2 Advanced Push-Up Variations for Upper-Body and Core Strength

By Tammy Kovaluk

We’ve all done Push-Ups at some point. Maybe it was in gym class in elementary school or as part of a workout for our sport. But as athletes advance in their workouts, Push-Ups are generally cast aside for the Bench Press and its variations. It’s understandable. The Push-Up is a basic exercise, and it’s easy to understand why athletes would want to lift heavy weight instead of performing a bodyweight exercise.

However, we need to change this paradigm. Push-Ups are a hugely beneficial exercise, essentially a face-down Bench Press. But unlike the Bench Press, Push-Ups are a full-body activation exercise. Literally all major muscle groups (biceps, core muscles, triceps, deltoid) and even lower-body muscle groups are activated as you stabilize your body Even with the reduced load, you can build strength, power and size with Push-Ups. Studies have shown that experienced power lifters break a plateau after replacing their Bench Press with Push-Ups for a couple of months! Push-Ups also increase shoulder stability (reducing rotator cuff injuries) and when done right, improve posture. But are you sick and tired of standard Push-Ups? Give these two variations a try and I bet you will feel challenged and maybe a bit humbled.

Beast Makers

This variation is a twist off the Renegade Rows (or “Man Makers” as I call them). It is one of my favorites! Bonus: besides making you into a Beast, the exercise promotes shoulder stability, agility and endurance, plus increased core strength.

How to: Place down 2 dumbbells and 2 cylinder blocks. With your hands on the dumbbells, perform one Push-Up then lift the dumbbell up and place it on the block. Bring your hand back down, perform another Push-Up then lift the other dumbbell up and place it on the other block. Perform your 3rd Push-Up (now both hands are on the ground instead of grabbing dumbbells) by lifting one dumbbell off the block and placing it back to starting position. Repeat for the 4th Push-Up. You have now done 4 Push-Ups and are back to starting position.


  • Widen your base stance and focus on maintaining a plank position (no wiggling butt!)
  • Using a cylinder block increases stability. You can also use upright dumbbells for a more solid platform.

Swiss Ball Pike Push-Up

This one is incredibly challenging for strength and stability—especially for core strength. It’s also incredibly taxing, making it a great exercise to include in fat-burning workouts if that’s your goal

How to: With your legs on the stability ball, alternate between a knee tuck (novice, intermediate) or pike (advanced) and a Push-Up. Remember that a good Plank is key to this exercise, as it is with all Push-Ups! Lower yourself down to approximately a fist distance from the ground.

  • Novice: Balance your shins on the stability ball
  • Intermediate: Balance your feet on the stability ball
  • Advanced: Balance your toes on the stability ball


  • The video shows a wider stance Push-Up; you can also do a closer stance (military style) Push-Up if you can maintain a good plank position.
  • I like to choose 3-4 different push-up exercises and do one set of each, either between sets of another exercise like Pull-Ups or with 30 seconds of rest between each.

Photo Credit: takoburito/iStock/Thinkstock

Read the original article in Stack.com by Tammy Kovaluk

Tammy Kovaluk, MSc, CSCS, is a frequent contributor to Stack and AFI. She is currently working in Bend , Oregon on an obstacle race series and doing strength and conditioning She is the owner of RISE Sport Performance Training (Tucson, Arizona). Originally from Canada, she has over 15 years of experience working with athletes in a wide range of sports. She specializes in high school and collegiate athletes, with team experience in football, baseball, and swimming. Kovaluk was the strength and conditioning coach for Belmont High School and the Victoria Rebels Junior Football teams, and she still consults with them. She was a competitive amateur boxer, cross country runner and triathlete; and she’s currently an obstacle course racer.