Push-Up Variations for Hypertrophy

Man doing push-ups

Hypertrophy is the enlargement of an organ or body tissue. Many exercisers work out specifically for muscle hypertrophy, also known as muscle or body building. To achieve muscular hypertrophy, you should perform multiple sets of six to 12 repetitions using a weight that makes the last couple of reps feel challenging. Push-ups target your chest, shoulders and triceps, and there are a number of ways to make this exercise sufficiently challenging to trigger hypertrophy. Make sure you always warm up before performing any strenuous exercises to minimize your risk of injury.

Weighted-Vest Push-Ups

The limiting factor for push-ups in regard to hypertrophy is usually lack of weight. Once you can perform more than 15 or so repetitions, the push-up becomes more of an endurance exercise. To get you back in the hypertrophy repetition range, wear a weighted vest. A weighted vest temporarily increases your body weight so that your muscles receive sufficient stimulus to grow. Start with around ten percent of your body weight and increase gradually from there. Make sure you keep your core tight because letting your hips drop and arching your lower back could lead to injury.

Atlas Push-Ups

Named after Charles Atlas, a famous body culturist in the mid-20th century, Atlas push-ups increase the range of movement at your shoulder, which makes push-ups much more challenging. Place three sturdy stools or chairs in a "T" shape. Place your feet on the single stool at the bottom of the T and your hands on the stools at the top. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keeping your body perfectly straight, bend your arms and lower your chest as far down as you can toward the floor. Push back up and repeat. Inhale as you descend and exhale as you return to the starting position.

Ring Push-Ups

Doing push-ups on the ground is a relatively straightforward exercise, especially because the floor is a stable surface. Using gymnastic rings or a suspension trainer makes push-ups much more demanding because the rings move constantly so you have to work very hard to keep your hands stable. This increase in workload will trigger more hypertrophy. Perform your push-ups in the normal way but focus on keeping your arms as stable as possible.

Resistance-Band Push-Ups

Resistance bands are light and portable and provide a cheap and readily accessible way to make push-ups a real muscle builder. They are much more convenient to use than weighted vests and are ideal for home or travel use. Hold your band in your hands and loop it over your upper back. The band should run under your armpits. Drop down into the push-up position and perform your repetitions as normal. Make sure you lower slowly to get the most from this push-up variation.

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Handstand Push-Ups

Handstand push-ups involve lifting your entire body weight. Where horizontal push-ups are considered to be predominantly a chest exercise, handstand push-ups are more of a deltoid or shoulder exercise. Stand facing a smooth wall and squat down. Place your hands around six inches from the wall, shoulder-width apart. Kick up into a handstand so your legs are straight and your feet are touching the wall. Bend your arms and lower your head carefully to the floor. Push back up to full arm extension and repeat. On completion of your set, lower your legs carefully back down to the floor. Place a cushion beneath your head for safety.