Your friend's strapless dress is jealous. Your arms and upper back are looking so strong and sculpted, and it's all because of your secret weapon — the mighty push-up. And not just a regular old just-like-your-boyfriend-does-it push-up. These variations are much more challenging, so they're that much more effective. Add these moves to your strength training routine, and you're sure to notice a difference in your arms, shoulders, upper back, and core. Plank variations are a double whammy since they work your upper body and your core simultaneously. In this variation, moving from traditional plank to elbow plank will really sculpt your arms and shoulders.
- Come into a plank position with your arms and legs straight. Your hands should be underneath your shoulders and your feet hips-width distance apart. Draw your navel toward your spine to engage your core and to avoid straining your lower back.
- Keeping your torso parallel to the floor, lower your right forearm to the mat and then the left, coming into elbow plank (also called Dolphin Plank). Then step your right hand back onto the mat, and then the left, pushing yourself back up to plank position. Try to avoid swaying the torso from side to side.
- Repeat for a total of 10 reps and then reverse the direction for another 10 reps. Check out this video to see this move in action.
This variation may not look at all like the traditional push-up, but it's an effective way to target the backs of the arms.
- Lie on your left side with your knees slightly bent. Wrap your left arm around your waist and place your right hand on the floor in front of your shoulder so it's parallel to your torso.
- Exhale to press your right hand into the ground to straighten your right arm, lifting your torso off the floor. Inhale to lower back down.
- Do three sets of 10 reps and then roll over and repeat on the other side. Look for this push-up variation and two other triceps-toning moves in this video.
Bending one knee toward your elbow not only works the core, but also, balancing on one leg will make your upper body work harder.
- Come into plank position. As you bend your elbows out to the sides and lower your torso toward the floor, bend your left knee and touch it to your left elbow. Straighten your arms and come back to plank position with your left foot next to your right. Lower again, and this time touch your right knee to your right elbow. Return back to plank position.
- This counts as one repetition. Complete as many as you can, and if it's too difficult to do with straight arms, then do it from an elbow plank position. Here's a video demonstrating the Spider-Man Push-Up.
By elevating your feet on an exercise ball in this variation, you'll be increasing the weight you're lifting, which will shift the target of the exercise into your chest muscles. Having your feet on an unstable surface like an exercise ball will also force you to use your core more.
- Come into plank position with an exercise ball underneath your shins. Bend your elbows and slowly lower your chest to the floor, doing a push-up. Then straighten your arms.
- Continue doing push-ups or add a knee-tuck crunch after each push-up by drawing your knees forward into your chest and then straightening them back (shown in this video).
- Do either variation for a total of 20 reps.