To many personal trainers, the pushup is simply a warm-up tool for very fit clients. “Go do 20 pushups, and then we’ll get started,” or, “Let’s spend the last minute of the session doing pushups.”
In other words, pushups aren’t usually considered in the same way as bench pressing, or decline dumbbell presses.
Yes, a man or woman can develop the prowess to knock off 50 pushups like nothing, but this doesn’t mean that pushups must be the runt of the litter when it comes to value as a main routine.
A fit person may be able to bench press 100 pounds for 50 reps, also, but does that mean that benching is assigned only as a warm-up or cool-down?
Pushups can be modified in many ways. The following routines (no particular order) are for people who have excellent upper body/shoulder conditioning, and who can already easily do standard men’s pushups for reps with good, stable form.
Elevate feet. Place feet on a bench instead of the floor, and then see how many pushups you can do.
If you can still knock’em out, place feet on something higher, like a plyometric stool.
One-legged. See how well you can do pushups with one leg curled back, while the other is on the floor or even propped up on a bench.
Fingertips and knuckles. The classic upgrade is doing pushups just off the fingertips or knuckles. Place feet on bench or stool for added intensity.
Clapping. Clap between reps.
Partial/isometric reps. Go up only half way and hold there for several seconds to 10 seconds before lowering.
Two medicine balls. Place hands on medicine balls and do pushups off of them.
One-medicine-ball alternations. Place one hand on the ball, other on the floor. After each rep, roll ball to the other hand just in time for the other hand to push off of it.
Hand-hopping. As individual pushes up, he springs up with enough momentum so that his hands leave the floor, allowing him to shift in one direction so that his hands end up elsewhere, i.e., his left hand ends up where his right hand was.
On the next rep, he springs up again and returns to the original hand location on the floor.
He keeps alternating this way, while his feet stay planted. Tougher variation: A medicine ball stays below centerline of person’s torso, and person alternates hands on it.
Pushup/row combo. Place 15- or 20-pound (or heavier!) dumbbells on floor, same distance person places hands for pushups.
Place hands on dumbbells, push off of them, and at the top of each rep, lift one dumbbell up in a bent-over row fashion (while other hand supports body as in a one-armed pushup), then place it on floor while body is still in the up position, then lower and do another pushup; then at the top of this next rep, row with the other arm. Each row counts as half a rep.
Do not rotate body outward while in the up position during the rowing; torso must squarely face floor. This will be difficult for some people. An easier variation is to row both arms in between each pushup.
Assisted resistance. Partner straddles person and places hands on person’s upper back (not middle or lower back), and applies resistance as individual pushes up. Partner can also place a weight plate on person’s upper back.
One-handed. Place free hand behind back throughout the pushups.
Pushup/sprint combo. Individual does whatever pushup modification brings on failure within 6-12 reps, right next to a treadmill.
Immediately after pushups, exerciser gets on treadmill and runs 10 mph for 30-60 seconds (vary speed depending on person’s conditioning; add an incline).
Do not hang onto the machine. After the run, walk it off for a minute, then do another pushup/sprint round.