Transition immediately right into your next rep.

#26 Chest Touch Plyo Push Up

  • Here is an even more challenging variation of the plyo push up for establishing even more upper body force and power.
  • Set up in your push up position with feet about shoulder width apart. Keep your body straight, core braced, and your hands under your shoulders. 
  • Lower your chest to the floor and drive hard back up with enough force for your hands to leave the ground. 
  • In mid air, touch your hands to your chest, and Land softly. While transitioning immediately right into your next rep.

Lets shift away from bodyweight, and move right into suspension trainer push up variations for the next few.             

#27 TRX Suspended Push Up

  • Put feet into the stirrups of the TRX.
  • Set yourself up in your push up while feet are suspended off the ground.
  • Maintain proper position from head to toe throughout the movement.
  • Lower yourself down until your chest hits the floor and drive back up. 

#28 TRX Dive Bomb Push Up

  • Here is a progression from your suspended push up to pump up the heart rate and totally rock the core.
  • Put feet into the stirrups of the TRX.
  • Set yourself up in your push up while feet are suspended off the ground.
  • Maintain proper position from head to toe throughout the movement.
  • Lower yourself down until your chest hits the floor and drive back up. When you get to the top drive your knees to your chest and return back to neutral.
  • Stay controlled and repeat this for reps. To increase the challenge, speed up the tempo.

And a number of exercises that use simple ValSlides.

#29 Push Up Slider Climbers

  • The valslide progressions will get the core even more involved by forcing your body to stay in control of the slider.
  • Do your push up. As you get to the top of the rep, slide one knee hard toward the chest and pause it at the top.
  • Reset the feet back to starting position and start your next push up, sliding the other knee for the next rep. 

#30 Push Up with Slider Knee Tucks

  • The valslide progressions will get the core even more involved by forcing your body to stay in control of the slider.
  • Put the sliders under your toes.
  • This one is a more difficult version of the single leg alternating climber. 
  • Do your push up. As you get to the top of the rep, slide both knees hard toward the chest and pause it at the top.
  • Reset the feet back to starting position and transition right into your next rep. 

#31 Push Up Slider Jacks

  • Get a killer pump and get the heart rate jacked up with this Vaslide variation.
  • Start in a push up position, with sliders under your toes. 
  • Maintain proper position throughout the whole body as you lower yourself down, start to slide your feet out wide.
  • At the bottom of the rep, your feet are now wide. As you drive yourself back to the top, slide your feet back into the narrow starting position. 
  • Repeat this for reps while keeping that flat back and neutral spine the whole time. 
  • Increase speed to increase difficulty. 

#32 Slider Fly Push Up

  • The valslide progressions will get the core even more involved by forcing your body to stay in control of the slider.
  • Put the sliders under your toes. 
  • Do your push up. As you get to the top of the rep, slide one knee hard toward the chest and pause it at the top.
  • Reset the feet back to starting position and start your next push-up, sliding the other knee for the next rep. 

#33 Alternating Archer Push Up with Slider

  • This variation is a great precursor to building up to a single arm push up.
  • Start with wide feet at the top of your push-up position , but this time the sliders are under your hands. 
  • Do your push up and slide one hand straight out wide as you lower yourself to the floor. 
  • Drive hard back up with that one side, sliding your wide hand back to the starting push up position.
  • You can either alternate per rep or complete one side at a time for reps.  

#34 Single Arm Reaching Slider Push Up

  • This variation is another great precursor to building up to a single arm push up.
  • Start with wide feet at the top of your push-up position , but this time the sliders are under your hands. 
  • Do your push up and slide one hand straight over your head as you lower yourself to the floor. 
  • Drive hard back up with the hand firmly on the floor and slide your other hand back to the starting push up position.
  • You can either alternate per rep or complete one side at a time for reps.  

Another great tool for push up variance is the medicine balls. Lets take a look at a number of variations of the push up using this tool.

#35 Narrow Med Ball Push Up

  • Burn out those triceps with this variation. 
  • Put both hands on a medicine ball.
  • Keep arms straight and feet wide. Maintain tension and proper position through the body. 
  • Slowly lower yourself down to force signals to the triceps until your chest his the ball. 
  • Explode back up to lockout, squeezing the chest and triceps at the top. 

#36 Med Ball Push Up

  • Increase core stability and create more activation in the pecs with this variation. 
  • Put each hand on a medicine ball.
  • Maintain full body tension and proper position through the body. 
  • Control yourself down until your chest is between the balls. 
  • Explode back up to lockout, squeezing the chest at the top.

#37 Med Ball Single Leg Push Up

  • Increase even more core stability and chest activation with this variation. 
  • Put each hand on a medicine ball. 
  • Set up in your push up position and liftt one leg off the ground.
  • Still maintaining neutral spine and hips, core engaged, glute squeezed, and shoulders down and back. 
  • Lower yourself down until your chest is level with the balls. 
  • Drive back to the top while keeping that foot elevated off the floor.

#38 Med Ball Offset Push Up Transfers

  • Increase hand eye coordination while pumping up the upper body with this variation. 
  • Put one hand on a medicine ball.
  • Set up in push up position with feet wide. Maintain tension and proper position through the body. 
  • Lower yourself down and explode back up then roll the ball to the other hand and repeat.
  • Do this for max reps with perfect form. 

#39 Med Ball 1 Arm Reaching Push Up

  • This variation is a med ball precursor to building up to a single arm push up.
  • Start with wide feet at the top of your push up position , but this time the med ball is under one hand. 
  • Do your push up and roll that hand straight over your head as you lower yourself to the floor. 
  • Drive hard back up with the hand firmly on the floor and roll the ball back to the starting push-up position. 

#40 Plyo Push Up with Med Ball Stick

  • Here is an awesome progression for establishing upper body power along with crazy core activation.
  • Set up in your push up position with the med ball under your chest. Keep your body straight, core braced, and your hands under your shoulders. 
  • Lower your chest to the floor and drive hard back up with enough force for your hands to leave the ground.
  • Land softly, transitioning immediately right into your next rep.

Now lets jump into some step push up progressions.

#41 Hand Elevated Stretch Push Up

  • Using an elevated surface to create more activation in the chest. 
  • Put each hand on an object.
  • Maintain full body tension and proper position through the body. 
  • Using your lats and scapulas, control yourself down until your chest is lower than your hands. 
  • Explode back up to lockout, squeezing the chest at the top. 

#42 Offset Push Up Transfers

  • Increase hand eye coordination while pumping up the upper body with this variation. 
  • Put one hand on a step.
  • Set up in push up position with feet wide. Maintain tension and proper position through the body. 
  • Lower yourself down and when you explode back up, transfer over the step and repeat on the other side.
  • Do this for max reps with perfect form. 

#43 Offset Push Up Shoulder Tap

  • Pump that chest and smash that core with this variation. 
  • Start in a push up position with one hand elevated and wide feet. 
  • Do your offset push up. Drive back up to the top and touch your left hand to your right shoulder and hold.
  • Maintaining 3 points of contact with core engaged and neutral spine. Hold this for about 3 seconds.
  • Land softly and transition right to the next rep. 
  • Repeat for reps and switch sides.

#44 Plyo Narrow to Stretch Push Up

  • One of the most challenging progressions on here. This variation uses upper body explosiveness and works the chest, shoulders, and triceps hard along with crazy core stabilization.
  • Set up 2 steps about shoulder width apart.
  • Set up in a narrow push-up position. Keep your body straight, core braced.
  • Lower your chest to the floor and explode back up with enough force for your hands to leave the ground.
  • Land softly with both hands landing on the steps, transitioning immediately right into a stretch push-up. 

#45 Push Up to Dip Transfers 

  • A challenging combo between a push up and a dip. This exercise variation uses upper body explosiveness and coordination while working the chest and triceps.
  • Set up 2 elevated surfaces about 12in high and shoulder width apart.
  • Start in an incline push up position. Keep your body straight, core braced. 
  • Lower your chest between the risers and push back up. Now from there pull your legs through landing in a dip position with your feet now out front.
  • Go into a tricep dip and then pull your legs back through landing back into the top of a push up.
  • Please make this transition as smooth as possible while always staying under control. Do not sacrifice your shoulders with improper technique.  
  • To increase the difficulty you can increase reps on both exercises. 

And finally, some banded push up variations.

#46 Band Resisted Push Up

  • Grab a resistance band and wrap it around your back for added resistance. 
  • Maintain proper position through the body and lower yourself down until your chest hits the floor and explode back up. Repeat for reps.  
  • To make it more challenging, increase the resistance of the band.

#47 Push Up with Alternating Band Row 

  • Put a mini band around your thumbs and set up in a push up position with wide feet.
  • Use the tension of the mini band to create extra torque in the shoulders and upper back.
  • Hit the push up and at the top row the band toward your hip while maintaining a braced core, and proper positioning of the hips and low back.  
  • To make it more challenging, increase the weight of the plate.

Well, lets throw in a few dumbbell and plate progressions while we’re at it.

#48 Weighted Push Up

  • Grab a weight plate and across your back for added resistance. (you may want a partner for this)
  • Maintain Proper Position and internal tension through the Body and Lower yourself down until your chest hits the floor. Now explode back up to the top. Repeat for quality reps. 

#49 Push Up Renegade Row

  • Have a dumbbell in each hand and set up in a push-up position with wide feet.
  • Hit the push-up and at the top row the dumbbell toward your hip while maintaining a braced core, and proper positioning of the hips and low back.  
  • Alternate rows during each rep.

#50 Push Up to Shoulder Press Ladder 

  •  Grab a lighter set of Dumbbells and put them on the floor on the side of your body.
  • Exercise 1: Push-ups (pick your variation) Exercise 2: Tall Kneeling DB Shoulder Press (pick your weight) .
  •  Work up the ladder starting at 1 rep each. Then 2 reps each and so on, until you reach 10 reps each Exercise.
  • Once you hit the top of the ladder, you can use this time to return back down the ladder back to 1 rep each.
  • This is extremely brutal, when done with perfect form and can be done as a finisher or even its own upper body work out when you are short on time.