10 Push-ups Progressions for Strength, Size, and Stability

Push ups

The Push-up is one of the most battle-tested exercises to develop your chest, shoulders, triceps, and your abdominals. There is a reason that everyone from Elementary Physical Education Teachers to NFL strength and conditioning coaches uses this exercise – it’s a fundamental movement that has unlimited regressions and progressions, making it usable for anyone.

At its core, the pushup is a very simple exercise, but making slight variations to ensure proper muscle activation and technique turns this simple exercise into a challenging full-body exercise. Doing simple down-and-up push-ups in just the beginning of the endless variations and progressions of this exercise. 

Working through a proper progression on an exercise is very important for getting the most benefit from the exercise and protecting your joints from unnecessary injury. Unfortunately, due to poor technique and rapid progression, individuals frequently experience shoulder pain and wrist pain when performing pushups.

Before beginning any exercise program be sure that you have the pre-requisite joint range of motion to perform the exercise. In the case of the pushup, it’s important you have adequate shoulder extension and wrist extension in order to perform the exercise safely and properly. If you are experiencing pain during a push-up, see a qualified professional to give you an assessment to help you correct the issue!

We recommend working through these progressions slowly and once you are able to perform variation for repetitions and multiple sets with flawless technique, try the next variation!

Isometric Holds

    • Brace your abdomen
    • Be sure your entire hand is in contact with the floor and rotating slightly outwards
    • Maintain a slight Chin-tuck

Eccentric Pushups

    • Start in the same position as the isometric push-up
    • Slowly lower yourself down for 5-8 seconds without losing your brace of chin tuck
    • Once you have lowered yourself all the way down, restart at the top

Incline Pushups

    • Find a surface that is elevated and allows for a comfortable position of the wrist
    • Lower yourself to the surface over the course of 3 seconds with good form
    • Think “Push the surface away” as your press-up

1.5 Rep Pushups

    • Start by performing one full eccentric pushup to the ground
    • Instead of pressing all the way up, press yourself up until your elbow are roughly 90 degrees
    • Return down to the ground under control and press yourself back up to the top

Pushups with Shoulder Tap

    • Perform a Full Repetition of a push-up with good form
    • At the top of each repetition, lift one hand up and touch the opposite shoulder
    • When you lift the hand off the surface, maintain the integrity of the rest of the body

Single leg Pushups

    • From the starting position, lift one leg off of the ground
    • Keep the leg lifted as your perform full pushups
    • Do not arch the back or shift your hips when the leg lifts

Elbow to Knee Pushups

    • Start by performing one full pushup with good technique
    • Once you reach the top of the pushup, lift one arm and the opposite leg up off of the ground
    • Touch the lifted elbow to the lifted knee, without excessively moving your spine

Push-up to Sit out

  • Start by performing a full pushup with good technique
  • At the top of the push-up, lift one and one leg off of the table
  • Turn your body and lift the one leg up towards the ceiling with maintaining contact of the opposite limbs

Plyo Pushup

    • Perform a full eccentric pushup with good technique and a short pause at the bottom
    • From the bottom of the pushup, push explosively through your hands and attempt to lift slightly off the ground at the end of the repetitions
    • Catch yourself in the pushup position with a slight elbow bend and reset for the next repetitions

Clapping Push-ups

    • Perform a controlled eccentric pushup until your chest touches the floor
    • Once the chest touches, push explosively through the ground and clap you hands together while in the air
    • Land with “soft elbows” as to not put too much strain on the wrist and reset the position for the next repetition

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