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Push-Up Variations

Switch up your push-ups! Push-ups are a great bodyweight exercise to strengthen and engage many muscle groups at once, and there are many great variations besides traditional pushups. This series includes a variety of push-ups to focus on chest, tricep, upper back, and shoulder muscles. I bet you never thought there could be so many kinds of push-ups!

For all these pushups, your core will also be working, especially when you have proper form and alignment. I discuss and demonstrate modifications and challenges for some of the variations as well. A way to add a burnout challenge to the end of each set is to hold the push up about halfway down, and take small pulses just moving up and down an inch or so. I show the pulses in some of these variations as an example, but you can do it with all of them! And for a real finishing challenge, hold the push-up low for a few seconds at the end of your set.


Traditional and Chaturanga (tricep) Push-Ups

The most common push-up has the hands under the shoulders and your elbows go out to the side, which focuses primarily on the chest muscles. A yoga chaturanga push-up targets the triceps, with hands under the shoulders with fingertips pointing forwards and the elbows going straight back behind you, grazing your side as you bend your arms. For both of these plank-style push-ups, imagine a flat line all the way from your head, down your spine, and out your feet to avoid arching your back or piking your hips. You can also take these on your knees, being careful to shift your weight forward onto your thighs and not directly on your knee cap, to avoid injury and stress on that joint.

Reverse Tricep Push-Ups

For reverse tricep push-ups, plant your hands behind your seat shoulder-width apart with your fingers pointing towards you. Be sure that the motion comes from bending and extending your arms, rather than lifting and lowering your hips. Shifting your weight back towards your hands will intensify this, as will straightening your legs out in front of you so you are in a reverse plank.

Side Hug Push-Up

I don’t know if this push-up type has an official name, so this is what I am calling it because we can always use more hugs! Lay on one side and wrap your bottom arm around yourself like a hug. Place your top hand in front of you near your shoulder and press firmly into it to lift your upper body off the ground. Lower down with control, and repeat. You will definitely start to feel this work in your shoulders and triceps! Make sure to flip over and do both sides.

Downward Dog Push-Up

Downward dog is such a great yoga pose to stretch and center yourself, and now you can do some push-ups in this position as well that will strengthen your shoulders and upper back! Once you’re in a downward dog, just turn your hands in slightly so your fingers point towards each other and bend and extend your elbows. You could also play around with lifting one leg at a time and see how your balance and focus shifts.


I hope you liked these push-up variations! If you have any other push-up styles you love, let me know and I’d love to learn!


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