The triceps and the pecs are the primary targets of the pushup, along with the anterior deltoid to an extent. But there are several variations on the standard push up that you can use to target different muscle groups or develop different physical qualities such as strength, explosive power, or endurance. Use these variations to customize your push up technique to better suit your goals. Chest or Triceps The narrower your hands when doing push ups, the more you’re targeting the triceps. The further apart your hands are, the more you’re targeting the pecs. With that said, you should avoid hand positions that are closer than shoulder width, or so wide that your body forms a “T” shape when viewed from above, as these positions put unnecessary stress on the elbows and shoulders, respectively. Back The back gets worked in push ups? Yep, the traps get a little work, as does the serratus anterior. The lats are also involved slightly; try putting your hands into a pushup position, and then flex your lats. Your hands move forward a little don’t they? Also, if your hand is on the ground and you pull forward as if you’re going to do a frog leap, the lats are working there too. To bring the lats into play more, do your push ups one-handed. Explosive Power To use push ups to increase your power, use plyometrics. Plyometrics involve an explosive concentric phase, so with push ups, push so hard and explosively that you lift yourself off the ground. As you improve at this, you’ll be able to push yourself higher and higher, so try to do the following after you lift off, while still achieving a clean landing. Push up and then: • Clap your hands • Touch your chest • Touch your hips • Clap your hands twice • Clap your hands behind your back Strength If you’re interested in doing push ups for increased strength, place your feet on a bench or other supporting object. By raising your feet, you increase the overall load while also bringing the upper traps and more into play. This type of push up puts more stress on the shoulders, so be careful about doing these on days that your shoulders are already fatigued. As you get stronger, keep raising your feet until you’re doing full handstand pushups (leaning on a wall is OK for this) If you’re getting good at that, you can switch to one-handed push ups. When doing these, you can initially place your feet further apart if you need the extra stability. Core Stability A push up with good form is essentially a moving plank — the body should be held in a straight line at all times. But to further bring the core into play when doing pushups, do them from a non-stable base. For example, do this with your feet on a Swiss ball or hooked into gymnastic rings. Shoulder Stability Performing push ups with your feet raised on a bench as described above will work the shoulder stabilizers more. However, for a greater challenge, you can do push ups with your hands on a Swiss ball. For the ultimate challenge, combine the two — perform swiss ball push ups with raised feet. This is very tough on the shoulders, so don’t do any other shoulder work on the days that you do this. Endurance To get a greater endurance workout you need to reduce the load slightly so that you can perform more reps. One way to do this is to drop your knees to the ground while doing push ups. Another method is to place your hand on a raised platform like a weights bench with your feet still on the ground. Push ups are considered the go-to bodyweight exercise for the chest and triceps. However, there’s much more to them than this. By applying a few simple variations, you can use the push up to help you achieve a wide range of fitness goals.