Push Ups Guide

Welcome to the bodyweight calisthenics page where I will periodically be adding more information on the abundance of exercises and moves there are  which require nothing more than your body, the floor, the walls and maybe a chair.


Minoru Yoshida of Japan did 10,507 push ups non-stop in 1980. Just as spectacular are the 46,001 push ups that Charles Servizio completed within 24 hours in 1993. They are just two of a series of push up record breakers (2) and for those of us who struggle to even reach ten, those numbers are pretty terrifying.

So, what is it about the push up that commands so much respect? Is it the difficulty people have when trying to do them? Is it getting the form right that poses problems? Push ups are probably the first bodyweight exercise we come across. The military and martial art tests rely on them to ascertain the strengths of their soldiers and students respectively. Push ups increase upper body muscular endurance (1). As a woman, it's an area that's often neglected as the typical fitness regime is based around cardio and aerobics, or more holistic style exercises such as yoga or pilates. Surprisingly to me however, push ups more than work just the chest and arms. They have an effect on many areas of the body and depending on the type of push up one does, the muscles of the back can be worked more, the abdominals may be heavily relied upon, or the triceps can be targeted. You also support most of your bodyweight with certain push up forms. If you thought you can't quantify the push up, you may be happy to learn that a staggering 75% of your bodyweight is what you have to push up against in a traditional (classic) push up (4).


1) Classic Push Ups
The classic form is probably the most known type of push up. You can start from the bottom of the movement in the prone position as you lie down with your stomach to the floor. Your hands should be next to your shoulders, or just wider than your shoulders. Have the balls of your feet and toes bent against the ground, then lift up using your arms and tightening the muscles in your stomach and back so that you don't flop in the middle of the manoeuvre. You then lower yourself without letting your body touch the floor, then push up again The closer your feet are together, the harder the push up will be (5).

2) Wall Push Ups
Wall push ups are usually done as the rehabilitative form of the harder push up types. Literally, just stand two or three feet from a clear wall. Put your hands straight out in front, and then bend your arms like you would do in the classic push up or the wide arm push up forms until your face is almost touching the wall, then push yourself back out again.

3) Knee Push Ups
Another rehabilitative form is done by reducing the load by 50% of the full push ups when the knees are placed down on the floor instead of the feet. The feet and knees are then relaxed (6).

4) Inclined Push Ups
This decreases the difficulty of the full push up as you raise yourself up that your hands are either on a bench or chair of some sort whilst your feet are still on the ground.

5) Declined Push Ups
This increases the difficulty of the full push up as you lower your upper body so that your hands are on the floor and your feet are raised up on a bench or chair of some sort.

6) Wide Arm Push Ups
These are like the classic push ups except for the placement of the hands. They are placed wider than in the classic form. Therefore, you rely less on the arms and more on the chest muscles.

7) Diamond Push Ups (a.k.a. close arm press ups)
Diamond push ups are opposite to wide arm push ups as you bring your hands together underneath you. Diamond push ups get the name from the diamond shape you can make with your hands as you bring them together. It particularly works out the triceps and proves to be a step up in challenge after the classic form.

8) Hindu Push Ups
Hindu push ups look fun to do, and they are. It involves more movement than just simply bending the arms, there's a forwards and backward motion which help to stretch and strengthen the hips, shoulders and back. If you know any yoga terms, you start with the downward dog, move your body (not your hands or feet) forwards as you drop your hips so that you're at the bottom of the push up. You then arch your back so that your hips remain close to the floor, but your head is upwards, like in the yoga pose, the upward dog. You then move fluidly back into the downward dog and start all over again. (7).

9) Medicine Ball Push Ups
They're just push ups with the use of a medicine ball to increase the level of instability so that the muscles have to be tightened just to remain in one position without pushing up, or lowering oneself. The ball can be placed under the feet or the hands. Be careful doing these as they're a little dangerous if you don't have the necessary strength to do a full push up already. Check out the video link to see a medicine ball push up with the medicine ball underneath the hands.

10) Divebomber Push Ups
Divebomber push ups are like Hindu push ups where you start in the downward dog position moving into the lowered push up position, but then you force yourself back into the downward dog, like a back-and-forth motion.

11) One legged push ups
These are any of the full push ups (eg. classic, wide arm) but with only one leg, either by raising it up in the air or by placing on foot on top of another, creating three points at which the two hands and foot touch the ground.

12) Clap Push Ups
These are plyometric type push ups, where you use not only strength but power to raise you up high enough off the ground so that you can clap your hands at least once before catching yourself on your hands and lowering to the bottom of the movement before repeating again.

13) One Arm Push Ups
This is where you push up with only one hand. There are two ways to modify the classic push up into the one arm push up. You straddle your legs so that they are wider than usual, then lower yourself one arm (Rocky style), or you keep your legs as you would normally do and lower yourself (which is harder) (8).


14) Thumb Push Ups
The thumb push up is self-explanatory yet deadly. Your whole bodyweight is completely on top of your thumbs and feet. You can do it in the form of a classic push up, just replacing your hands with just your thumbs or do it in the style of a one arm push up, which is freakishly amazing to watch.

15) Spiderman push ups
The spiderman push up sounds almost stunt-manish, but don't worry, you won't be inverted at all with this. It's like a regular classic push up, but when you lower yourself, you also raise your knee (alternating) towards your elbow without touching the floor. As you raise yourself back up, you bring your leg back into the classic push up.

16) Sliding spiderman push ups
The same movements occur as in normal spiderman push ups with your knee  being raised towards your elbow, but simultaneously, your opposite hand slides outwards. You will need a towel or something that decreases friction between your hands and the floor.

17) Superman push ups (for your back muscles)
From Marvel to DC Comics, the superman push up seems an even rarer feat of incredible strength, and the lower back takes the brunt in this form. The push up starts with your arms out in front of you, like how superman does, and there seems to be a preference for the hands to be placed together, even on top of each other. You then push up, using your entire body. I can reliably say that you must have considerable strengthen to attempt this to save you a trip to the doctor or worse.

18) Pike Push Ups
You will want to stand on the balls of your feet, and place your hands in a preferably wide form about 2 feet away so that your body creates an upside down V shape. You lower your head between your hands, bending the arms until your head near enough touches the floor before rising back up again.

19) One legged, one armed push ups
Just in case you get good at the one arm push up, there's the one legged, one armed push up. You basically raise one arm and the opposite leg off the floor, and the remaining two limbs do all the weight bearing.

20) Straddle Planche to Push Up
The straddle planche push up is supposed to be easier than the full planche push up because the legs are wider putting less stress on the abdominal and back muscles. However, these are one of the toughest push up types, and it works on the whole body. You're probably not surprised that gymnasts use this in their strength training. This push up requires you to balance on your hands by placing them close to your waist rather than your shoulders whilst having your feet suspended in the air so that it looks like your floating.

21) Planche Push Ups
The difference between the straddle planche push up and the planche push up is that placement of the legs. The planche push up requires the legs to be together. The hands are still placed by the waist and the legs are suspended.

22) Handstand push ups
You know what they say about curiosity and cats, right? Well, the handstand push up alongside the planche forms and the comic book hero forms encompass the most difficult push ups in existence (at least without adding additional weights or using equipment). The handstand push up is as it sounds, developing on from the pike push up. You start by doing a free handstand or against the wall for stability, then you lower your entire bodyweight between your hands which should be preferably in the wide form before raising yourself back up.


  1. http://www.unique-bodyweight-exercises.com/one-arm-press-up.html