Pushup Progressions



In my previous article, How Beginners Should Train Pushups, I described how a complete beginner should progress into doing a perfect pushup.  So if you are new to pushups or are looking to improve your form, be sure to check it out.  In this article, we are going to discuss pushup progressions and where to go after you have mastered regular pushups.

To do a quick recap, in a perfect pushup:

  • the body will be kept in a straight line from head to toe.
  • the elbows do not flare out to the sides
  • the head and neck remain neutral
  • the scapula, upper back, abs and glutes are engaged to keep the body tight

These principles, unless otherwise specified, should be applied to all of the following pushup variations.

Wide Grip Pushups

The first of the pushup progressions is the wide grip pushup.  The wide grip pushup differs from the regular pushup in that the range of motion is now shorter.  In addition, with this type of pushup we are now working more of the chest and anterior deltoid.


To perform this pushup, simply get into a regular pushup position and place your hands far outside your shoulders.  Make sure your body is kept in a straight line from head to toe and then simply lower yourself all the way down until your chest touches the ground.  You may have noticed that when performing this pushup variation that you could not prevent your elbows from flaring.  Don’t worry this is perfectly alright in this variation.  Perform 10-15 reps for 3 sets and your chest will be left smoking.

Diamond Pushups

Another one of the pushup progressions is the diamond pushup.  The diamond pushup is tough for a lot of people because the majority of your bodyweight is being shifted to the shoulders and triceps.  This forces the shoulder to work harder to maintain stability because the chest and upper back are providing less stability.  Also since, the hands are placed closer together, there is  more demand from the core and hips to stabilize the torso.


To perform the diamond pushup, get into the regular pushup position.  From here, move your hands in so that both your thumb and index fingers are touching each other.  The empty space in between your hands should form a diamond shape.  From here, lower yourself down until your chest touches the ground, then just push through the heels and outside of your hands until your elbows are locked out.  Again, elbow flare is perfectly acceptable on this variation.  Shoot for 3 sets of 5-10 reps and feel your arms burning.

Uneven Pushups

Next in line of the pushup progressions in the uneven pushup.  The uneven pushup is a pushup in which you place one hand on the ground and the other hand on some other object that is elevated from the ground.  This can be a stable object like an aerobic step box, or an unstable object, such as a medicine ball.  The medicine ball is unstable and will require more core strength and is thus more challenging.


Once you select the object to use, just place one hand on that object, the other hand on the ground, move your feet together and perform a pushup, chest to ground.  This allows for the body to achieve greater depth on one side of the body.  When the shoulders go below the elbows, more stress is taken off the chest and triceps and is instead placed on the shoulder.  Similar to both the bench press and dips.  If you cant go down all the way, don’t worry just keep working on it and it will come.  3 sets of 5 each arm should suffice.

Deep Pushups

The last of the pushup progressions is the deep pushup.  Similar to the uneven pushup, except that it requires you to go low with both arms elevated.  This variation requires the most mobility out of all the variations listed above.


Find a pair of dumbbells, kettlebells, or paralletts and place both of your hands on the handles.  Then lower yourself all the way down until your chest touches the ground.

Although this exercise seems useless, it most certainly is not.  You will gain a tremendous amount of shoulder mobility with this exercise that will carry over into other lifts, i.e. dips and muscle ups.  Aim for 3 sets of 10 reps.

Closing Thoughts

So after learning about these different variations, you are probably asking yourself, what do I do now.  Well, as long as you have perfected the regular pushup, then you can start doing any of these progressions.  My personal recommendation is to begin with wide grip pushups and then to try out the other ones.  Once you are able to perform these variations with perfect form for a high amount of repetitions (~10 reps), then you can even add them to your conditioning regime.  Just take extra effort to make sure your form is PERFECT.  Otherwise, problems may arise if you want to progress further.  There you go!  Have at it!  Add these to your workouts or training regimen and give it hell!

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