10 Hardest Push-Ups to Add to Your Workout

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10 challenging push-up variations - Calisthenics 101
Difficulty: 
Intermediate

Whatever you call them, Push-ups, Press-ups, they're the foundation of most workouts and probably one of the first exercises that you were taught as a kid. Although a regular push-up can be pretty bland there's an impressive number of push-up variations out there so if you feel like challenging yourself then try out some new variations to keep things fresh. If you're already pretty good at push-ups then try adding new push-up variations into your warm up routine to keep it changing.

There are a lot of great lists out there showcasing different variations but here are my 10 favourite challenging push-ups.

1. Spiderman push-ups

Spiderman Push-ups: 10 Calisthenic Press-Up Variations (#1)Spiderman Push-ups: 10 Calisthenic Press-Up Variations (#2)

The concept behind Spiderman push-ups is to crawl forward by staggering your hands whilst also bringing your knee up to the elbow of the arm you which is positioned furthest back. This makes it a tricky one to get your head round at first since you spend more time thinking about which limb to move next than you do putting effort into the actual push part! Keep your body low and your rhythm steady as you crawl your way across the room with this one.

Some people call the staggered push-ups Alligators and refer to Spiderman's as simply bringing a knee up to your elbow. Either way, combining the two is much more challenging and looks cooler so there's no need to split hairs! 

Great for: Working both sides of your body and setting yourself a distance target by getting from one side of the room to the other.

2. Archer push-ups

Archer Push-ups: 10 Calisthenic Press-Up Variations (#1)Archer Push-ups: 10 Calisthenic Press-Up Variations (#2)

Start with a reasonably wide grip, preferably somewhere in-between a wide arm grip and shoulder width. Start by lowering your body weight over to your left hand so that your left arm becomes completely bent, but your right arm is completely straight. Now alternate by pushing up and over to your right side so that your left arm is now straight but your right arm is now bent. You should have moved in an 'arch' motion which is repeated to form smooth flowing reps.

Great for: Progressing to one handed push-ups.

3. Hindu push-ups

Hindu Push-ups: 10 Calisthenic Press-Up Variations (#1)Hindu  Push-ups: 10 Calisthenic Press-Up Variations (#2)Hindu Push-ups: 10 Calisthenic Press-Up Variations (#3)Hindu Push-ups: 10 Calisthenic Press-Up Variations (#4)

This one will feel quite familiar to anybody who has tried yoga, even at a basic level. Start with your legs and arms straight and your bum in the air in a pike-like stance. From this position you want to lower your chin down towards your hands on the floor, then up and back to the start position, in a way where your whole body moves in a circular motion. Ensure you keep your legs straight throughout.

Great for: Putting a greater strain on the backs of your shoulders by transferring your weight differently.

4. Triangle push-ups

Triangle Push-ups: 10 Calisthenic Press-Up Variations (#1)Triangle Push-ups: 10 Calisthenic Press-Up Variations (#2)

Like regular push-ups but with a variation on your hand position. Put your hands out flat in front of you and touch the tips of your index fingers together and your thumbs together so that you create a triangle shape between your hands - this is the position you want your hands to be in on the floor. During this variation try and keep your elbows close your sides 

Great for: Moving the weight from your chest to your triceps.

5. Fingertip push-ups

Fingertip Push-ups: 10 Calisthenic Press-Up Variations (#1)Fingertip Push-ups: 10 Calisthenic Press-Up Variations (#2)

Very similar to a regular push-up but put your weight on your fingertips as opposed to a flat palm. If you want to make this harder you can reduce the number of fingers used.

Great for: Finger strength.

6. One handed push-ups

One Handed Push-ups: 10 Calisthenic Press-Up Variations (#1)One Handed Push-ups: 10 Calisthenic Press-Up Variations (#2)

If Archer's are becoming too easy for you then try the one handed push-up. This one is pretty much "as it says on the tin", but you'll want to make sure you get your position right and keep your core tight to prevent slouching your body when pushing from one side. For this one I recommend widening the distance between your feet and moving so that your weight is directly over the arm you are pushing from. Your body should be positioned in a triangle to help balance the weight better. Bend the other arm behind your back to keep it from affecting your form.

Great for: Working on your one hand strength and giving yourself a harder goal.

7. Planche push-up

Planche Push-ups: 10 Calisthenic Press-Up Variations (#1)Planche Push-ups: 10 Calisthenic Press-Up Variations (#2)

The planche push-up involves you positioning your hands lower down and pointing your wrists in a different direction than you usually would. Ideally you want to have your hands closer to your sides (just lower than your chest) and your wrists turned so that your hands are pointing backwards. You should find a much greater strain is put on the tops of your shoulders and greater strength is required to keep you well balanced here. Keep your elbows tucked in close to your body during reps for best form.

Great for: Strengthening the area of your shoulder which is used in other planche type exercises.

8. Elbow push-ups

Elbow Push-ups: 10 Calisthenic Press-Up Variations (#1)Elbow Push-ups: 10 Calisthenic Press-Up Variations (#2)

Elbow push-ups feel like a combination of a plank and a push-up and are fantastic for working on your triceps. Starting with a regular push-up position you want to lower yourself down from your hands to your elbows so you finish resting on your forearms in a plank position. From here simply push back up to the starting position ensuring your elbows remain behind your hands at all times without being flared out to the side.

Some people vary this technique by completing a regular push-up first and then rotating back onto their elbows/forearms from bent arms, whereas others simply rotate onto their forearms from the regular push-up starting position (straight arms). Try both and find what works best for you!

Great for: Finding an excuse to incorporate planks between push-up reps or complete sets.

9. Wide arm push-ups

Wide Arm Push-ups: 10 Calisthenic Press-Up Variations (#1)Wide Arm Push-ups: 10 Calisthenic Press-Up Variations (#2)

Similar to a regular push-up but with your arms placed wide apart. Try placing them approximately 1.5x wider than you would in a regular push-up.

Great for: Moving the strain away from your triceps and focusing on your chest.

10. Slider push-ups

Slider Push-ups: 10 Calisthenic Press-Up Variations (#1)Slider Push-ups: 10 Calisthenic Press-Up Variations (#2)

Slider push-ups require you to slide one hand out to the side (or in front of you) as you lower your body, alternating the hand used with each rep. The sliding hand should be used more for balance as most of the strength and weight should come from the other hand. This is quite similar in style to Archer push-ups though it puts more focus on the front of your shoulders.

Great for: Adding another push-up progression to your arsenal which will help you on your way to the One Handed push-ups.

Adding push-up variations into your workout

If you want to use any of the above push-up variations in your workout then you could try the following workout ideas:

  • Blast the lot: Complete a set of each variation with 8 reps per set, starting with the variation you find the easiest and finishing with the variation you find the hardest.
  • Working up to the hardest: As a slight variation of the above complete the sets pyramid style, so 10 reps of the easiest variation, 9 of the second easiest, 8 of the next and so forth...
  • Improve on your favourites: Pick 3 variations to focus on and complete 3 sets of each, 10 reps per set.

BONUS: If you're looking for something really challenging then checkout Pelican Push-ups in another post.