5 Unique Push Up Variations to Increase Your Strength

Brandon Richey


Atlanta, Georgia, United States

Powerlifting, Kettlebells, Martial Arts


When it comes to any sensible strength training program it is hard to neglect adding in the almighty push up to produce a formula for developing strength and lean muscle gains. This dependable calisthenic has always been a staple for my programming and my athletes. There is a very good reason as to why you see the use of the push up throughout the military, fight gyms, and nearly every independently owned box gym around the globe.


Even though we can probably agree on the value and power of the standard push up once you develop a high level of proficiency for this movement, there are ways you can take this powerful drill even further for greater strength gains and achieve other strength objectives with some creative movement variations.



The push up can be done almost anywhere and at anytime with very little space. It’s probably the most resourceful movement that can deliver you results for strength with little time and space to spare. There is just simply no replacement for the bodyweight push up.


The Walkout Push Up

One commonly ignored element involved in the push up is understanding hand placement and how to go about activating the push-up movement through your hands as you work against the ground. The walkout push-up is a method I like to use to help my students to grasp this concept.


Hand activation is crucial for wrist stabilization and understanding how the force of the movement is generated from the point of contact at the ground up through the wrists, forearms, upper arms, shoulders, and even the lats.


If you want to see whether a person is inhibited in their push-ups look at their hand placement on the ground. If their fingers are close together they’re weak in activation. If their fingers are flared apart like they’re trying to grip the ground then they’re going to be able to develop a higher level of proficiency in the movement.


By training with the walkout push up, you will learn how to handle the ground at the point of contact with your hands. I always tell my students to imagine how a cat stalks its prey. It doesn’t plod along on the ground when it moves towards its target. Instead, that cat moves with intention feeling the ground beneath its feet having total control over its body. This all starts with the feet, or in this case your hands.


As you perform the walkout push up you want to feel the ground at each point of contact when your hands touch the ground with each arm stride. Give these a try and I promise they’ll change the way you think about and execute your push-ups.




Hindu Push Ups

As a strength and conditioning coach, I’m a huge proponent of this push-up variation because we can kill two birds with one stone. With the Hindu push-up, you are able to mobilize your shoulder girdle by training to get your shoulders into flexion, giving the lats a bigger stretch to open up the movement.


This push-up variation is performed by you starting out in the downward dog yoga position and then performing a swooping motion as if you are diving under a fence post. This variation is very dynamic and you’re able to both strengthen and stretch. This push-up variation will also aid in improving your overhead lifting movements.



Push Up Dumbbell Drag

This push-up variation does require the use of a dumbbell or kettlebell. By performing the push-up and then dragging the dumbbell across the body you’re immediately intensifying the movement and forcing your body to create more static core stability and engagement.


Moving the dumbbell across the body adds in shoulder adduction and while moving the dumbbell you need to resist the urge to twist your trunk. When performing the drag portion of the movement you’ll feel a line of tension run diagonally from the grounded hand moving down your midsection to your opposite leg.




This anti-rotational type of resistance during the dragging portion of the dumbbell will significantly enhance your core stability and will improve on your ability to actually perform other rotational movements better.



Glide Disc Push Up

This variation requires the use of a glide disc or a furniture disc mover that you can pick up at your local hardware store. With this push-up variation, you’re essentially going to be obtaining the benefit of performing a couple of different movements within a single push up.


To execute this one you’ll want to place one hand on the ground and one on the disc. As you descend into the base of the push up you’ll want to actively slide the disc hand above your head bringing your shoulder into flexion.


As you ascend back up you’ll want to push with the grounded hand while pulling the disc back in front of your body bringing you back into the upright starting position for the movement. This is where you’re essentially performing a push and pull type of movement within a single push up.



Of course, you can add in additional variation with the movement by sliding the disc out to the side and abducting your shoulder as you descend into the base of the push-up. The glide disc is going to force you into performing the movement with a high level of controlled tension. Believe me, these are a lot more challenging than they appear.



Plank to Push Up

I will warn you that this one is probably the most advanced variation of this article. This unique push up variation is a beast.


By starting this push up from the plank position it automatically makes performing the movement tremendously more challenging. The reason for this is because you’re already restricted on leverage and for building much momentum to sprint yourself from the plank position up onto your fists to perform the push-up portion of the movement.


To execute this one you want to start out in the plank position resting on your forearms. Next, you’ll want to rock your chest forward bringing your chest out over your forearms.


From here you want to create what momentum and strength you can to spring up out of the plank and up onto your fist bringing your body into an upright push up position. From here, simply complete the movement by performing a standard push up on your knuckles. These are great for everyone but can do wonders for advanced martial arts and fighting athletes.



The Takeaway

At the end of the day when it comes to building real-world fitness and strength, you’ve got become proficient with the push-up. The good news is that once you can do them, you can readily ratchet up that intensity by varying and building off of the foundation of that movement with some additional drills.


Challenge yourself with these and I guarantee you’ll transform your strength and conditioning. What type of push up variations are you including in your training at the moment? Post and share here. If you need additional help please make sure to visit my profile and website. I’d be glad to help.

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