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Top 6 Push-up Variations

Top 6 Best Push-up Variations for Beat Up Shoulders

#1. Push-ups on Multi-Grip Bars

I’ve spoken in the past about how strength training and building muscle is all about finding lines of tension where the goal is to optimally engage the target muscle groups to facilitate a loaded movement pattern. The problem is, with poor programming, previous injury, joint restriction, and a ton of other issues, finding a line of tension can take some time and some real world coaching tricks.

In this example, we are trying to find the tension we want across the core, back, lats, triceps, biceps, and chest to load and progress push-ups. The setup is simple, placing various multi-grip bars on top of dumbbells to create a platform for our hands. This will give the lifter an opportunity to ‘self select’ their tension strategies in order to find their optimal tensioning through the movement.
Bar #1: Rogue Multi-Grip bar
Bar #2: Rogue Multi-Grip Angled bar

For me, the angled bar felt better and I was able to load up the movement, keep position, and keep tension through all joint angles required for the movement pattern.

In a previous post, I also show a much simpler setup with just two dumbbells. We called this traveling across the dumbbell because the lifter would move their hands across two dumbbells placed on the floor. To execute the strategy, the lifter would start their push-ups on the near side bell end of the dumbbells, move to the handles at a neutral position, and finally, place their hands on the far side of the dumbbell. Again, the goal is to find what hand position allows the lifter to feed tension up into the kinetic chain?

#2. Band Resisted Push-ups

Here is a push-up Dropset with band resistance and a modified range of motion (ROM).

In this simple chest finishers after heavy bench, we performed a dropsets where the resistance was decreased and the range of motion increased.

I tried hooking up my dip belt but the setup wasn’t right, so I just anchored a band around a heavy dumbbell right under the hips and used this as the initial setup. I like anchored or overloading at the hips for push-ups because it teaches full body tension and the athlete is more likely to move “as a plank” instead of disassociating their shoulders and hips and losing tension.

After the initial 20 reps, the athlete will take the band-resistance off and perform regular push-ups. A medicine ball is used to keep them ‘honest’ so they hit the same depth every time – similar to a squat to box.

The final piece of the dropset – the 3rd phase – is taking the med ball away and hit beyond the range (BTR) or deficit push-ups for the last blast.

Push-up Dropset
1) Band-Resisted Push-ups, 20 reps (band at hips)
2) Push-ups to Med Ball, AMRAP
3) BTR Push-ups, AMRAP

#3. Feet Elevated Neutral Grip Push-ups on Dumbbells

In this advanced push-up variation, you will slowly widen the grip-width as the set progresses.

Here is a progressive push-up workout that I love. You simply place two dumbbells on the ground in a neutral position and you start them in a close-grip setup. Then you perform your set. With each set, you’ll turn one of the dumbbells (NOT both) outward one turn on its axis – if it’s a hex dumbbell. You could also do this same setup with the hands on a 45lb bumper and simply move it outward slightly on each set.

The goal is to transition from a tricep-focus to a chest-focus as the sets progress. The intensity can also be increased with additional load, slowing the tempo, or even adding band-resistance.

On the last set, you’ll perform an AMRAP set to finish off the chest. This is a perfect routine to place after heavy pressing or even as a feeder set on a lower body day getting ready for the next upper body workout.

Transitional Push-up Sets
Set 1) Narrow Neutral-Grip Push-ups, 5-10 reps
Set 2) Neutral-Grip Push-ups (move DB one turn out), 5-10 reps
Set 3) Neutral-Grip Push-ups (move DB one turn out), 5-10 reps
and so on…
Last Set) All Out Set – AMRAP

#4. Traveling Across the Dumbbell Push-ups

In order to ‘attack’ different lines of tension and find the right push-up variation to allow the lifter to move through the full range of motion (ROM) without pain, we will simply ‘travel across’ the dumbbell.

This variation is great because it works with a group of lifter with little to no adjustments on the dumbbell. Each lifter will perform the hand position that works for them and get after it in the set.

3 Different Push-up Variations on Dumbbells
1A) Planche Push-ups x 5 reps
1B) Neutral Push-ups x 5 reps
1C) Push-ups x 5 reps
Repeat 4-5X

#5. Get More Tension in the Hips Push-ups

When performing push-ups, do you hips sag and your lower back arches?

This tip is awesome for correcting this poor ‘global core’ default!

Many younger athletes and older lifters can’t keep a good position and braced core with push-ups due to various tension, immobility, and disassociation issues. Placing a band around their feet instantly cleans up most issues and actively engages the glutes to improve their position.

This technique engaging the glutes and external hip rotators to drive the pelvis back into a more neutral position which allows a more powerful glute contraction and a better alignment.

#6. Push-ups on the Dip Bars with Chains

One of the absolute best push-up variations to teaches full body tension and position. Using a dip attachment in cage will give a very comfortable movement pattern for different sized and structured athletes. For smaller athletes, they would simply move their hands to the narrower position and the larger athletes will slide back to the ends of the handles.

You can simply use a dip belt to load chains, kettlebells, plates, or dumbbells from the hips creating an RNT (reactive neuromuscular technique) reaction forcing the athletes to flex their glutes hard and keep a powerful core ISO-metric tension during the movement.

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By on January 6th, 2020


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Comments (2)

  1. Posted by - Greg on January 7, 2020

    Well done Smitty.

    • Posted by - Smitty on January 8, 2020

      Thank you!

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