5 Most Important Push Up Variations

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Bodyweight Exercise Builds Functional StrengthPush Ups are the staple of bodyweight upper body exercises. Think of them as the bench of bodyweight exercise.  Incline, decline, overhead, triceps press, they can all be replicated with a variation on the good old Push Up.  It’s just a matter of simple body mechanics.  Let’s explore the variations and what each one can do for you.

First, there seems to be some confusion on the whole incline versus decline concept.  I’ll just establish from the get-go that incline means your head is lower than your feet and decline is just the opposite. This may seem counter-intuitive at first, but it is in comparison to your position on a weight bench.

Second, form is more important in push up variations than with most other exercises.  Hand placement and shoulder rotation will determine what muscle groups are doing the most work to push your bodyweight up.  Picture the movements when working out on the bench at the gym.  Only now instead of moving the bar, you are moving you.

Incline Push Ups
Primary muscles:  Chest
Secondary muscles: Shoulders, Triceps
Description:  Hand placement should be even with your mid chest (nipple line) and about shoulder-width apart.  Elevate your feet on a bench, chair or any elevated platform.  Perform push up movements as normal.  This exercise mimics the incline bench press.  Well, actually the incline bench press mimics this exercise.

Decline (Bench or Wall) Push Ups
Primary muscles:  Chest
Secondary muscles:  Shoulders
Description:  Stand facing a wall, sturdy table, chair or a bench.  Place your hands on the object and position your chest over your hands along the nipple line.  Move your feet back until you are comfortable, more for more resistance.  Perform push ups as normal.

Wide Grip Push Ups
Primary muscles:  Chest
Secondary muscles: Shoulders
Description:  Assume the standard push up position.  Move your hands outward well past shoulder-width.  At the bottom of the push up, your elbows should be at a 90 degree angle and over your hands.  Perform push ups as normal.

Knee Push Ups
Primary muscles:  Chest
Secondary muscles:  Shoulders, Triceps
Description:  Assume the normal push up position but on your knees instead of you feet.  Still keep your body straight and do push ups like normal.  This variation is good for beginners.

Close Grip Push Ups
Primary muscles:  Chest
Secondary muscles: Triceps
Description:  This variation will put more stress on your triceps.  To do this push up variation, assume a standard push up position and move your hands together under your chest.  To get the maximum effect, place your thumbs and forefingers into a diamond shape.  Perform the push ups as normal.

Using these variations will both add some challenge and spice to your bodyweight workouts.  Use them generously to improve your overall strength and fitness.



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