If you’re just starting out with building your general strength and muscle, then this push-up list is for you. We will cover the eight best push-ups for beginners so you can build a solid foundation of bodyweight mastery.
Why should beginners need to learn push-ups?
The push-up is a fundamental exercise you must include in your routine to build strength and muscle with body weight. This horizontal pushing movement primarily targets the chest, triceps, and shoulders but also has a good core element to the exercise.
For beginners to advanced calisthenics athletes, push-ups are a non-negotiable. You will always have room to improve your horizontal pushing mechanics with push-ups, given that you’re using the push-up variation that suits your goals and skill level.
Push-ups develop a strong foundation of strength, coordination, and body control.
Push-up vs. Bench Press
A common concern with upper body strength development is whether one is better than the other: push-up vs. bench press.
If you’re in this situation contemplating which exercise to use, don’t worry. I’ve got the solution for you.
A 2019 study shows that bench presses and push-ups are interchangeable in terms of developing general upper-body pushing strength. When the intensities are matched, they both can activate and develop the same muscle group.
While there are notable differences, such as push-ups’ transferability to other calisthenics skills, you can use any of the two you enjoy and whichever exercise translates better towards the goal you want to achieve. Some individuals prefer the straightforward progression of just adding weight to the bench press. Some seek the challenge of mastering their body weight through push-ups. Others enjoy the best of both worlds by rotating the exercises within their training cycle.
With this, we’re going to focus on the push-up variations that can help you match the higher intensities that the bench press can offer.
Best Beginner Push-ups
These are the most basic push-up variations ranked from easiest to hardest.
The first three push-up variations are for beginners just starting out with their push-ups, while the next five are for beginners looking to solidify their pushing strength foundations.
Every beginner should start building strength at an incline. Anyone can do this, even complete beginners with zero experience. Pick an incline that suits your level, then get your reps in.
The beauty of this exercise is that we’re pushing less than our body weight, and we can adjust it according to our level. Complete beginners can start at a wall and then move to a lower incline as they get stronger.
At the same time, this exercise helps you build up good push-up technique until you’re ready for the next step.
Here’s a complete guide on how to finally get your first push-up: Master the Push-ups (BEGINNER TUTORIAL)
- Best exercise for complete beginners with no experience, undertrained, or overweight
- Scalable to suit any skill level
- Best practice for sound general push-up technique
Once you have mastered incline push-ups close to the floor, negative push-ups are your next step forward. Lower your body from the top of the push-up slowly down to the bottom, then reset to the top position.
The reason negatives or eccentrics work is because we get stronger in reverse. We are more capable of performing the eccentric than the concentric. Negative push-up is superior to kneeling push-up (that’s why we didn’t include it on the list) because it matches the real thing. This is key for mastering the movement pattern.
Embrace the physical and mental challenge, and you will be rewarded with strength.
- Slow and controlled movement for at least four seconds on your way down
- The last step before the full range of motion normal push-ups
The normal push-up is essential for everyone. This classic and popular exercise variation builds strength and bodyweight control. The pressing motion prepares you for future calisthenics exercises.
Your goal is to be able to perform at least 30 reps in a single set of these with no problem. It’s tempting to skip steps and rush to the next push-up variation.
Those of you who train with a prudent mindset won’t regret it. 30 reps of normal push-ups should already give you enough of a challenge for quite some time.
Be sure to check if you’re performing good form and technique. Avoid these 10 common push-up mistakes mistakes !
- Focus on quality over quantity
- Build sufficient volume before progressing
- Staple bodyweight exercise
Take a closer grip and learn the diamond push-up. This variation is commonly known to target the triceps, but a study also shows that it activates your chest muscles even further with just a slight tweak in our hand placement, muscle recruitment changes.
Diamonds work well because of the additional difficulty, and cheating is impossible. Your body is forced to tuck your elbows, keeping the form strict and honest. All you have to do is to make your first rep look like your last. A dominant technique and effort lead to serious results.
Diamond push-ups for beginners can be part of your main exercise routine. When you get stronger, you can use this as a tool to reach muscular fatigue for better muscle gains.
To perform the exercise, simply move your hands together and form a diamond shape with your hands. You can also just keep them with a close hand placement without the diamond necessarily.
- Better chest and tricep activation
- Forces strict form
- Can be a supplementary exercise for advanced athletes
Variety is the spice of life. Let’s go wider with the wide push-up. When the hands are outside shoulder width, the stimulus changes. We’re getting a bigger strength in our pec muscles. The pec muscles are getting used to a certain extent and are mechanically stronger.
There’s a bit of controversy regarding this variation. A common issue is the flaring of the elbows. However, if done correctly, it can be safe. You’ll be looking for just enough elbow flare WITHIN the scapular plane. What we mean by this is having your elbows below shoulder height.
Don’t be afraid of technique. This isn’t so strict. Experiment with hand placement and find what suits your body.
- Better chest stretch
- Experiment with suitable hand placement width
- Perform within the scapular plane
Tiger bend push-ups
It’s time to challenge your coordination and control with tiger bend push-ups. This is a great variation to learn weight transfer. Focusing on the transition phase has plenty to offer. We can train scapular stability and master the deepest part of the push-ups.
Because we’re focusing on the technique and timing, our mind is distracted from the discomfort and difficulty.
Move smoothly towards your forearms. Control is a sign that our muscles are playing an active role and they’re going to adapt to become stronger.
Tiger bends expand your movement capacity and also prepare you for the motion of other advanced calisthenics, such as the tricep push-up.
- Focus on technique and control
- Trains weight shifts
- Develops stronger scapula muscles
Dive bomber push-ups
Do you want to get a good stretch while building strength? Then this one’s for you.
The combination of yoga and push-ups makes it a valuable exercise. The massive range of motion is where the magic happens. We’re targeting a good stretch on our shoulders and spine that makes up a robust body.
Timing is crucial to strengthen the right spots. Think about leading with your shoulders. This allows your body to move as an integrated unit instead of isolation. For best results, stay close to the ground during the pushing phase.
Dive bombers are an excellent challenge to push yourself to become stronger and more mobile.
- Body close to the ground during the pushing phase
- Stretch and strengthen at the same time
- Better spine and shoulders
Gymnastics rings are a game change in push-up training.
Thanks to the unstable surface, our muscles need to work harder in order to stabilize even before we can perform the full range of motion of the exercise. We’re also getting the added benefit of increased range of motion because of the elevation it provides.
Ring push-ups are also safer for the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. The rings conform to your own unique body and structure, making push-ups enjoyable and effective.
Have you already mastered the general fundamentals of calisthenics and want to focus on ring training? Check out our program Body by Rings for a muscle-building program using rings and body weight.
- Added instability means more challenge
- Deeper range of motion
- Pain-free exercise, IF done correctly
Push-up has a ton of variations and great benefits when implemented into your routine. It’s a matter of finding the right push-up variation that will suit your goals and current abilities.
Check out the rest of the push-ups you might want to learn next in the video below:
Just keep in mind that push-ups shouldn’t be your only exercise if your goal is to develop a solid foundation of strength and muscle.
If you’re a complete beginner who wants to build up your calisthenics foundations, then check out our program Begin Bodyweight.
Begin Bodyweight offers the necessary tools and knowledge to hone your push-ups as well as other upper-body calisthenics fundamentals, such as pull-ups, rows, and dips.
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Read the next article for intermediate push-ups!