Ask A Health Coach: 4 Arm-Sculpting Push-Up Variations That’ll Make Your Arms Quiver

July 13, 2016
by Michelle Pellizzon for Thrive Market
Ask A Health Coach: 4 Arm-Sculpting Push-Up Variations That’ll Make Your Arms Quiver

Confession: I can’t do a push-up. I fake my way through them every time I’m in a workout class. What’s the secret if you have zero upper-body strength? —Erin M.

This move has been my nightmare ever since participating in the Presidential Fitness Challenge in middle school gym class. You can master the push-up though, even if you consider yourself a weakling (spoiler alert: you’re NOT!). Even super-fit people sometimes struggle to complete more than five or six reps with perfect form, so don’t feel bad. With a little practice, you might be doing them one-handed in no time.

The basic move: push-up

1. Start in plank

Refresh yourself on the fundamentals of the plank here, and then roll out into the pose—abs in, back flat, and pressing firmly into your hands. If you want to drop down to your knees, do it after you’ve come out to a plank position; if you take this modification, make sure your body is in a completely straight line (don’t stick your butt out).

2. Lower your body

Once you’ve got a strong base, slowly lower your entire body toward the ground while bending your elbows. Instead of pointing your elbows straight out to the sides to form a 'T,' angle your upper arms and elbows out from your ribcage at about a 40-degree angle.  This position protects your shoulder joint. Only go as low as you can control, keeping your torso strong and straight.

3. Press back up

Push down through your hands and activate the muscles under your armpits and shoulder blades to press back up to your starting plank position. Take a second to evaluate your form and adjust if needed, and then repeat. Remember, with push-ups, quality over quantity matters most; even if you can only do one perfectly today, that’s better than doing five crappy ones.

Already a master? Here are four variations that work different muscles in your arms and back, leaving you with a chiseled—and super strong—upper body.

 

4 muscle-sculpting push-up variations

Chaturanga push-up

Do: 10 reps

Tip: Squeeze your elbows into your ribcage, bringing your heart forward through your hands to lower towards the mat.

ex1-pushup

Triangle push-up

Do: 10 reps

Tip: Make a little triangle with your hands, placing the opening of your palms directly beneath your sternum.

ex2-pushup

Off-set push-up

Do: 10 reps with the right hand forward, then repeat on the left

Tip: Stagger your hands so your top hand is directly in front of your shoulder, and your bottom hand is in line with your chest.

ex3-pushup

Spiderwoman push-up

Do: 20 reps, alternating between the right and left

Tip: Squeeze your knee all the way up toward your elbow using your oblique muscles—the higher the better!

ex4-pushup

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This article is related to: Ask a Health Coach, Exercise, Paleo, Workout, Video

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  • Liberallez

    If you're not strong enough to do a particular strength exercise... the "trick" is to start in the "finished" position. For example, with pushups, start in the "up" position and sloooowly let yourself down to the floor. Resist as hard as you can and do several "repetitions". After a while (days) you will find you can actually do a pushup from the down position.
    Years ago I did this to be able to do bicep curls with a 100 pound barbell. I "slung" the bar up to the curled position and then let it down as slowly as I could. It wasn't long before I could actually curl the weight starting in the down position.
    You can use this trick on just about any strength exercise...even pull-ups.