Guide to Pushups

10 pushup progressions from beginner to advanced

Dec 31, 2021
In January 2022, The Pleasant Box monthly challenge is to do pushups everyday. My goal is 100 pushups every day. You can set your own goal in The Monthly Challenge app
Pushups are fantastic because you can do them anywhere and without equipment. They are upper body focused, but your core and glutes get in on the fun too. 
Below is a list of 10 pushup variations going from easy to hard. There are many other versions of pushups to explore. 

Scaling up & down

If a standard pushup is not doable yet, start with the incline and eccentric pushups to gain strength. I prefer these variations to knee pushups because they allow you to gain strength across the full range of motion and progress more efficiently to standard pushups. 
In a knee pushup, you are lifting ~50% of your body weight. Without making the movement progressively harder, you will not gain the strength to do a full pushup.  
If standard pushups are easy enough, consider incorporating the harder variations. 
Doing hard things is more fun with friends, which is what we do in The Monthly Challenge App. You can join for free here.

Pushup Variations from Easy to Hard 

Incline Pushups

This is a great place to start. The higher you place your hands, the easier the pushups. 
Credit: Girls Gone Strong

Harder Incline Pushups 

You can progressively make incline pushups harder, but using a lower support. 
Credit: The Pleasant Box

Eccentric Pushups

This is my favorite pushup variation for people who are working on getting their first standard pushups. Slowly slower yourself to the ground in a full pushup position. Then use your knees to help yourself back up. Eccentric refers to the muscle action of lowering yourself as opposed to concentric (pushing yourself back up) or isometric (i.e. holding static plank pose). 
Credit: Glute Lab

Slow Eccentric Pushups

As eccentric pushups become easier, you can slow the lowering phase down even more and add in pauses. You can pause mid way down or right above the ground or both.  
Credit: Advanced Therapy and Performance

Standard Pushup

The classic pushup. An empowering move for anyone to master. 
Credit: CrossFit

Hand Release Pushup

With this variation, you lower yourself to the ground, lift up your hands, then push back up. By taking the tension off your arms at the bottom, you make the pushup harder because you are pushing back up from a dead start and slightly lower than you would normally.  
Credit: Wodstar

Deficit Pushup

A deficit pushup adds additional range of motion to the standard pushup.
 Credit: The Pleasant Box

Weighted Pushup

In a standard pushup, you are moving about 65% of your bodyweight. To make pushups harder, you can add weight by placing a plate on your back or wearing a weighted vest. 
Credit: Marcus Filly  

Plyo Pushup

A plyometric pushup involves using speed and force to build power. You can do these without the clap to start. 
Credit: Marcus Filly 

One-Handed Pushup 

A one-handed pushup is a feat of ultimate strength. This video shows a full progression to a one handed pushup. 
Credit: Ting Wang
As with everything in life, it doesn’t matter where you start, as long as you start. With daily practice, you can make serious gains in less time than you think. Join us and track your effort in The Monthly Challenge app.