one arm push up

Push ups are probably the most known exercise there is. They are utilised as a great upper body and core bodyweight exercise increasing your strength, power and muscle tone. The main muscles involved include your chest (Pectoralis), arms (bicep and tricep), shoulders (anterior deltoids) and your core (abdominals). Completing a push up may still be a struggle for many of you. If this is the case please look at completing a standard push up before trying to achieve any push up progressions. However, if you are already a master of the push up then these progressions will be guaranteed to give you the challenge you are looking for. Of course, these exercises will also have increased their functional purpose so don’t expect just your chest to be sore after this.

Before completing any of these exercises, I must advise again that you first be completely confident in your ability to complete a standard push up as completing any of these without the required strength will likely end up with you injuring yourself!

Spider Push-Up

This push up progression is not to be taken lightly and is by far and away my favourite, it is functional, multi planer in movement and unilateral all at the same time.


  1. Increased engagement of the core – The destabilisation effect of lifting one leg off the ground turns this exercise into an anti-rotation exercise for your core which is great for strengthening your lower back a common injury place for many! Alongside this you are also engaging your oblique muscles along the side of your body, this occurs when raising your leg to the side of your body, it re-enacts performing a crunch, only on the side of your body.
  2. Lower limb and hip activation– Due to the lateral flexion of the leg up to the elbow during this movement your hip stabilising muscles are now enjoying a workout. This exercise being unilateral refers to how you are targeting one side of your body at a time further helping to train both sides of the body equally and not letting the stronger side take over. Training the body to link both the upper and lower limbs increases the functionality of this exercise.
  3. The burn in your chest, arms and shoulders is increased – The destabilising effect brought about by bringing your leg up creates a serious increase in the stimulus provided to your upper body meaning even heavy gym goers will struggle to call this exercise easy!

Alternating Leg Push-Up

This variation requires complete stabilisation from your feet to your head position making it another very underestimated exercise. The benefits of this exercise overlap quite a lot with the spider push up in relation to raising one of your legs off the ground. This therefore creates an anti-rotation element and also places greater stimulus to the upper body just like the spider push up.


  1. Increased emphasis on lower abdominals – What differs in this exercise is the emphasis on the lower abdominals in particular a muscle called your transverse abdominis. This is a pivotal muscle lying underneath your 6 pack abs and is vital for total core strength and injury prevention.
  2. Increased glute activation – An added bonus to this exercise is the glute activation caused by raising the leg back, alongside the obvious benefits of strengthening the glutes, this is a great one for the ladies who are looking to add some definition and toning to their behind while also working on their functional upper body strength!

Diamond Push-Up

This exercise is not for everyone. Due to the position of your hands it applies greater stress to your joints in particular the wrist which requires good mobility to complete this exercise. However, being able to complete this exercise has many upsides.


  1. The diamond hand position creates a smaller base of support and therefore engages the triceps a lot more – The triceps are smaller and weaker than the chest therefore making it a much harder exercise. However, completing this exercise well creates much stronger and well-defined lower arms, gone are the days of bingo wings!
  2. Alternative to popular belief the chest activation is still huge in this exercise – Putting your hands closer together does stress more importance to the arms, however this hasn’t been shown to take anything away from the chest muscles getting a great workout to!
  3. More activation in postural muscles – The back (rhomboids, trapezius), as well as on the front of the shoulders. This providing a great functional component and increasing your ability to tackle the day with great posture and decreased injury risk.

Dynamic Side to Side Push-Up

Moving into some more dynamic push up progressions leads us to the crossover push up. This exercise is a fun way to add movement into to the push up and adds a ton of benefit while being a good challenge in the process. Alongside the stimulation of the push up itself we are adding a dynamic crossing element by changing direction.


  1. A greater activation of the chest – The movement from side to side applies a greater stimulus and stretch across the chest muscles
  2. An element of cardio is incorporated – Dependant on speed of course but don’t be surprised if you find yourself out of breath after this exercise the movement from side to side adds a taxing element great for adding into a HIIT workout!

Walking Gecko Push-Up

Lizard walk, leopard push ups … call them what you want this is one the most ultimate and functional push up progressions there are. In fact, you can’t really call this an upper body exercise as it is such a comprehensive and beneficial exercise for the whole body. In essence you are completing push ups at different angles while moving forwards and backwards.


  1. The main benefit here is that it engages the whole chest – The chest muscle is large and originates across several ribs inserting into the top of the arm. To simplify what this means is that to activate more muscle it needs to be stretched into different positions which is what this exercise does so well.
  2. This exercise requires coordination and good core stability – As I said before this exercise is dynamic and therefore requires good motor control between upper and lower body to perform the movement effectively.