Push-ups are one of the most fundamental movements in the fitness world. They are among the most effective exercises you can do. Push-ups are great for strengthening the shoulders, biceps, and triceps, as well as your pecs and core muscles. They help you improve balance, stability, and strength.
Although they still require quite a bit of strength, so are especially challenging for beginners (see our form guide to performing a push-up here). Therefore, don’t worry if you’re not a master of push-ups yet. Additionally, for those of us struggling with injuries, doing the exercise can be agonising and outright dangerous.
Not to worry! We have compiled a list of bodyweight exercises that serve as great alternatives. Whether you want to recover from injury, find a less challenging exercise, or just change things up a little. We have you covered.
#1 Incline Push-Ups
The Incline Push-Up is a great exercise for beginners as it reduces the amount of bodyweight you have to ‘push’. If you have an adjustable bench they are even better, as you can progressively make the exercise more challenging as your fitness and strength improve.
These are also great for people struggling with wrist, elbow, or shoulder pains. Not only because there is less overall weight acting upon these joints, but also because it allows you to focus on your form, a great thing to reduce the risk of injury.
Dips are another one of those great calisthenics compound movements. They mainly work the triceps, shoulders, pecs, and get some help stabilising from the core. Sounds familiar? Yes, those are the same muscles we use for doing Push-Ups!
Dips are also a great exercise as the unique vertical pushing motion will transfer to more advanced exercises like handstand push-ups and planche.
Although it should be very clearly stated that dips are by no means an easy exercise, just a great alternative for those who can already them comfortably with good form. Thankfully, we have provided you with an additional video on how to progress and build up to being a pro dipper.
#3 Bear Crawl
This exercise is great for a modicum of reasons, not least of which is the fact that it uses muscles of basically the entire body. The shoulders, chest, back, glutes, quadriceps, hamstring, and core are all used extensively. This makes it a great all-rounder exercise if you want to build strength and endurance.
A second advantage is that The Bear Crawl is a unilateral movement, meaning that we move one side of the body at a time. This is great as it fixes imbalances and demands more input from the core, strengthening it.
#4 Wall Walks
Wall walks are a great introduction to some of the advanced calisthenics movements such as the handstand and handstand push-up. They strengthen your shoulders, traps, and lats. These are used extensively when you do push-ups as well, this exercise just emphasises them a bit more.
A great aspect of this exercise is that it is easy to tailor the workload according to your strength. If you are just starting out, you don’t need to walk all the way up to the vertical position. The wall also provides great stability so balance shouldn’t be an issue.
As you get more and more comfortable with the movement you can transition to doing handstands for short periods, which can open a goldmine of opportunity in terms of your athletic abilities.
Chin-Ups have innumerable benefits. Not only do they strengthen your favourite shoulder, biceps, and chest. But they also train the muscles that stabilise your spine – the lats and traps. This means it is a great exercise to prevent back pain and injury from occurring in the future.
Additionally, chin-ups help you work on your grip strength, which is an often-forgotten element. The biceps are used quite extensively as well, which is quite uncommon in most calisthenic exercises.
Of course, you will need access to a pull-up bar. See our list of the best pull-up bars.
Although the push-up is a great exercise to develop upper body strength, there are plenty of alternatives out there.
Push-ups aren’t for everyone. Performing push-ups with poor form is an easy ticket to an injury. If you are starting out, something like the incline push-up is a great exercise to build your strength and learn proper form.
If you are tired of doing push-up routines scattered around the web, some of the alternatives we mentioned will help bring some variety to your training regimen.
As you progress through these exercises, you’ll find that they are just as great as push-ups. Mixing up your routine can actually help you work on areas that you never thought you were lacking in.
Founder of www.calisthenics-101.co.uk. Training calisthenics since 2012.
Currently working on: 30 second one-arm handstand, muscle-up 360, straddle planche.