by Men’s Health
Guys tend to abandon the pushup for the bench press sometime around puberty. Which is why you usually have to wait in line at the gym for a bench while there’s always plenty of floor space. But the once-forgotten pushup has recently muscled its way back to the top of the exercise universe. Why? Because it not only builds a powerful front façade to your physique, but also develops the support system behind that musculature. “They’re also a great way to judge how strong you are relative to your body weight,” says Martin Rooney, P.T., C.S.C.S., author of Ultimate Warrior Workouts.
Test yourself by doing as many pushups as you can in 3 minutes. Rest whenever you want, but keep the clock running the whole time. Fifty-five is average, but if you can’t reach 75—what strength coaches consider “good”—then you need to either gain strength or lose weight. Our 14 pushup variations will help you do both. Weave them into your daily workouts to build strength, power, and sleeve-busting muscle.
Good for: General upper-body conditioning
Balance your weight on your toes and palms, with your hands a comfortable distance apart, probably just beyond shoulder-width. Your body should form a straight line from your ankles to your head. Squeeze your glutes and brace your abdominals, and keep them that way for the duration of the exercise. Slowly lower yourself to the floor, pause, and push yourself back up. Repeat a few hundred times.
Variations: Three-point pushup (place one foot on top of the other to make the exercise a little more challenging); decline pushup (set your feet on a bench or chair to strengthen your shoulders); and triceps pushup (place your hands close together, directly under your shoulders, and keep your elbows tucked close to your sides as you lower your body—an adjustment that shifts the work from your chest to your arms).
Good for: Athletic performance in sports involving torso rotation, such as tennis, hockey, and baseball
Assume the classic pushup position, but as you come up, rotate your body so your right arm lifts up and extends overhead. Your arms and torso should form a T. Return to the starting position, lower yourself, then push up and rotate till your left hand points toward the ceiling.
Variations: One-dumbbell (grip a dumbbell in one hand, rotate to the dumbbell side for half your repetitions, then switch the dumbbell to the other hand); two-dumbbell (grip dumbbells in both hands, and alternate sides when you come up).
Good for: Posture; midsection endurance and stability
Lie facedown, rest your weight on your forearms and toes, tuck your hips, and hold your body in a straight line from ankles to shoulders for 5 seconds. Do a total of 10 5-second holds.
Variations: When 5-second holds are easy, progress to longer holds, until you can stay in the position for 30 seconds. Next, try a regular push up position with your hips tucked. When you can hold that for 30 seconds, try it on your knuckles.
Good for: Stability of midsection, shoulder; grip strength
Get into the classic pushup position with your hands on a barbell (the kind that can roll away if you don’t keep it steady). Knock out the pushups, but not yourself—keep in mind that one slip can send you crashing teeth-first into the floor.
Good for: Abdominal development; shoulder stability
Set up in the classic pushup position on a smooth floor, and place your feet on a towel. Walk with your hands across the room, turn, and walk back. Keep your back flat throughout the movement.
Good for: Developing upper-body power
Set up in the classic position on a well-padded carpet or exercise mat. Push up hard enough for your hands to come off the floor and catch some air. When you hit the floor, go immediately into the next repetition, pushing up again as hard as you can and catching more air.
Good for: Upper-body strength and stability
Wrap a pair of straps (or chains) around a chinup bar or the crossbar of a power rack. At the bottom, the straps should be about 12 inches off the floor. Attach gymnastics-type rings (or a straight bar) to the ends of the straps. Grab the rings and do pushups, being careful to protect your lower back by keeping your core and glutes tight—as you should when you do any variation of the pushup.