10 Effective Push-up Variations for Different Fitness Levels

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Perhaps, one of the best things about any kind of exercise is the variety that you can put into each one. Over the years, whether they’re athletes around the world or San Diego Fitness Trainers, people have come up with numerous creative ways to target different muscle groups. And the best part? It’s essentially still the same exercise.

In fact, we don’t need to look any further than the calisthenics classic itself: the ever-reliable and simple push-up to see this. Push-ups, regardless of what variation it comes in, remain in the arsenal of any experienced Personal Trainer San Diego

You want to start with the best variation that’s the most suitable with your fitness level. Not sure where to start? Well, this list should suffice as a good starting point.

For Beginner Fitness

  • Knee push-ups

This is the best beginner-friendly push-up you should try out. Any Personal Trainer in San Diego will agree that it’s the most ideal variation to do if you intend to condition your body to do standard push-ups in the long run. 

It builds up your core, which is vital if you want to progress in any kind of workout regimen. Your upper body muscles take most of the load in this type of exercise. Here’s how to do it properly: 

  • Assume a plank position on a mat while placing your knees on it.
  • Keep your shoulders and wrists aligned. Maintain a strong grip with your palms to prevent slippage.
  • As you lower your body, inhale then hold that position for a while. Slowly exhale as you raise yourself up, ensuring your arms are straight. 
  • Wall Push-Ups

Another much easier push-up, this variation is very much recommended for anyone who wants to strengthen key muscles that will allow you to perform on-the-ground push-ups better. It beefs up your upper body, after all. 

  • Keep your distance between the wall and yourself at arm’s length. Your hips should be aligned with your feet.
  • Position your palms on the wall, keeping them aligned with your shoulders.
  • Now bend your elbows, bringing your chest as near the wall as possible. As long as your elbows point away from you at an angle of 45 degrees, that should be good. 
  • Then push back to the original position. It’s important to keep your core muscles engaged while performing any rep. 
  • Standard Push-ups

This is still the tried-and-tested ground exercise that will always figure in a lot of Gyms in San Diego, or anywhere for that matter. This involves maintaining form so you can make the most out of each rep and prevent unnecessary injuries. 

  • Keep your buttocks from pointing up in the air and refrain from making your elbows point out. 
  • Your shoulders should be right over your wrists and hands. 
  • Your entire body should assume a straight line before you start doing and repeating reps.

For Intermediate Fitness

  • Tricep Push-ups

This type of push-up is great for improving arm strength, particularly its back muscles since, as its name implies, it engages the triceps more. Again, proper form maintenance should be done to ensure the best results.

  • Assume a high plank position, while keeping your eyes gazed downwards. It’s important not to raise your head.
  • Keep your elbows close to your sides as you lower down.
  • Once you reach the lowest point, your elbows should be aligned with your shoulders.
  • As you go up, always keep your body aligned.
  • Plank to Push-up

This variation engages a lot of muscles and even your abs, so it won’t be a surprise if it’s always part of Elite Personal Training San Diego programs. Basically, it involves the standard high plank transitioning to a forearm plank.

  • Again, start from a high plank positioning.
  • As you lower down into a forearm, squeeze your glutes. Settle on your right arm first followed by the left.
  • Tighten your core again as you use your arms to push back up.
  • Hand-Release Push-ups

This is harder than most intermediate variations listed here, but it’s not yet near advanced level either. Personal Training Gyms in San Diego include this to raise the intensity of a standard push-up. 

  • Start by assuming a prone position, with your body flat on the ground, elbows bent, and arms away from the trunk. Keep your feet together.
  • Perform a standard push-up action, making sure that your body is aligned as you reach the top.
  • Do the hand-release motion by raising your hands up, without moving any other body part.
  • Replace your hands on the ground then perform this set of actions again.

For Advanced Fitness

  • Half-Split Push-ups

This adds more pressure on both leg muscles and the upper body as you perform a standard push-up. Basically, it involves a single-legged downward dog and pointing your leg to the side at a 90-degree angle. You may need supervision from the Best Personal Trainers in San Diego if you intend to do this safely. 

  • Spiderman Knee-Tuck Push-ups

An elevated push-up variation, doing this adds more intensity to the standard Spiderman push-up. Only one leg at a time will be performing the knee tucks, which will accompany each push-up rep you perform. The other foot would be resting on another elevated platform which should be slightly higher than your arms. 

  • Wide Push-ups

This is an advanced push-up that shifts most of the focus on the pectoral muscles. It still requires you to do the essentials of tightening your core, squeezing your legs and buttocks, etc. However, the difference primarily lies in the position of the elbows. It should be positioned at a 45-degree angle from your torso. From then, perform reps as usual.

  • One-Armed Push-ups

A quintessential workout among the elite fitness buffs in San Diego Gyms, the one-armed push-up is pretty much the most challenging form of this exercise. It’s the ultimate upper body strength test. 

Quite ironically, doing it needs no further explanation. Fundamentally, you’ll be doing standard push-ups but with only one arm bearing the brunt of the burden. Trust us, it feels harder than it seems. 


Do you have a favorite among the variations we mentioned? Regardless of which one you prefer or the intensity you can handle, these push-ups will guarantee results. If you and your Personal Fitness Trainer in San Diego love this exercise, you probably won’t mind diving into these alternative push-ups. As you improve, you can also easily try out the other variations to ensure optimal growth.

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