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push up workout

HOW TO DO A PUSHUP WORKOUT

People really got a chance to appreciate the regular pushups and see how much of an effective exercise it is during quarantine.

Bench Presses were hogging the attention until gyms suddenly closed.

If you’re still not able to get into a gym or you want to focus on bodyweight exercises, I’ve got the best Pushup workout for you. And no, we’re not going to be using any of those twisting Pushup devices.

But there are plenty of types of pushup from Wide Pushups to the Position-Switch Pushup. But don’t worry, nothing too crazy like a Single-Arm Pushup.

I’m going to provide you with a step-by-step Pushup workout that targets each section of the chest muscles.

What’s more, this ONE pushup routine will allow for building upper body strength, pectoral muscles, and endurance. Most importantly, I’m going to include all the things I think are typically missing from common Push-up workout routines.

Not sure if you have experience fitness experience to do this workout? Everyone can do this workout because I’m going to give you exercises for the three levels of mobility: beginners, intermediate, and advanced. And no matter what level you’re at, you’re going to be improving your pushup skills.

I’m ready to start breaking down the perfect Push-Up workout so let’s get into it.

HOW TO HIT EACH SECTION OF THE CHEST MUSCLE

Did you mistakenly think that there was only one way to do Pushup training?

While the chest is one big muscle, there are ways to target each section of that muscle. And Pushups are no different.

You can target the different areas of the pectoralis major, but only if you use the right kinds of Pushup mechanics.

UPPER CHEST

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upper chest muscle

You can hit the upper chest muscle fibers if you change the direction of your arm in relation to your body when you do your push-ups.

You want to perform a pushing movement at an upward angle.

MIDDLE / STERNAL CHEST

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middle sternal chest muscle

You can hit the sternal portion of the chest, if you know the right alignment of your arms when you do your standard floor pushups.

Focus on pushing from the center with your elbows tight, not splayed out.

LOWER CHEST

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lower chest abdominal head

Finally, you can get muscle activation in the lower or the abdominal head of the pec if you know how to vary the angles of your arms in relation to your body when you perform your Push-Ups.

With this, you’ll focus on a downward angle, pushing away from the body.

None of us are at the EXACT same level when it comes to performing Push-Ups, but it doesn’t mean we can’t get the most out of it with practice.

 
 

BREAKDOWN OF THE PERFECT PUSHUP WORKOUT

Before we jump into the 3-step Pushup series, I want to show you the layout and what to expect.

First, let’s start with your experience level when it comes to the basic pushup.

EXPERIENCE LEVEL

First, I want you to consider how experienced you are with working out and Pushups, in general.

Do you know the correct form of a Basic Pushup? Consider your own upper body strength as well as your wrists and how well they can handle the standard push-up position.

This is because I have a workout for each experience level: beginner, intermediate, and advanced.

Push yourself but don’t go too high above your paygrade. You’ll get there eventually.

TOP TO BOTTOM

Once you know which path you’ll follow, you will start with the upper chest exercise and work your way down.

The idea is to target the upper chest first because these exercises tend to be where most people are weakest.

So, while you’re at your most fresh and have the most energy, this is when you want to hit them.

PERFORMING THE PUSH-UP

Something you might be surprised by is the fact that I am not going to give you a specific repetition count for the pushups.

Why?

Because as soon as I see a push-up workout that has reps as the end goal, I know immediately that the person who prescribed that doesn’t really understand the main benefit of push-ups.

What’s more, there is so much variability in our abilities to do different kinds of push-ups that assigning a rep count is not going to cut it.

So, what do you do? You need to train these exercises to failure.

Again, if I were to prescribe a certain rep count, I likely would be doing either one of two things: First, I’d either give you too many that you can’t do with proper pushup form. Or second, I’d give you too few that you could have done more of.

Either way, you’re undercutting your abilities here on this workout and I want to make sure you get the most out of this.

Again, what you do is you perform the repetitions to failure.

FROM CHEST TO CORE

One more thing that will be noticeably absent is an abundance of rest breaks. Instead of resting, what do you do?

In this perfect Pushup workout, I want to fill the gap of your rest periods with ab exercises.

So, you’ll perform your push-up exercise to failure then immediately move into your ab exercise.

HOW MANY SETS OF THIS PUSHUP WORKOUT?

So, how many times do you go through this pushup routine? I would say to work your way through this entire workout two to three times.

Go through each exercise for each section of the chest once. That means you’re doing one exercise for the upper, the middle, the lower, the adduction, and the explosive.

After one round of each of these, you would rest for three to five minutes and then go back and perform a second and an optional third round. Remember, each set of exercises is over when you can no longer do it with proper form.

PERFECT PUSHUP WORKOUT: UPPER CHEST

Alright, so we kick off this pushup workout with the upper chest.

Remember, just because your selection of exercises is minimized to push-ups and push-up variations, it doesn’t mean that you have to throw all chest training science out the window with it.

You can still hit the different areas of the chest as you would with a full workout for chest. The catch is that you must understand the positioning of the arms as you perform the exercises.

And we start here with a targeting of the upper chest.

The clavicle or fibers of the chest move and run downward and outward. If you want to follow those fibers, you need to move your arms into position or in a direction from low to high.

Following the direction of these fibers that run this way, we want to make sure that our body moves in that same way.

BEGINNER: KNEE PUSHAWAY

You can actually do that with the first simple exercise for beginners, the Knee Pushaway.

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Best Pushup Workout For Insane Gains

With the Knee Pushaway, you can see that as I push back, my arms are actually traveling in a low to high position, even though they’re fixed on the ground.

And this will allow you to hit this upper chest area more effectively.

Once you go to failure with the Knee Pushaway, you move right into your first abdominal exercise, the V-Sit Hold.

V-SIT HOLD

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v-sit hold exercise

INTERMEDIATE: PROWLER PUSHUP

If you’re at an intermediate level, your push-up exercise is the Prowler Push-up.

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prowler pushup

Being off of the knees makes the exercise more difficult.

The commonality is that the position of your arms is the same and you’re still hitting that area of the chest more effectively.

Once you finish the Prowler Push-Up, you move right into the V-Sit Hold with Scissors.

V-SIT SCISSOR HOLD

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v sit scissor hold exercise

ADVANCED: DECLINE PUSHUPS

And if we’re at the advanced level, back yourself up to a wall, put your feet up, and target the upper chest with Decline Pushups.

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Best Pushup Workout For Insane Gains

Once you go to failure with the Decline Pushup, you transition right into the Scissor V-Up.

SCISSOR V-UP

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Best Pushup Workout For Insane Gains

Once you perform this abdominal exercise for your rest period, you move on to Phase Two of the bodyweight exercise routine, which focuses on the middle chest.

PERFECT PUSHUP WORKOUT: MIDDLE CHEST

Now we want to target that middle or sternal portion of the chest.

Again, you want to perform the pushup exercise that matches your experience level followed the accompanying ab exercise.

BEGINNER: knee PUSHUP

If you’re at the beginner level, you’re going to perform the Classic Pushup from your knees, better known as Knee Pushups.

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Best Pushup Workout For Insane Gains

The idea is to fully lock out the arms to get a good full Push-Up.

Make sure you’re not leaving your butt stuck up in the air. Your hips are down as you perform good, solid, full range Push-Ups.

Finish up this round with the V-Sit Hold.

V-SIT HOLD

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v-sit hold exercise

INTERMEDIATE: SHOULDER-WIDTH STANDARD PUSHUP

If you’re at the intermediate level, you will perform the standard variety Pushups from your toes, better known as traditional Pushups.

The Shoulder-Width Standard Pushup should look very familiar especially if you’ve ever done a plank before.

It’s a simple plank position but you’re not resting on your forearms.

Once again, same concept here, take it all the way to failure.

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standard push-up

From the Standard Pushup, you go right into the V-Sit Hold with Scissors.

V-SIT SCISSOR HOLD

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v sit scissor hold exercise

ADVANCED: ARCHER PUSHUP

If you’re doing the advanced version here, you perform the Archer Pushup.

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archer pushup

Now, obviously, this is more difficult, but the position of the arms is now aligned horizontally, allowing you to more effectively hit the fibers of the chest that run in this direction laterally from the sternum out to the arm.

SCISSOR V-UP

Once you reach failure with the Archer Pushups, you go into the Scissor V-Up.

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Scissor V-Up

PERFECT PUSHUP WORKOUT: LOWER CHEST

Now, we want to target the lower chest, the abdominal head of the chest, moving our arms from a direction of high to low.

Just like we would with a dip performed in a full equipment workout for the chest.

BEGINNER – INCLINE PUSHUPs

For beginners, you will perform Incline Pushups which is an elevated pushup performed in a strong plank position with your hands on a flat bench. Begin in elevated pushup position with hands on a flat bench or another elevated surface and perform a normal pushup in an incline position, with core muscles engaged throughout the movement.

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Best Pushup Workout For Insane Gains

People think the Incline Push-up movement can’t be working the lower chest, but if you look at the pushup position of the arms on the flat bench or elevated surface, you realize that it does.

Your arms are going to be down lower from the horizontal in relation to your body.

So, we perform this exercise to failure and then we move into the V-Sit Hold keeping your core muscles engaged.

V-SIT HOLD

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v-sit hold exercise

INTERMEDIATE – PSUEDO PLANCHE

At the intermediate level, we perform the Pseudo Planche. This type of pushup helps preferentially hit the lower chest.

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psuedo planche

It’s a little bit more difficult, and you will feel some of this in the front delt as well.

Since the arms are relatively positioned lower from horizontal than it would be during a Standard Push-Up, you’re going to feel this targeting more of that lower chest area.

After the Pseudo Planche Pushup, you will finish this round with the V-Sit Scissor Hold.

V-SIT SCISSOR HOLD

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v sit scissor hold exercise

ADVANCED – MODIFIED HINDU PUSH-UP

And then finally for the advanced, we have a type of modified Pushups called the Modified Hindu Push-Up. This demanding pushup version is a challenge for the upper chest.

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modified hindu pushup

The one important thing to take note of is that you’re not going to go all the way back and swoop all the way back like you would with a normal Hindu Pushup. Instead, you’re going to focus on that forward position.

This is different than a Cobra Push-Up, which effectively hits the triceps turning it into a Triceps Pushup.

You want to get your elbows away from the sides. You don’t want to tuck them in tight and leave them extended behind your body, which would hit more of the long head of the triceps muscle.

And again, work on that positioning of the arm relative to our torso that keeps the focus more on the lower chest.

From the Modified Hindu Pushup, you will finish strong with the Scissor V-Up, again keeping the core tight.

SCISSOR V-UP

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Scissor V-Up

PERFECT PUSHUP WORKOUT: ADDUCTION

Now, some of you are probably wondering, “Hey Jeff, is that it? Are we done?”

Well, I’ve got some news for you. We’re at the halfway point of this workout so strap in and finish strong.

Adduction is one of those elements of a chest contraction that’s missing from almost every Pushup workout I’ve seen.

Why is that?

Push-Ups tend to keep your hands in a fixed position on the floor, eliminating the benefit that you get from full chest contraction by having your arm across your body.

So, if your hands are still in contact with the floor, is there something you can do to create adduction? You can turn your body towards the arm to create that.

BEGINNER – TWISTING KNEE PUSHUP

So, for the beginners, you’re going to do the Twisting Push-Up from your knees, or the Twisting Knee Pushup.

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Best Pushup Workout For Insane Gains

And again, you can see that instead of having to move my arm towards the midline, what I do is I move my body towards the arm, which creates an adduction of the arm.

Finish this round strong with the V-Sit Hold.

V-SIT HOLD

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v-sit hold exercise

INTERMEDIATE – TWISTING PUSHUP

At the intermediate level, you’re going to do the Twisting Push-Up from your toes.

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twisting knee pushup

And once you go to failure with the Twisting Pushup, you go right into the V-Sit Scissor Hold.

V-SIT SCISSOR HOLD

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v sit scissor hold exercise

ADVANCED – BANDED CROSSOVER PUSHUPS

Here at the advanced level, you can incorporate an extra band anchored to somewhere low and you drive your arm across as you perform the Pushup.

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Best Pushup Workout For Insane Gains

With this move, you’ll have active arm adduction by simply lifting one off of the ground.

Of course, we can work both sides here, right arm over to the left and the left arm over to the right.

After your chest is feeling it from the Banded Crossover Pushup, you go right into the Scissor V-Up.

SCISSOR V-UP

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Scissor V-Up
 
 

PERFECT PUSHUP WORKOUT: EXPLOSIVE MOVEMENT

Finally, I always believe that what we slow down in training, we should speed up.

I want to end this workout with at least one explosive version of a Push-Up. I have three types of Plyometric Pushup for you, depending on what you can handle.

BEGINNER – LATERAL KNEE PLYO PUSH-UP

In the case of the beginners, here we have this Lateral Knee Plyo Push-Up.

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lateral knee plyo pushups

You’re on your knees to try to take off some of your body weight and make this easier, but the idea is to try to explode off of the ground.

Realize some true power by pushing through the ground and trying to elevate your body off the ground and then simply moving your arm side to side just a little bit to make a little bit more dynamic and challenging.

Just as before, finish with the V-Sit Hold.

V-SIT HOLD

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v-sit hold exercise

INTERMEDIATE – DOUBLE HAND RELEASE PUSH-UP

If we’re at the intermediate level, your option is the Double Hand Release Push-Up.

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Best Pushup Workout For Insane Gains

And what we’re going for here is the fact that the hand release will take away a lot of momentum. You have to go all the way down.

When you release your hands on the bottom, you’re forcing your chest to have to touch the ground and now you need to regain momentum from a zero state.

You’re not just simply bouncing up and down through a Push-Up.

V-SIT SCISSOR HOLD

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v sit scissor hold exercise

ADVANCED – BROCK SHUFFLE PUSH-UP

For the advanced level, we have something a bit complex: the Brock Shuffle Push-Up.

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brock shuffle pushups

This gets a lot more athletic and explosive, filling the need that we have to speed up the slow down tendency that we have in all of our Pushup variations.

Ready to bring it home? Do your final set of the Scissor V-Up and congratulations, you’ve made it through this Pushup challenge…

At least the first round of the Push Up workout.

SCISSOR V-UP

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Scissor V-Up

PERFECT PUSHUP WORKOUT SUMMARY

Okay, guys, I know that was a lot, which is why I want to recap and give you a complete summary of the upper-body exercises you will be doing in this perfect Pushup workout.

BEGINNER PUSHUP WORKOUT

  • Knee Pushaway
  • V-Sit Hold
  • Standard Kneeling Push-Ups
  • V-Sit Hold
  • Incline Pushups
  • V-Sit Hold
  • Twisting Kneeling Push-Up
  • V-Sit Hold
  • Lateral Knee Plyo Push-up
  • V-Sit Hold

INTERMEDIATE PUSHUP WORKOUT

  • Prowler Push-up
  • V-Sit Hold Scissors
  • Standard Pushups
  • V-Sit Hold Scissors
  • Pseudo Planche
  • V-Sit Hold Scissors
  • Twisting Push-up
  • V-Sit Hold Scissors
  • Double Hand Release Push-up
  • V-Sit Hold Scissors

ADVANCED PUSHUP WORKOUT

  • Decline Pushups
  • Scissor V-Up
  • Archer Pushup
  • Scissor V-Up
  • Modified Hindu Push-up
  • Scissor V-Up
  • Adduction Pushup (Drive Across)
  • Scissor V-Up
  • Brock Shuffle
  • Scissor V-Up

Quick reminder: Go to failure with each of these chest movements.

Don’t aim for a specific rep count. Go until you physically cannot continue, then move to the next exercise.

A perfect chest workout that focuses only on push-ups goes beyond a traditional Pushup and one hundred reps.

You need to give care to the selection of the exercises to make sure you hit each section of your chest muscle.

What you have above is the perfect Pushup workout for each experience level. Best of all, it features only At-Home Push Ups.

Follow it as it’s laid out and I promise you are going to see some incredible changes.

If you want a weight training program to help you see huge improvements from head to toe, check out our complete ATHLEAN-X programs.

 
 
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THE HIGHLIGHT REEL:
BEST PUSHUP WORKOUT

  1. Chest training to build a bigger chest with a Pushup workout is possible, but you better pick the right Push Up variation, and know the proper push-up form and starting position for each.
  2. A few ground rules: First, work to failure on every exercise. Don’t aim for a specific rep number.
  3. Next, use your rest break productively by performing an abdominal exercise.
  4. Finally, make sure you hit every section of the chest muscle: upper, middle, lower, adduction, and explosive. Here is the Push Up routine based on your experience level:
  5. Upper Chest: Beginners should perform the Knee Pushaway, intermediate lifters should do the Prowler Push-up, and advanced can do Decline Pushups.
  6. Middle Chest: Beginner: Standard Kneeling Push-Ups / Intermediate: Standard Pushups / Advanced: Archer Pushups
  7. Lower Chest: Beginner: Incline Pushups / Intermediate: Pseudo Planche / Advanced: Modified Hindu Push-up
  8. Adduction: Beginner: Twisting Kneeling Push-Up / Intermediate: Twisting Push-up / Advanced: Adduction Pushup
  9. Explosive: Beginner: Lateral Knee Plyo Push-up / Intermediate: Double Hand Release Push-up / Advanced: Brock Shuffle

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Jeff Cavaliere Headshot

Jeff Cavaliere M.S.P.T, CSCS

Jeff Cavaliere is a Physical Therapist, Strength Coach and creator of the ATHLEAN-X Training Programs and ATHLEAN-Rx Supplements. He has a Masters in Physical Therapy (MSPT) and has worked as Head Physical Therapist for the New York Mets, as well as training many elite professional athletes in Major League Baseball, NFL, MMA and professional wrestling. His programs produce “next level” achievements in muscle size, strength and performance for professional athletes and anyone looking to build a muscular athletic physique.

Read more about Jeff Cavaliere by clicking here

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