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Spice Up Your Arm Workouts w/ These Push-Up Variations

I know a lot of us are still working out at home and if you're in Okinawa, you probably also can't find dumbbells ANYWHERE! I swear at one point in time Kadena was fully stocked with them! Actually, I'm pretty sure I bought the last of the 10 lb weights they had about a year ago when I stocked up for my group workouts (sorry!). Either way, it can get boring doing the same thing over and over again. I though today I'd share some ways to spice up your push-up game and add some variety back into your workout!

1. Change Up Your Tempo

This is an often overlooked and easy way to challenge yourself when you're doing push-ups. When you change up the speed, you change up the stress placed on your muscles. Your muscles shorten and lengthen during exercise, by contracting as you place stress them. There are three different portions to these contractions - eccentric, concentric, and isometric.

An eccentric contraction is often referred to as the "negative", this is when your muscles yielding to the weight placed upon it and lengthening. Conversely, a concentric contraction is when your muscles generating enough force to move the weight and are shortened. An isometric contraction is that sweet spot inbetween, where you aren't actually moving, but you can feel that tension in the muscles during your workout - like at the bottom of a squat, holding a bicep curl at the top, a chin-up, etc.

In terms of a push-up, when you're lowering yourself to the floor, that's an eccentric contraction. If you were to hold at the bottom of your push-up for any amount of time, that is the isometric contraction. The concentric contraction is when you explode up, back to your starting position.

Common tempo variations include:

  • 4/2/1

  • 2/0/2

  • 1/1/1

Keep in mind when we read these we read them as eccentric/isometric/concentric. Here are a few examples of how you can change up your tempo. These are just a few. There's so many ways to change these up! I promise you'll feel them all differently. Always remember too that going to your knees is TOTALLY FINE when you're doing a push-up!

Switch Up Your Hand Placement

You probably noticed this when you scrolled through the first few pictures, but changing up where your hands are completely changes which muscle group you're working. How neat is that!?

Biceps: hands a little wider than your shoulders, you're typical stance you'd think of when doing a push-up.

Triceps: Hands closer together, elbows staying in toward your ribcage as you lower to the ground.

Lats: hands wide. I'm talking real wide! I'm on my knees, but you get it!

Shoulders: diamond push-ups.

Use Your Couch

An easy way to make push-up *spicier* is to place more weight onto your upper half. How do you do this?! Raise your feet! I encourage my clients who workout at home to just simply use their couch.

Another way to make a push-up more *mild* (as I like to say!) is to place less weight onto your upper half. To do so, just use the back of your couch or a wall. The higher your hands, the easier it'll be. This is also a great alternative if you've been doing a lot of bodyweight arm exercises and your wrists need a little break.

Remember, even with these variations, you can still adjust tempo and hand placement.

Add In Some "Extras"

My last suggestion for adding some variation to your push-up game is to throw in some extras in-between each rep. I have so many to suggest for this. Remember, you'd do one push-up and then throw in your "extra"!

**For the renegade row, you see me using weight, but you can totally do this one bodyweight.

Hopefully this gave you lots of ideas. Happy arm day!!


You should understand that when participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in this exercise or exercise program, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself, and agree to release and discharge Kellie McKinnon owner of KM Fitness at from any and all claims or causes of action, known or unknown, arising out of

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