Different Types of Push-ups for Different Muscles

Types of Push-ups

Push-ups are not only one of the few body weight compound movements which are beneficial for your upper body strength and hypertrophy but they are highly versatile as in by changing the position of your body slightly you can easily hit different muscles effectively. Interesting, isn’t it? 

This blog will discuss different types of push-ups which focus on different muscles and also it will give you the top 8 variations which you can incorporate in your training to train your chest muscles. Excited, Let’s get ahead!

[NOTE:-Before this you must go through this blog Push-ups: Benefits, Technique and Beginner Guide to understand the basics and expedite your process of learning.]

Types of Push-ups for Chest

People often think that once they are able to do 25-30 reps of push-ups in a set then there is no scope of shocking the chest muscles and break the plateau. Here are few variations which are the most effective and scientifically proven ones in training your chest muscles and will bring new gains:

[NOTE:-Always remember more reps means more muscle growth up to a certain point after that adding more reps is actually counter-productive which leads to excessive fatigue, black out, etc.]

(1) Deep/Deficit Push-ups

This is one of those types of push-ups, you just have to elevate your hands and feet level by simply using a few blocks, books or any other item which is approximately 1 foot high on which you can keep your hands and as well as your feet.

Now as the distance from the top to bottom position of the movement has increased, automatically the work done by the muscle will increase as your pecs will get a greater stretch at the bottom and have to exert a greater force to come back up in the top position. All in all greater ROM(Range of Motion).

(2) Weighted/Banded Push-ups

When normal push-ups seem to easy, this type of push-ups is the easiest way to make it more challenging by adding more weight on yourself by simply wearing a weight vest, wearing a bag pack with lots of books in it or keeping a heavy gym plate on your back.

Due to additional weight, you have to exert more force and hence push your muscles. And few studies have found that weighted push-ups are as effective as a bench press.  OR

You can also do banded push-ups in which you keep your body under the pressure of the band hence you have to come over from a greater amount of resistance depending upon the thickness of the resistance band.

[Pro tip:-To increase the difficulty you can simply add more weight onto yourself or increase the thickness of the band.]

(3) Explosive Push-ups

In 2006, a study published in MSSE(Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise) found that the chest activation was significantly greater in this type of push-ups in the subjects tested. Any type of explosive push-up like clapping push-ups, superman push-ups, etc., will be extremely effective to train your chest.

[Pro Tip:-People often are not able to properly stabilize themselves when doing explosive movements, so an easy hack is to either start with hand release push-up in which you are only releasing your hand off the ground as much as possible OR 

Do the explosive knee push-ups in which instead of dong push-ups with toes on the ground, you are placing your knees and therefore shortening the lever.]

(4) Decline Push-ups

In 2011, the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that the chest activation was higher in the tested subjects among all the different tested types of push-ups and the upper body activation increased as the body started getting more and more perpendicular to the ground, however if you totally get parallel to the ground, then the focus was not primarily on the chest.

All you have to do is get in a push-up position and elevate your feet level around 2-3 feet or at most your hip level high. The body position will automatically put more emphasis on your chest, mainly the upper chest fibers are more activated but it impacts the overall chest as well.

[Pro Tip:-If you will do the decline push-ups by keeping your hands on the ground then your ROM will decrease as you will not be able to go all the way down. So, also elevating your hands level(lower than your feet level) using parallettes, blocks, etc., will ensure full ROM and keep the focus on your chest.]

(5) Ring Push-ups

One of the limitations of normal push-ups is that it keeps the hand position stuck at one position which prohibits us from squeezing at the top position, where we need the most contraction. This problem can be easily solved through this type of push-ups i.e., Ring push-ups(Use gymnastic rings for push-ups, if you don’t have it use any slippery cloth and place beneath your hands so as to make the movement of hands free).

[Pro Tip:-To increase the difficulty, the more you get parallel to the ground the harder the exercise gets.]

(6) Archer Push-ups

People often tend to forget to train their body unilaterally(one-sided dominant) which often creates imbalance in muscle growth and makes the naturally stronger side more stronger as compared to the non-dominant side.

In this type of push-ups, you have to just do the push-up movement on one side and the non-working hand will stay straight and spread away from your body for assistance.

[Pro Tip:-To make the exercise easier, the more you bend your non-working hand the easier it gets or you can also do them in a knee push-up position.]

(7) Slow Push-ups

Studies have conclusively proven that the eccentric/negative phase(phase in which you are not exerting force) of any exercise provides more damage to the muscle as compared to the concentric phase. Hence, this type of push-up will focus on the negative phase more.

All you have to do is get in a push-up position and go down as slow as possible (ideally 3-5 seconds) and push yourself back explosively. This technique increases the time under tension of the muscle, making it more challenging for the muscles.

[Pro Tip:-If you want to increase the difficulty, slow down the tempo of the concentric phase as well(Phase in which you are exerting force) which will increase the time under tension of the muscle more.]

(8) Pause Push-ups

Among so many types of push-ups, adding a pause at the most challenging position of an exercise is also a variation to increase its difficulty. In Pause push-ups, you have to pause at the bottom position of the push-up for about 3-5 seconds and push back up. Pausing will recruit more and more muscle fibers because you are holding a position which is increasing the time under tension of the muscle.

Types of Push-ups for Triceps

The main function of the triceps muscle is elbow flexion and elbow extension, by placing the elbows behind the wrists during push-ups automatically the focus shifts to the triceps more, which can be done through two types of push-ups:

1) Diamond/Close Grip Push-ups

As the name suggests, in this type of push-ups you have to get in a push-up position but with both hands together and at narrower distance than shoulder-width distance so that the hands are placed right underneath your center position of the chest. This will reduce the amount of movement done by your shoulders and focus more on the elbow movement which is the key focus.

[Pro Tip:-To manage the difficulty level, either you can do the push-ups on knees or the more you keep your hands close together, the harder it gets. (Elbow should be tucked in rather than flaring outwards, otherwise it will again put the focus on the chest.)]

2) Sphinx Push-ups

Among all the types of push-ups, this is the most effective for the triceps as you will totally remove the shoulders out of the equation and hence the whole focus goes onto the elbow movement or triceps.

You just have to get in a normal plank position and initiate the movement by pushing your elbows up from the ground or straightening your elbow (Elbow extension) and come back down through elbow flexion while keeping the plank position of the body throughout the movement.

[Pro Tip:-The more you shift your body forward the harder it gets.]

Types of Push-ups for Shoulders

Now this time placing the elbows beyond your wrists will automatically shift more focus onto your shoulder.

1. Pseudo Planche Push-ups

In this type of push-ups, you have to shift your body as forward as possible, at most that your wrists are placed just beneath your waist. Doing so will target the shoulders(Front Deltoids) more.

[Pro Tip:-The more you lean forward the harder the movement gets, so start by leaning a bit forward and gradually start increasing and eventually you get to advance skills such as Tuck Planche Push-ups, Planche Push-ups, etc. (Tilt your hands a little outward so as to avoid wrist pain and injury.)]

2. Pike Push-ups

Overhead pressing is immensely important for your overall shoulder health, growth, strength and mobility. You just have to stand straight and bend your body forward so that your hands can touch your toes and place your hands right there on the ground. After that take 4-5 steps backwards, lift your heels and start the movement by bending your elbows and start going down as well as bit forward gradually and push back up in the same alignment.

[Pro Tip:-The more you raise your feet level higher, the harder the exercise gets, eventually getting to harder progressions like Handstand Push-ups, etc.]

Points to Remember

(1) Always keep in mind the basic push-up alignment of your body unless you are doing a totally different variation like pike push-ups. To learn the correct technique of push-ups, check out Push-ups: Benefits, Technique and Beginner Guide.

(2) Every time go through a nice and short warmup before doing any of the push-up variation so as to avoid injury and pain in the joints like, warming up your wrists before Pseudo Planche Push-ups, etc.

(3) Do not try to incorporate all the movements together at one time, thinking it will produce more effect. Unless you become stronger in a particular movement do not try to modify it. Your muscles need time to adapt and inculcating so many movements together will hamper it.


So as you observed in this article,just by changing your body alignment a bit, you are putting more load on the desired muscles and you also have progressions according to your levels, be it intermediate or advance. Body weight bodybuilding is real because your body responds to the right amount of stimulus whether it is coming from your own body weight or any external force like, dumbbell, barbell, etc. 

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