Sometimes push ups are their own best supplemental exercise.
Want to strengthen your basic standard push up?
Then you need to strengthen your weak points AND you need to do more push ups.
Why not strengthen your weak points and do more push ups simply by using a couple different push up variations instead of a ton of different supplemental exercises?
So how do you use push ups to make your push ups better?
Pick variations that target your weaker areas!
Recently I’ve heard too many complaints about people not being able to fit in their workouts.
And when I tell them, “Well just set a timer and do a 15 minute workout AT HOME.” (Because, let’s face it, all of us have 15 minutes we can spend working out especially if we don’t have to waste any time on travel!)
They tell me, “But I don’t have any equipment at home!”
Well that is no excuse! While I’ve written numerous articles with bodyweight exercises you can do at home, today I would like to focus on some of the best UPPER BODY moves you can do.
Many people can think of a ton of lower body moves to do (squats, squat jumps, lunges, chair step ups), they often can’t think of a variety of upper body moves to do.
So here are some great Bodyweight Upper Body Moves that you can easily do at home that will challenge everyone from the beginner to even the most advanced lifter.
There are honestly more than 10 listed here since I think we often forget about all the options out there and skip our workouts because we are bored doing the same 3 moves over and over again.
1. Handstands – Whether you are new to handstands and need to start with a modified downward dog or you can hold a handstand without any support, handstands are a GREAT upper body move. They work your shoulders, triceps upper back and core. They are also FUN and can easily be made to challenge any level. Go to Redefining Strength and download the bodyweight guide for more handstand variations!
2. Scapular Hold – If you’ve read more than one article on this blog, you know by now that I LOVE scapular holds or Batwings. These are a great way to work your back and improve your posture (and lessen neck and shoulder pain!). The basic variation of scapular holds is done against the wall. You can also do this against the ground if you are really up for a challenge; HOWEVER, progressing down to the ground isn’t really necessary if you really focus on activating the correct muscles while against the wall. The scapular hold can also be made into a dynamic move called the Corner Row. The corner row works the same muscles although I do find it challenges the core a bit more since you must hold your body in a straight line while moving. Both are essential for less pain and better posture!
3. Push Up variations (T-push ups, incline, close grip, wide grip, push up to fly, push up to dip, divebombers…) – Push ups can be made easier for the beginner (incline) or more advanced for the experienced exerciser (decline). They can also be made to focus more on the shoulders, chest or triceps. They are a great move to work your chest, shoulders and triceps as well as your core. Here are even more push up variations if you are bored with the ones you’ve been doing.
4. Scapular Push Ups – A great push up variation to work your upper back. While you may only perform an inch or two of movement, this is a hard move that really works the lower traps. Great to improve posture and alleviate neck and shoulder pain! You can make this easier by doing it from your knees. You can also change it up by doing this move from your forearms instead of your hands.
5. Crawls – Forward, backward, sideways, circles… Bear crawls, alligator crawls, crab crawls, gorilla crawls…All these crawls work your shoulders, triceps, core and even your quads. PLUS they are a great way to get in some cardio! With crawls I often hear the excuse that people don’t have enough room to do them, but all you need to be able to do is take a step or two forward and a step or two backward. And you can keep things interesting by mixing up the type of crawl you do. Shoot, sometimes simply doing crawls for your workout is enough!
6. Plank variations (plank with reach through, plank with reach out, plank holds, climbers) – Planks don’t just work your core. They are a great way to develop shoulder stability and work your upper body as well as your abs. Planks are more than the basic isometric hold we see done so often. They can also be a dynamic movement like climbers or plank with reach out.
7. Posterior Plank – A great move for your entire backside, the posterior plank works everything from the back of your shoulders down to your ankles. You can advance this move by doing a single leg variation or you can make it easier by bending your knees a bit instead of having them out straight. Every time I do this move, I can’t help but think of Flash Dance.
8. Towel Lat Pulldown – A great way to work on those pull ups even when at home without a pull up bar (although I do think a doorway pull up bar is a great investment!). This move helps work on scapular retraction and lat activation. It is also great if you have overactive upper traps and suffer from shoulder and neck pain!
9. Towel Taz – One of my favorite cardio moves that also works the shoulders and can be done at home, or in your hotel room, with something we all have…A TOWEL. While you want to make sure you aren’t in a place where you can knock things over, you don’t actually need much room to do the Towel Taz. Flap the towel up and towel or press your arms in and out. Both will work your upper back, shoulders, triceps and core. (Plus if you move around quickly, your legs and cardiovascular system are going to get some great exercise as well!)
10. Glute Bridge with Reach – This move is a great way to work your back, butt and core as well as get a nice stretch in. It can be a great dynamic warm up and activation move as well as a challenging move to add to your workouts. Since I haven’t really ever mentioned this move before….To do this move, set up in a glute bridge. Drive through your heels and get your hips up as high as you can. Keeping your core and glutes tight, reach one arm across your body and overhead as if you are reaching for something over your shoulder and behind you. You will bridge up onto one shoulder, keeping your hips up. Come back to center, lower the hips down and then bridge back up and reach across and back over the other shoulder. Repeat alternating sides and rotating the core while in the glute bridge.
So there are at least 10 Upper Body moves you can do at home….Maybe you can even use them today to help you stay on track this weekend….
How many of these had you forgotten about?
A bit ago I posted about how to do a perfect push up.
Today, I want to talk about all the fun and different challenging variations of push ups you can do.
For some of you, these will be easily doable now. For others, this is something to motivate you to EARN these harder exercises.
Do not attempt these if you haven’t mastered at least a perfect push up from your knees. Many of these can be done from your knees.
HOWEVER, many of these are more difficult than even a perfect push up from your toes.
Anyway, maybe these will be a fun challenge for some of you to try out tomorrow during you 4th of July BBQ! See what other push up variations you can come up with!
1. The Push Up Climb – So this one is difficult because it includes a ton of push ups and because you are doing a variety of push ups as you climb your way back and forth across the weights. You can honestly set up as many different “hills” as you want. I did three. Two smaller ones and a taller one in the middle. Perform a push up besides the first tower. Then climb one hand up on the weights and do another push up. Then place both hands on top of the weights and do a close grip push up. Then climb one hand down and do another push up. Then both hands should be down on the ground for a narrower push up. Repeat up and down the next few towers. A great way to really hit your chest, shoulders and triceps from a few different angles. This can be done from knees or toes. You can even turn it into a competition and see who can get back and forth across the most times before failing! (I have a sick sense of fun…I know…)
2. Push Up to Dip – Seriously one of my favorite moves. Set up two kettlebells or two push up stands. The stands should be narrow enough that you really can only slide your feet through. Perform two push ups on the stands and then swing your legs through and perform two dips. The more you “swing” through and the less you walk back and forth through the kettlebells, the more challenging the move will become. Make sure that when you do the dip, your butt is back by the kettlebell. This move can be regressed in a couple of different ways. It can be done from the knees or even on an incline. You can use a bench and do two push ups followed by two dips off the bench. Do about 5 rounds of this….Sounds easy to only do 10 push ups but with the dip in between your triceps get a bit shot.
3. Handstand Push Up – A great shoulder move and really works your core. Set up in a handstand and then drop your head toward the ground before pushing back up. This move can be made a bit easier if done as a pike push up off a bench or box…Like in the IKEA table workout! Or it can be made more difficult by doing it free-standing!
4. Spiderman Push Up – With this move you get in some oblique work as well. Perform a push up. Holding at the bottom of the push up, bring one knee outside your body toward the same elbow. Then put the foot back and do another push up bringing the foot in on the other side. You can also do both feet in every push up! Could be done on an incline to make it easier although you won’t get as much benefit out of bringing the knee in.
5. The Belly Button Push Up – I’ve debated about whether or not this is the hardest one on the list. Still not sure but it is definitely up at the top. Lie facedown on the ground with the heel of your hands down beside your belly button. Push up and then return back down.
6. Decline Push Up – One of my favorites and a great way to hit a different portion of your chest. Put your feet up on something and perform a push up. Your hands will not be directly outside your chest when you do this one.
7. Close to Wide Grip Push Up – If you want to hit EVERYTHING, do these push ups. Start with a diamond push up. Then slowly walk your hands out one at a time until you perform a wide push up.
8. Staggered Push Up – Honestly I think this one looks cooler than it is difficult. Just a great way to add some variety and keep your push up workouts interesting. Place one hand up by your head with finger tips pointing in and the other hand as normal outside your chest. Perform some push ups and then switch which hand is staggered forward. You could even add in a little plyo move and switch your hands every time!
9. “No Feet” Push Up – This is called the “no feet” push up because your feet are up on the wall and you are performing a push up. A great way to work your core and make sure everything is engaged. A bit easier if your shoes have traction! Walk your feet up the wall until in a good push up position. Then do a regular push up without letting your feet slide.
10. T Push Up – This push ups gives you a little extra shoulder and core work and can be done from the toes, the knees and even on an incline. Set up in a regular push up position. Do a push up and then rotate open balancing on one hand as if you are doing a side plank. Hold and then rotate back to a push up position. Do another push up and rotate to the other side.
BONUS: Back and chest move – Push up to plank row!
What’s your favorite push up move? Clapping? One handed? With chains hanging off of you?
Want some great workouts so you can do MORE push ups?
Check these out: