If you want to be a master of strength, you would most likely need lots of reps—for instance, push-ups.
Yes, push-ups! It is a type of exercise that has been stable in fitness routines for decades. And why not? This humble exercise has been proven effective for building strength.
Being consistent with push-ups can be a great way to improve your fitness level without paying for a gym membership or using any exercise equipment than your body weight.
However, if you reach a point where the regular push-ups don’t challenge you anymore, you can simply make simple changes and make it much harder. Below is a guide on how you can make this classic move harder and more effective to build strength.
Let’s dive right in!
7 Ways to Make Push-Ups Harder and Effective
1. Use a weighted vest
By adding traditional loading options, such as a weight vest, you can easily add upwards of load to your push-up and make it harder than before. And since you’re doing weighted vest training, it increases your strength and gains.
2. Add an element of instability
Do med ball push-ups to add an element of instability. Using one med ball works more of your triceps, while two med balls will challenge your muscles more. If you use two med balls, be careful not to let one slip away.
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3. Change the position of your hands
Changing your hand placement is the simplest way to make push-ups harder and more effective. Switch up your position a little differently. Here are some examples of how to do this:
- Increased range of motion
Hold onto something, like parallettes or dumbbell handles, to keep your wrist and hands in line. This hand position is excellent for building your wrist strength. And as your hands are on the dumbbell handles, you can get a bit more range of motion, making push-ups harder.
- Wide-grip push-up
Perform wide-grip push-ups with a hand position wider than regular push-ups. How wide? About 150% shoulder width, according to a study that appeared in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
- Staggered hand push-ups
A staggered hand push-up is a progression of a one-arm push-up. Do this by keeping one hand in the regular push-up position and moving the other hand closer to your stomach. This exercise makes push-ups way harder.
- Triangle push-ups
Also known as the diamond push-up, a triangle push-up is a more advanced variation of the classic push-up. Practice this by bringing your hands to close together, forming a triangle or diamond shape below your chest. Make sure to keep your legs and back in a straight line.
4. Lift one leg
Doing push-ups while one leg is in the air works the quads and glutes more. When you do single-leg push-ups, your core muscles work harder to keep your body square and straight to the ground.
To stay in proper form, don’t extend your leg so far that you start to arch your lower back. Just make it high enough that your glutes will contract.
5. Pair push-ups with unrelated moves
To add a variety to your workout, pair your regular push-ups with unrelated moves, like bodyweight squats, farmer’s carry, or kettlebell swings. You can also consider performing advanced push-up variations, like spiderman push-up.
Another idea if you do this workout with a pair or a group is to play the push-up game, where your heads point into a circle and feed point outward. It makes the exercise more fun while targeting muscles in your entire body.
6. Make it your finishing exercise
To make push up harder, make it your finisher. It means short bouts of workouts at the end of a strength exercise.
Making push-ups as your finishing exercise makes it practical for building work capacity, enhancing conditioning, and building upper body strength. I especially like this challenge because it takes only a little time.
Perform push-ups after finishing your chest day, for instance. It should be completed in as little time as possible and take breaks only when necessary.
7. Slow down the repetitions
My last but not least tip in “how to make pushups harder” is to slow down repetitions, which is also considered time under tension.
For example, take five seconds to lower and pause above the ground for additional 5 seconds. Then, add five seconds to return to the start position. All in all, you’ll complete a 15-second standard push-up.
If you can rock out 30- or 60-second push-ups, it’ll be more challenging than the standard push-ups.
Advanced Push-Up Variations to Develop Your Pressing Strength
Different push-up variations offer different outcomes. There are push-up variations to help you develop muscular endurance and those that help you build strength.
Ready to do more challenging push-ups? Check out some of the best push-up variations below:
- Standard tap push-ups – Add shoulder taps in regular push-ups to put your strength to the test because you are balancing between arms.
- Chain push-ups – This variation primarily targets the lower back, abs, triceps, and shoulders. You will need a chain here as your push-up equipment.
- Isometric push-ups – Your ligaments and tendons are better strengthened in this push-up variation.
- Spiderman push-ups – This activates more muscles and improves stability and core strength. Your forward, shoulders, triceps, and chest all get a workout.
Push-ups are good for you. You’ll get a solid core engagement, and they work your chest, triceps, and anterior deltoids. In short, they’re a full-body workout that requires no equipment.
Increase the difficulty level with the tips I shared to continue the many benefits of an exercise.
If you like this article, you might want to read our other fitness articles and reviews at ExpertFitness.org.
Nathan Lloyd, MSc
LICENSED PERSONAL TRAINER
I’m a personal trainer, based in Boulder, Colorado.
I service clients physically in the Boulder area, mainly in the ONE Boulder Fitness Gym, but am also available for online consulting and coaching.
If you’re interested in my personal coaching programs, please contact me via the contact page.