varying your push up

Varying your press up

If you are British, I can bet that what Americans might call a push up, you are more likely to call a press up. But wherever you are reading this from, the general idea will always be the same. You are using your own bodyweight as the equipment in one of the most popular exercises to see in any gym or sports field anywhere in the world. 

In part, this massive popularity that comes with the press up has led to so many different variations of it that now there are too many to even remember. But what is important to remember is that each variation is unique and therefore needs to be specifically selected for the right kind of exercise.

So let’s get straight into looking at some of the more popular variations and see exactly when and why you might want to use them:

  1. Front-clap press up – I’m sure you are aware of this very common variation. The idea is you push yourself up with enough force that you give yourself the time to clap before you reach the ground again. The thing to take away from this variation is explosiveness. This explosiveness can be transferred to a wide range of different exercises, allowing you to create more force at the start.
  2. Wide-grip press up – By widening the distance between your hands on the ground when you do a press up, you put a greater emphasis on your chest muscles and work them much harder.
  3. Close-grip press up – You might be familiar with this as the diamond grip press up but the idea is basically the same. By closing the distance between your hands on the ground, you move the area being worked from your chest to your triceps.
  4. One arm press up – This one isn’t just to impress people once you have had a few drinks at a party. In fact, there is a lot more to it than that. Difficult to get right but incredibly effective when you do. The important thing here is actually more to do with your legs than your arms. The best one arm press ups rely 100% on a wide base created by your legs. Your elbows and shoulders are likely to be put under a fair amount of stress if you do this one right though, so make sure you are completely warmed up.
  5. Decline press up – The idea here is to have your legs in the air when you start and this is most commonly achieved using an exercise ball but you can easily just use your stairs if you don’t have one to hand at home. What you achieve is a greater range of motion, which in turn allows you to work more muscles for a longer period of time.
  6. Incline press up – It won’t take a genius to work out that this variation requires you to start with your arms higher up, rather than your legs. This will make your press ups easier but that should allow you to exercise greater control. Then as you reduce the incline, the press up becomes harder and you will hopefully retain the same level of control.

I could go on. There are countless more variations, all with different benefits. The important thing to do is match the press up to the muscle group. So if you are training chest, you might want to try widening your grip. If you are doing triceps, narrowing the grip is going to be better. Often, a more specific type of press up will offer greater benefits.

Ollie Lawrence