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3 push-up variations to expand your workout

Push-ups are both simple and effective. Try these

Push-ups are both simple and effective. Try these three variations to incorporate into your workout routine. (Credit: iStock)

The beauty of the push-up is that its simplicity is matched only by its effectiveness. Effective, at least, until you get bored.

When done properly — that is, when done with your head aligned with your spine, a straight backside, a tight abdominal, hands positioned ever-so-slightly in front of your shoulders and elbows tucked in on the way down — it recruits almost every muscle in the body and builds strength in your arms, chest and shoulders. And push-ups don’t require a gym membership, fancy equipment, or anything other than your own body, a few minutes, and a little bit of willpower. As a result, it’s a key exercise for anyone looking to bulk up, get toned or simply burn calories.

But as you get better at them — to the point where you can drop down and bang out a dozen or two in a cinch — push-ups can become monotonous. After all, you don’t get that same feeling of accomplishment that you may from adding more weight to your apparatus of choice for similar workouts at the gym.

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Therefore, it’s really only a matter of time before the push-up novice enters the intermediate phase and begins searching for some variations. Just a few months ago, I was stuck in that same rut and began an extensive search for different moves that build strength without forcing me to abandon the comfort of my own apartment. After much testing, I’ve found three variations that up both the difficulty level and the excitement factor of the tried and true move. Without further ado, here they are:

The crossover push-up:

Find enough sturdy items in your house (I use old textbooks) to build a platform 10- to 15-inches high. Place both hands on top of the platform and assume the traditional push-up position with your feet on the ground but spread your legs to a wider, more balanced, stance. Now, take your right hand off your makeshift platform and place it to the right so that it’s about shoulder-width distance from your left hand, which is still on the platform. Perform a push-up. As you rise the strain should be disproportionately felt in your left arm. When that left arm is fully extended (thereby forcing your right hand off the ground), move your right hand back onto the platform and shift your left hand off to the left side. Now perform a pushup with your right hand on the platform and your left hand on the ground. You’ve done one repetition. Keep repeating this move, alternating your left and right hands, until you can do at least five repetitions.

The alternating push-up:

Find two platforms that are about four-inches high. (Once again, strategically placed textbooks have worked for me). Position them so that when you assume a normal push-up stance each platform is a few inches outside (that is, farther apart than) your hands. Now perform a push-up with your hands in-between the platform, but focus on pushing up with enough force to lift yourself off the ground and land with your hands on the platforms. Now do a wider-than-normal push-up with your hands on the platforms. Once again, as you perform the wider push-up, focus on pushing through the floor with enough force so that your hands are propelled off the ground. This time, make sure they land back in the starting position. That’s one repetition. Keep alternating between the narrow and wide push-up. It’s only a matter of time before your heart-rate soars and your chest and arms burn.

The plank-to-push-up:

This is probably the most difficult of the three moves and best for people who really want to focus on building strength in their abs/core and shoulders. Start in a solid push-up position. Perform a push-up. When you return to starting position, gently lift your left arm and place your forearm on the ground and quickly do the same with your right arm so that you’re in a plank position. (Plank position is identical to push-up position except that you’re resting your weight on your entire forearms instead of just your hands). Now, pay careful attention to placing your hands almost directly beneath your shoulders and return from plank position to push-up position. Perform a push-up. Now return to plank position. Repeat for 30 seconds and see how many you can do.

So there you have it — three new push up variations to work into your routine. Let us know in the comments what you think of these options, or if you have a favorite variation of your own that’s not on this list . . .

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