The push-up is an excellent bodyweight strength builder. However, you may get to a point (or already be there) where the regular push-up just isn’t as challenging as it once was.
When that happens what can you do?
To ramp up this exercise and keep challenging yourself we have 5 simple changes that you can make that will help you make the regular ole push-up a heck of a lot harder!
Alright, let’s dive right in.
#1.Change your hand placement
The simplest way to make your push-ups harder is by changing the position of your hands. By switching up your hand position you’ll work your push-up muscles just a little differently than you may be used to.
Examples of how to do this include:
• Diamond push-ups →
Touch your hands together so they make a “diamond” shape on the ground. This is a great option to fire up the triceps.
• Staggered hand push-ups →
Keep one hand in the normal push-up position, and move one hand down, closer to your stomach. This is actually a progression for the one-handed push-up and is also a killer way to make them a lot harder.
• Increased range of motion push-ups →
Hold onto something like dumbbell handles or parallettes. This will help keep your hands and wrist in-line, which is great for building wrist strength. Also, with your hands on handles, you’ll be able to get a little bit more range of motion per rep. Again, this makes the reps harder.
#2. CHANGE YOUR CENTRE OF GRAVITY
The best way to change your center of gravity here is to raise your legs. The higher you raise your legs, the harder the push-up becomes. The hardest version of this ends up with the handstand push-up.
However, you certainly don’t need to raise your legs all the way up into a handstand in order to enjoy the benefits here. Besides from handstand push-ups, a few ways of how to do this include:
• Walk your feet halfway up a wall
• Prop your feet on a small box or bench
• Have a workout buddy hold your legs on their shoulders
#3. REMOVE A LIMB (OR TWO)
Another simple way to make the push-up harder is by removing a limb or two. In order of increasing difficulty, a few examples of how to do this include:
• Lift one leg and do push-ups with both hands and one leg on the ground
• Lift one hand and do push-ups with both legs and one hand on the ground
• Lift an opposite arm and leg and do push-ups with only one leg and one hand on the ground
Note: One arm push-ups, and certainly one arm/one leg push-ups, are very challenging. However, these variations teach you serious upper body control and are great for building upper body strength using just your bodyweight.
#4. SLOW DOWN THE REPS
Slowing down repetitions is also referred to as time under tension. Just like the name implies here, with slow reps you go...well, slow.
A few examples of how to do this with pushups includes:
•A fifteen-second push-up →
Take 5 seconds to lower, pause above the ground for 5 seconds, take 5 seconds to raise back to the start position
•A thirty-second push-up →
Take 10 seconds to lower, pause above the ground for 10 seconds, take 10 seconds to raise back to the start position
•A sixty-second push-up →
Take 20 seconds to lower, pause above the ground for 20 seconds, take 20 seconds to raise back to the start position
Note: If you can rock out sixty-second pushups with ease, you’re pretty much a stud.
Lastly, another great way to make push-ups harder is by combining the techniques listed above. For example, there’s nothing wrong with trying to do a slow fifteen-second one handed push-up. That would be tough, but it’s certainly doable!
Another example of mix-n-matching elements is raising a leg off a wall in order to do handstand pushups with less support.
Or, if you’re really going for the full enchilada you can try freestanding handstand push-ups. Not only are you changing your center of gravity, but you’re removing two limbs (the legs). A freestanding handstand pushup is definitely one of the hardest push-up variations you can try.
We covered a lot of ground in this article, but as you can see there are many ways to make the push-up harder and more interesting. You can use the techniques we talked about here as guidelines, but it comes down to being creative and trying them out. Challenge yourself to work through the variations and become a master of this exercise.