It’s a bodyweight favourite for first-timers and elite athletes alike, but instead of cranking out rep after rep of plain-old press-ups, give these variations a go to chisel more than just your chest.

Press-Up Pointers 

When you read ‘assume a press-up position’, here’s what to do…

  • Position your hands underneath your chest – in the press-up position, you should be able to draw a straight line from your nipple to your thumbnail. 
  • Your body should form a straight line from the top of your head to your heels – think straight-arm plank, with an extra movement.
  • Stay ‘tight’ throughout: clench your glutes and tighten your abs, as if you’re about to take a punch to the stomach.
  • ‘Screw’ the heels of your hands into the floor. Doing so will stabilise your shoulder joints and give you more strength for each rep.

8 Of The Best Muscle-Building Press-Up Variations – Men's Fitness UK8 Of The Best Muscle-Building Press-Up Variations – Men's Fitness UK

1. Archer Press-Up

Main focus: Pecs, shoulders

  • Assume a wide press-up position. 
  • Keep one arm straight as you bend the other and lean into the bent-arm side.
  • The aim is to use the straight arm as little as possible, making the opposite pec and shoulder do all the work.
  • Keep the elbow of the bent arm tucked in throughout to increase stability and prevent shoulder strain.
  • Pause at the bottom of the movement for a two-count, then drive through your armpit to return to the start and repeat on the other side.

8 Of The Best Muscle-Building Press-Up Variations – Men's Fitness UK8 Of The Best Muscle-Building Press-Up Variations – Men's Fitness UK

2. Foam Roller Press-Up

Main focus: Core, pecs, shoulders

  • Assume a press-up position but place your feet on a foam roller rather than the floor. 
  • The instability of the foam roller places extra emphasis on your core.
  • Perform a regular press-up, maintaining perfect form throughout.

8 Of The Best Muscle-Building Press-Up Variations – Men's Fitness UK8 Of The Best Muscle-Building Press-Up Variations – Men's Fitness UK

3. Spiderman Press-Up

Main focus: Core, pecs, shoulders, biceps, triceps, quads

  • Assume a press-up position. 
  • As you lower yourself to the ground, bring your right knee up to touch your right elbow – think Spiderman climbing a wall.
  • Press back up and return your leg, then repeat with the other side.

8 Of The Best Muscle-Building Press-Up Variations – Men's Fitness UK8 Of The Best Muscle-Building Press-Up Variations – Men's Fitness UK

4. Press-Up with Single-Leg Raise

Main focus: Core, pecs, shoulders, glutes 

  • Assume a press-up position. 
  • As you begin to lower, squeeze your glutes to raise one leg off the floor, keeping it straight.
  • Raise your leg as high as your hip mobility will allow.
  • As you press back up, lower your leg, then repeat on the other side.

8 Of The Best Muscle-Building Press-Up Variations – Men's Fitness UK8 Of The Best Muscle-Building Press-Up Variations – Men's Fitness UK

5. Decline Press-Up 

Main focus: Pecs, shoulders, biceps, triceps

  • Assume a press-up position, with feet elevated on a chair or similar object behind you. 
  • Keep your hands underneath your chest and don’t let your hips sink – maintain the same straight line as you would with a regular press-up.
  • Lower until your upper chest touches the floor, then press back up.

8 Of The Best Muscle-Building Press-Up Variations – Men's Fitness UK8 Of The Best Muscle-Building Press-Up Variations – Men's Fitness UK

6. Superman Press-Up

Main focus: Pecs, shoulders, core, lats

  • Lie on your stomach with arms and legs extended, so your fingers and toes touch the floor. 
  • Drive through your feet and your hands to raise your body up, parallel to the floor.
  • Lower back down to complete one repetition.

8 Of The Best Muscle-Building Press-Up Variations – Men's Fitness UK8 Of The Best Muscle-Building Press-Up Variations – Men's Fitness UK

7. Pike Press-Up

Main focus: Shoulders

  • Assume a press-up position.
  • Lift your hips up and walk your feet in – similar to downward dog, but with more emphasis on your shoulders.
  • Keep your legs straight throughout.
  • Bend your elbows to lower your head to the floor, then push up through your shoulders to return to the start.

8 Of The Best Muscle-Building Press-Up Variations – Men's Fitness UK8 Of The Best Muscle-Building Press-Up Variations – Men's Fitness UK

8. Dive Bomber Press-Up

Main focus: Pecs, shoulders, core

  • Assume a downward dog (aka ‘inverted V’) position.
  • Keeping your legs straight, bend your elbows (but don’t flare them out to the sides) and lower your chest to the floor.
  • As you near the bottom of the movement, shift your weight forwards and press up to straighten your arms.
  • Reverse the movement to return to the start.

Push Yourself

This press-up workout combines each of the variations listed above.

1a. Archer Press-Up 
Reps: 10 each side
Rest: straight into 1b

1b. Decline Press-Up
Reps:
10-15
Rest: straight into 1c

1c. Foam Roller Press-Up
Reps: 15-20
Rest: 60-90 secs
Sets: 3-4

2a. Dive Bomber Press-Up
Reps: 10-12
Rest: straight into 2b

2b. Spiderman Press-Up
Reps:
10-12 each side
Rest: straight into 2c

2c. Press-Up with Single-Leg Raise
Reps: 10-12 each side
Rest: 90 secs
Sets: 3-4

3a. Superman Press-Up
Reps: 12-15
Rest: straight into 3b

3b. Pike Press-Up
Reps:
12-15
Rest: 60 secs
Sets: 3-4

Model: Luke Worthington
Photography: Eddie Macdonald