Whether we would like to admit it or not, the fact remains that push-ups are a staple in the fitness industry. The basic move works wonders when it comes to developing your upper body and increasing your muscular strength and endurance. They can be pretty challenging and a headache for workout fanatics, let alone beginners. It is, as we say, not surprising that most people hate doing push-ups. If you are among such people, then know that you are not alone. Luckily, you can do some push-up alternatives and still reap the same benefits as from push-ups.
Like push-ups, these alternatives will target major muscle groups and help tone your entire body. They will also help you build muscle mass and increase your muscular strength. You just need to master these push-up alternatives correctly for the same gains and avoid injuries.
In this article, we will be educating you and shedding light on the best push up alternatives to try. We aim to discuss their benefits, the correct technique of doing them, and how to avoid their potential injuries. Keep reading if you want to discover the best hand-based push up alternatives or those of other push-up variations.
What Are Push Up Alternatives?
These are exercises that you can perform in place of a push-up. These can help you attain the same benefits of doing a push-up or even more. They are some of the excellent moves to consider if you hate doing push-ups or have some health problems preventing you from doing the regular type of workouts (2).
Why Look For Push Up Alternatives?
Despite having numerous benefits, sometimes the risks of doing push-ups may outweigh their benefits. In light of this, you may be forced to look for safer or better alternatives to this exercise. Here are some solid reasons that trigger workout fanatics to look for push-up options desperately:
Increased Risk Of Injuries
Like any other exercise, push-ups may increase your risk of injuries if you do the wrong technique. To avoid these injuries, you must talk to a fitness instructor to guide you on correctly doing a push-up.
A Fitness Plateau
Doing push-ups every day may make this exercise less challenging over time. It means that you have reached a fitness plateau. In this case, your muscles are no longer developing as the exercise is no longer challenging.
This might explain why you might stop seeing your expected muscle development results after some time. To avoid reaching this plateau, you are advised to incorporate other exercises. Instead of switching up your workout plan entirely, look for some push-up alternatives that will still help you build muscle mass.
Some push-up variations, specifically the forward push-up (FP) and backward push-up (BP), may result in lower back pain and discomfort. This is because they increase the activation of your lower back muscles.
If the back pain becomes unbearable, stop doing these exercises and seek medical assistance immediately. Similarly, if you have any existing back condition, talk to your physician before doing either push-ups or any of their alternatives.
Doing push-ups may also lead to pain at the back of your wrist, especially noticeable when you bend your hand backwards. If you experience any wrist pain, make sure you see your doctor immediately. They may guide you on how to properly support or place your wrist when doing push-ups. If not, they may suggest better push-ups alternatives to help you still attain your desired fitness goals.
The Best Alternatives To A Push Up
You might have promised yourself that you will be doing twenty or more push-ups a day. However, due to any of the reasons above, you might be forced to stop performing this exercise. Does this mean you also pause on your fitness goals? Certainly not!
You can still work out using push-up alternatives and reap the same fitness benefits. With that said, let us look at the best exercise options available to push ups, to sculpt the physique you desire. They are as follows:
The High Plank
Benefits: Like a push-up, the high plank exercise ranks as one of the best full-body exercises. It helps strengthen your core, posture, abdominal muscles (abs), glutes, legs, back, and shoulders.
- Start on the floor and your fours. Your hands must be shoulder-width apart and feet hip-width apart.
- Stretch your legs behind you. Let the weight of your body rest on your hands and the balls of your feet. Keep your back straight and let your body be parallel to the floor.
- Pull in your navel to keep your core muscles active. Hold this position for 20 or 30 seconds. Make sure you are breathing deeply and normally and are looking directly at the floor. After these 20 or 30 seconds, return to the starting position.
Modifications: There are several plank variations that you can opt to do depending on your fitness abilities. If you are in the advanced level, then you can opt to do a side plank. It improves your core strength and challenges your stability. Here is how you do it:
- Lie on the floor and on your left side. Raise yourself onto the left forearm. Your left shoulder should be directly above your left elbow. Make sure your shoulders, hips, and knees are aligned. Your right arm should be resting by your side.
- Tighten your ab muscles and hold this position for three deep breaths. If not, you can time yourself between 20 and 30 seconds.
- Change sides and repeat on your right side.
If you are a beginner, you can try a less intense variation and still build muscle mass and increase your core strength. To perform this modified plank variation, follow these steps:
- Lie on your stomach. Raise yourself such that you are resting on your knees and forearms. Make sure your back, neck, and head are properly aligned. Similarly, make sure your shoulders are directly above your elbows and that you tighten your ab muscles.
- Try to create resistance by pressing your elbows and knees towards each other. Neither of the two should move from the position where they are pressed on the floor.
- Hold this position for three deep breaths or 30 seconds.
- Return to the initial stance and repeat.
Caution: Doing any plank variation may result in poor posture and back, neck, and shoulder pain if you use the wrong technique. First, focus on mastering how to do a proper plank instead of how long you can last doing a plank.
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Benefits: The overhead press is an excellent push-up alternative with dumbbells. It targets your upper body muscles and gives them a good work out.
- Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart and dumbbells in your hands.
- Move your arms in a goalpost position such that the dumbbells align with your ears. Your upper arms must be parallel to the floor and forearms perpendicular to the ground.
- Press the weights up and overhead and slightly in front of your forehead. Make sure you can see them without having to tilt your head up.
- Slowly bring them back to the initial position and repeat (1).
Caution: The overhead press may result in shoulder impingement. This refers to an inflammation and pain in your shoulders arising from repetitive use of your shoulder. It may also occur when you injure your shoulders when lifting weights, like in the case of an overhead press. It is vital to seek medical attention immediately when you experience any pain in your shoulders.
Dumbbell Bench Press
Benefit: If you are looking for push up alternatives for chest, then the dumbbell bench press has got you covered. The exercise works your chest muscles, helping you get a bigger and chiseled chest. They are great push up alternatives for weak wrists as they do not tire your wrists.
Equipment: A pair of dumbbells
- Lie back on a flat bench and grasp a dumbbell in each hand.
- Bring the dumbbells close to your shoulders, and then press them up and directly above your chest. Make sure your palms are facing forward.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells. Remember to keep your elbows pointed out during this motion.
- Let your upper arm go parallel or slightly past parallel to the floor before returning them to the initial position.
- Good job! You are done with one rep. Repeat.
Reps: 8 to 12
Caution: Regardless if you are a beginner or not, you need to stretch your chest muscles before you start doing this exercise. Stretching is mandatory before any strength training exercise as it helps in warming up your muscles before the actual workout.
Benefits: Tricep dips are great push up alternatives that work your triceps and deltoids. They are what you need if you want some sleeve-busting triceps.
Equipment: Bench or chair
- Place your hands on the edge of the bench or chair, with your fingers pointing towards you. Slowly walk your feet out in front of you and then take your bottom off the chair or bench.
- Start to slowly lower and lift your body weight. Make sure you fully extend your arm and maintain a perfect posture throughout. It means not rolling your shoulders in.
- Be sure that you lower yourself straight down. For less intensity, you can bend your knees at a 90-degree angle. However, for more intensity, stretch your legs straight out. Remember also to keep an inch gap between your back and the bench throughout the movement.
Reps: 12 to 15
Caution: Maintaining the correct posture is essential when doing the tricep dips. So, pay attention to how you are expected to align your back or legs when performing these dips.
Benefits: Burpees are excellent diamond level push up alternatives that work out your entire body. They help in building the strength and endurance of your upper and lower body muscles.
- Burpees incorporate both a push-up and a squat. So, start in a standing position and then drop down into a squat. Remember to maintain the correct posture of the squat. The technique merely entails keeping your back straight, tightening your ab muscles, and inhaling as you squat.
- Instead of jumping back up, extend backwards into a plank position.
- Do a push-up and then move back to the initial position.
Sets: 2 or 3
Caution: If it is your first time doing a burpee, consider removing the push-up stage if you find the exercise challenging. It will help you focus on doing the squat correctly without increasing your risk of any injuries.
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Benefits: The cable crossover exercise helps you reap numerous benefits depending on how you position the pulleys. If you set them high, then you will work your lower chest muscles. However, if you set them lower, you target your upper chest muscles.
Equipment: A cable machine
- Position the pulleys above the head. Make sure you attach one handle to each pulley and then select comfortable weights.
- Take one handle in each hand and let your palms face down. Make sure you stand in the middle of the cable machine and take some steps forward to add more tension to the cables.
- Step one foot forward and lean forward.
- Stretch your arms out to the side but slightly bend your elbows. They should not move behind your shoulders.
- Exhale and bring your hands together in front of your body.
- Breathe in and stretch your arms to return them to the starting stance.
Reps: 8 to 12
Caution: Like any other exercise involving machines, you need to be extra careful when using the cable machine. Incorrectly doing any strength training exercise can result in injuries.
The Bottom Line
Doing push-ups daily can be beneficial as it may help you build muscle mass, tone your body, and increase upper body strength. However, down the line, they may lead to a fitness plateau or even result in wrist and back pain. When this happens, your safe bet is looking for push-up alternatives.
Some of the best push up alternatives to try include the high plank, dumbbell bench press, overhead press, burpees, tricep dips, and cable crossover exercises. However, before you implement these alternatives, talk to your doctor and gym instructor to get that go-ahead. They must confirm that the chosen exercises are safe and result in the same benefits or more as the push-ups.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on for decision-making. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Selective Activation of Shoulder, Trunk, and Arm Muscles: A Comparative Analysis of Different Push-Up Variants (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Push –up (2015, researchgate.net)