Try these pushup variations for a total-body workout.
Renegade Row Pushup
The pushup and row works your back muscles just as hard as your chest, making it the perfect two-for-one move when you’re short on time.
Place a a pair of dumbbells on the floor and set yourself up in pushup position, grasping the handles with each hand (You can go fairly heavy since you’re rowing the weight, not curling it). Lower your body to the floor, pause, then push yourself back up.
Once you’re back in the starting position, row the dumbbell in your right hand to the side of your chest, keeping your elbow close to your ribs. Pause, then lower the dumbbell back down and repeat with your left arm.
Tip: Stay parallel to the floor. Your torso will want to rotate as you row. Don’t let it!
Grab a pair of lighter dumbbells and set yourself up in pushup position. Lower your body to the floor. As you push yourself back up, rotate the left side of your body upward as you raise the dumbbell above your left shoulder in one fluid motion. Lower the dumbbell back down and repeat, this time performing the move to your right. As you rotate your body, pivot on your toes and then lower your heels to the floor.
Tip: Try this exercise without any weights at first to get the movement down. It’s a little trickier than it looks.
Medicine Ball Pushup
When you place your hands on medicine balls (or basketballs!), the instability causes your core muscles to work 20 percent harder than when you do pushups on the floor, according to researchers in New Zealand. If you’re worried about the balls rolling away—making you face-plant—start with the balls braced against a wall until you get more comfortable.
Feet on Ball Pushup
Start on your hands and knees with a medicine ball right behind you. Reach back and put one foot on the ball. Keeping your core tight, lift up your second foot and perform a pushup. The instability of the ball forces your core to work harder, increasing the difficulty of this move.
Tip: To make this exercise easier, put only one foot on the ball at a time. To make it more challenging, put each foot on a separate ball.
Yoginis don’t get those gorgeous shoulders by meditating. A powered-up version of the close-hands pushup, this move also targets your triceps (that dreaded “batwing” area).
Place your hands directly under your shoulders (like in plank) and lower your body down to the floor, keeping your elbows tucked in close to your sides the entire time. Pause for two breaths and then raise your head and shoulders toward the ceiling into Up Dog. Reverse the movement back to starting position and repeat.
Tip: Start in Down Dog instead of plank to make this a Judo pushup.
Diamond Hand Pushup
Considered one of the most challenging pushup variations, the diamond hand position places the majority of the resistance on your triceps. Position your hands close together so that your index finger and thumbs create a diamond shape directly beneath your chest. Your feet should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart to help you balance. Lower your body to the ground, keeping your back straight, and then push back up.
Tip: Don’t sag through your shoulders to go lower. Only go as deep as you can while maintaining proper form.
They may not help you scale walls, but they’re still a great way to add an extra core challenge to your pushup. Start in standard pushup position. As you lower your body toward the floor, lift your left foot, swing your left knee out sideways, and try to touch your knee to your elbow.
As you push back up, return your foot to the starting position. Switch legs for the next pushup.
An easier version: At the top of the pushup, bring your knee to touch your elbow, return your foot to the floor, and then perform the pushup.
Staggering your hands makes this move more challenging for your core and shoulder muscles. Place your left hand slightly wider and a few inches farther forward than standard pushup position and your right hand directly under your shoulder (so that your elbow brushes your ribs). Keep your right elbow tucked close to your side as you lower your body to really feel the burn in your triceps. Just remember to swap hand positions after each set!
Research shows that performing pushups while suspended from straps increases muscle activation in your abs and upper back. Just be sure to engage your core and squeeze your glutes as you lower and raise your body since this exercise can also place more stress on your lower back.
Using a TRX, gymnastic rings, or even two resistance bands looped over something (very) stable, get into pushup position with your feet together. Lower your body until your upper arms dip below your elbows. Push up until your arms are straight.
Tip: The farther your feet are behind you, the harder this move is.
Start to get into a pushup position, but bend your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms instead of on your hands (as shown). Tighten your core (this will really help!) and then push up onto both hands at the same time, ending in a full plank position. Lower back down to your forearms.
Tip: This one is tough. There’s no shame in starting from your knees!
If Ellen DeGeneres and Michelle Obama can do these (and they can!), you can too! Maybe not today, but you can work up to them (we don’t recommend doing one-arm pushups if you’re not able to control the movement).
If you are ready to try, get into a pushup position, but place one hand on the small of your back and the other hand on the floor under the middle of your chest. Lower your body as you maintain a straight body position and then push back up.
Tip: You see how red my face is? That’s how hard these are for me. I have new respect for the First Lady!
The handstand pushup requires the muscles in your upper body to work much harder than standard pushups because you’re pushing a larger percentage of your body weight—all of it!
Kick or walk your feet up a wall into a handstand. Keep your legs straight, rest your heels again the wall, and arch your back slightly. Look down between your hands as you bend your elbows and lower your body. Extend your arms and push back up.
Tip: Start with a very small movement. It’s all fun and games (and a great shoulder workout) until someone lands on their head.
Fire Hydrant Pushup
All pushups work your core, but this variation kicks your quest for flat abs into high gear. Start in a traditional pushup position with both feet up on a step or bench. As you lower into a pushup, swing your left knee out sideways as if bringing it up to meet your left armpit (like a dog peeing on a hydrant, hence the name). Without putting your leg down, swing it under your body to touch your opposite (right) elbow. Push back up to return to start and repeat on the other side.
Tip: The elevated position of your feet allows for more room to move your leg without having to break out of your straight-body position.
Target your shoulders with this pushup variation. Place both feet on a low step and raise your hips so that your body forms an upside-down “V.” Keeping your hips elevated, lower your body until your head almost touches the floor.
Tip: The higher your feet, the harder it is. Start with your feet on the floor (you won’t be able to get your upper body entirely over your hands) and work up to putting your feet on a high weight bench so that you can get vertical!