5 Push Up Variations For INSANE Size, Strength, & Explosiveness

Build a Chiseled & Functional Chest!

by Alec Enkiri | 3/22/24

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Looking to add some variety to your training routine? Here are 5 push up variations that will take your upper body size, strength, and explosiveness to the next level!

#1 is the king all push up variations, and that is the DEFICIT PUSH-UP (max range of motion push up). With this variation the goal is simple: elevate the feet and hands high enough off the floor to allow for unencumbered max range of motion into the deepest and most difficult portion of the push-up.

That extra range of motion at is going to build strength at end range, help bulletproof the shoulders, and create a greater stimulus for hypertrophy by placing the muscles under a greater stretch and forcing them to work through a larger range of motion (and perform more total work).

This variation also gives you the opportunity to enhance mobility through the chest and shoulder girdle by allowing you to make a conscious effort to work into deeper and deeper realms in the bottom position, hence the "max range of motion" moniker.

You can do deficit push-ups with a pause if you're a real masochist, or you can do them with no pause. Both are great options and present a slightly different training stimulus.

Variation #2 is my second favorite variation and follows closely behind variation #1 as a general strength and size builder, and that is the DELOAD PUSH-UP. So whereas with the deficit push-up our goal is to support our bodyweight plus any external load constantly throughout the set, with the deload push-up our goal is to deload all of that weight onto the floor at the bottom portion of every rep.

Lower under control, allow your chest to settle and fully deload onto the floor, pause for a few seconds, and then explode back to the top. This deloading component emphasizes dead stop strength and creates a pressing effect similar to a pause bench press, as compared to a touch and go bench press.

 The elastic energy from the stretch shortening cycle dissipates and you are forced to overcome the resistance with pure muscular force as opposed to relying on the rebound from the tendons. Further, it creates an ultra consistent range of motion and a more highly repeatable movement pattern.

The biggest issue you see with push-ups from normies is half reps, and for obvious reason, the deeper you go the harder it gets (that's what she said). But when you're deloading your torso onto the floor there is no question about whether you achieved the goal range of motion or not, and you are guaranteed to never shortchange your progress by doing half reps.

Deload pushups can be done on the floor if you're looking to move maximal weights, or they can be done from a deficit to really up the ante.  Either way, this variation is a staple that every serious lifter should include in their training!

Also known as "decline push ups" because the torso is declined, but I call them INCLINE PUSH UPS because the pressing pattern is actually an incline press, not a decline press.

I really love incline push ups because they alter the pressing pattern away from the typical flat press found in most push up variations. Instead you are now pressing from an incline and getting the strength and hypertrophy benefits that come along with that, such as increased upper chest and shoulder engagement.

Further, they are highly versatile. Simply referring to them as one variation would be a disservice, as with this single concept you are now opening the door to 3, 4, or 5 different pressing angles. With the barbell one thing I make sure to do in all of my my client's training programs is press from every angle: flat, low incline, standard incline, high incline, super high incline, and overhead. And the incline pushup allows us to accomplish this exact same thing but now with calisthenics instead.

We can cover every angle along the way simply by adjusting the height differential between our feet and hands. I personally have 4 different angles that I am tracking this way at the moment, and building all of these different angles up is going give me the greatest strength, hypertrophy, and bodily resilience in the long run.

I would be remiss if I didn't include some form of explosive training for the upper body pressing muscles on this list! The PLYO PUSH UP gets the job done here best of all as it is really the upper body equivalent of the vertical jump.

By exploding off the ground you are able to build power locally in the upper body muscles. Having all the strength in the world is nice, but unless you can learn how to apply some of that strength rapidly and explosively then it is ultimately a bit overrated.

Systemically, the act of simply being explosive frequently (learning how to rev the system to 100% in the snap of a finger) and through a variety of different activities, is a good way to keep the body fresh and the nervous system sharp and always ready to pull the trigger on a moment's notice. Which, as half an old man myself now, I would argue is a very important component of vitality and maintaining youthfulness.

I recommend clapping your hands together on your plyo push-ups simply because this forces a greater level of intent on every rep. When you push yourself off the ground with the intention of clapping your hands together in the air before you come crashing back down to the floor you are forced to give it everything you've got into every single rep otherwise you are likely to faceplant into the floor. It's just a lot easier to sandbag these reps when you aren't clapping your hands together in the air. It's the same idea as with vertical jumping: when you have a target to try to touch high up in the air you literally jump higher than when you're just jumping up into the air for no particular reason at all, even if the effort levels feel the same.

This greater output (which is what explosive training is all about!) creates a more potent stimulus and builds more power in the long run.

Finally, variation #5 is the DIAMOND PUSH UP! Every variation we have discussed so far has emphasized movement at the shoulders over the movement at the elbows, so this is where the diamond push up comes in, as the diamond push up is a great way to still focus on push ups and hit all the upper body pressing muscles in general, but now in a way that biases the elbows instead of the shoulders.

By assuming the diamond position you are able to achieve a greater degree of elbow flexion at the bottom, which places the triceps under a greater stretch and forces them to do more of the work in place of the chest and shoulders.

This movement makes for a great finisher to any upper body session as the triceps will still often be able to handle quite a bit more work even after the rest of the upper body has been pummeled into oblivion with your deficit push ups and incline push ups.

I like to use push up handles for this exercise to alleviate some of the wrist stress, as it can be quite uncomfortable on the wrists to hold that diamond position for an extended set, especially if your wrists are already taking a pounding from things like heavy overhead work, power snatches, and front squats, like mine are.

Another good option here is to add some band resistance if you're strong enough for it. Since the emphasis with the diamond push up is on achieving a large degree of elbow flexion and biasing the triceps, the added tension that the band provides at the top complements this movement very nicely!


So there ya have it guys! 5 push up variations that will take your upper body strength, size, and explosiveness to the next level! Focus on 2 or 3 of them at a time, milk all the gains you can from them, and then switch to new variations and repeat that process again.

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