Push-ups are a tried-and-true classic and the first exercise I did every day in my years of harder training.

Still, doing the same thing over and over can make even the most dedicated exercisers lose their enthusiasm and stall their progress.

So, why not give those chest muscles some variety? If you're all about sculpting your pecs and looking for some exciting alternatives to the classic push-up, you're in the right place.

I'm about to dive into a carefully curated list of 14 remarkable alternatives to the traditional push-up.

My decade-long experience as a personal trainer helped me narrow down the best alternatives from dozens of upper body exercises that emphasize triceps, chest, and shoulders.

1. Dumbbell Bench Press

man doing dumbbell bench press exercise

Why am I starting with a dumbbell bench press instead of a more popular barbell variation? Simply because I like chest muscle activation with dumbbell incline bench press more.

And that is scientifically backed up. Unlike barbell presses, dumbbells allow for a greater range of motion, engaging more muscle fibers and fostering better muscle activation.

The dumbbell chest press should be on your radar if you're looking for a classic yet highly effective exercise to bolster your upper body strength.

This foundational movement has been a staple in countless strength training routines for a good reason – it delivers comprehensive results while offering versatility and adaptability for varying fitness levels.

I've seen that the stability ball for the dumbbell bench press is becoming more and more popular, but I would stick with the bench/floor. You are not a circus artist - focus on one move at a time.


  • Balanced muscle engagement, including upper chest
  • Functional strength
  • Reduced stress on joints

How To Do It:

  1. Lie on a flat or incline bench with your feet on the floor.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing forward, and push them with your knees to get to the starting position.
  3. Extend your arms above your chest.
  4. Slowly lower the dumbbells to the sides of your chest, keeping your elbows at a 45 or 90-degree angle.
  5. Take a deep breath.
  6. Maintain control and ensure your wrists remain aligned.
  7. Push the dumbbells back up, extending your arms to the starting position.
  8. Exhale as you exert force.

Tips From A Trainer!

Imagine that you are moving your body away from the dumbbells and not the other way around. This will increase pecs engagement. 

2. Overhead Press

Man Doing Overhead Press

The overhead press is one of the best upper-body compound exercises.

You can perform the shoulder press with a barbell and dumbbell, but I prefer a barbell for stability.

This movement primarily targets your shoulder muscles, promoting both functional power and aesthetic symmetry. It is useful for bodybuilders, gym enthusiasts, and athletes whose sports include explosive push.

There are numerous variations, and if you want to emphasize the deltoids even more, you can sit or kneel.

Push press, clean & press, and similar explosive vertical pressing variations should be part of your workout routine to improve functional strength further.

I'm not recommending the behind-the-neck press and the Bradford press to my clients because the risk of rotator cuff injury outweighs the benefits.

Note: To clarify, the overhead press is not the same as the military press, although they are very similar. However, the main difference is foot placement since your feet should be together during the military press.


  • Compound movement
  • Testosterone booster
  • Shoulder strength

How To Do It:

  1. Place the barbell on the rack and load it with weights.
  2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  3. Take the barbell off the rack and hold it at shoulder height.
  4. Palms face forward, and elbows are slightly bent.
  5. Keep your core engaged and maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement.
  6. Press the weights overhead to extend your arms, but don’t lock your elbows completely.
  7. Lower the weights back to shoulder height.

Tips From A Trainer!

Maintain a slight bend in your knees to provide a stable base for the lift and prevent leaning back. You shouldn’t initiate the movement from your legs because this is not an Olympic lift, but bending your knees should reduce the stress on the lower back. 

3. Bear Crawls

man doing Bear Crawl exercise outside

Bear crawls are utterly different from the previous two exercises. This body weight exercise mimics the primal motion of a bear's crawl, engaging multiple muscle groups.

Core and shoulders are predominantly involved, but also obliques, chest, arms, and legs. Therefore, you will experience numerous benefits from doing it, while the risk of injury remains very low.

No, bear crawls won't build huge muscles, but they will improve strength, resilience, mobility, and muscular endurance.

Many of my clients find this exercise more challenging than some that include heavy weights.

Avoid raising your hips, as this significantly reduces efficiency. If you cannot do the exercise otherwise, it is time to finish the set and rest. Once you reach a high fitness level and feel you can easily do bear crawls for a few minutes, add some weight, ideally sandbags.


  • Full body activation
  • Cardiovascular endurance
  • Low-impact activity

How To Do It:

  1. Start on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
  2. Lift your knees a few inches off the ground, like a sprinter preparing for the start.
  3. Move your opposite hand and foot forward simultaneously, followed by the opposite arm and foot.
  4. Maintain a stable core and level hips as you move.
  5. Continue this alternating crawl pattern, focusing on a smooth, controlled movement.

Tips From A Trainer!

Try reverse bear crawl once you master regular bear crawls. This variation targets the muscles differently, which is always good; it is great for improving body control and mind-muscle connection. 

4. Forearm Plank

Woman Doing Forearm Plank At Home

The forearm plank, also called low plank, might seem simple, but it's demanding since it engages your entire body.

It emphasizes your shoulders, core, and back muscles. Almost all other muscles are secondary because they participate in stabilizing the body.

When you do a plank for the first time, either low or high plank position, you will soon understand how strenuous it is.

However, don't be discouraged by the shake (as long as the form is good) – it's a sign that your muscles are working hard to maintain the plank. Along with whole-body strengthening, planks also improve your cardiovascular fitness and mental resilience. I often find the mental side of plank even harder than the physical.


  • Whole body engagement
  • Core resilience and strength
  • Postural improvement

How To Do It:

  1. Begin by kneeling on the floor and lowering yourself onto your forearms.
  2. Keep your elbows directly under your shoulders.
  3. Extend your legs backward until you're in a push-up position on your forearms.
  4. Activate your core to prevent your hips from sagging or lifting too high.
  5. Maintain a straight line from head to heels.
  6. Hold the position for the desired duration or until you break the proper form.

Tips From A Trainer!

Focus on breathing; it is a mistake to hold your breath. You may feel more stable during the first 10 or 20 seconds if you don't breathe, but deep, controlled breathing enhances your core engagement and endurance. 

5. TRX Chest Fly

Man Doing TRX Chest Fly Exercise

The TRX suspension trainer system is suitable for a wide variety of exercises, and all you need are anchor points - so you can do it at the gym, in the park, and at home.

The TRX chest fly is one of the most effective exercises and a great push-up alternative if pecs activation is your goal. The TRX chest fly isolates and targets your pectoral muscles, but to stabilize your body during the fly, your core muscles kick into action, too.

Whether you're a seasoned fitness enthusiast or a newcomer, the chest fly is poised to unlock a new level of chest development. It's not taxing on your joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. You can combine it with dips, TRX decline push-ups, TRX rollout, and many other TRX exercises for an all-around workout.


  • Suitable for at-home workout
  • Extended range of motion
  • Joint-friendly

How To Do It:

  1. Set up the TRX.
  2. Hold the handles with an overhand grip.
  3. Face away from the anchor.
  4. Step back to create tension in the straps - the closer your feet are to the anchor, the more difficult the TRX fly will be.
  5. Extend your arms.
  6. Lean your body forward, keeping a slight bend in your elbows.
  7. Open your arms out to the sides, allowing your body to lower while maintaining tension in the straps.
  8. Squeeze your chest muscles as you bring your arms back to the starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

Avoid letting your shoulders round forward, as this can compromise the form and limit the effectiveness of the exercise. 

Related Article - Best TRX Alternatives

6. Standing Punches

Woman Doing Standing Punches

Introducing at least one different exercise into your workout routine is always highly beneficial, and standing punches are exactly one such activity.

Unlike most other gym exercises that emphasize lifting weights, the point here is to work on cardio fitness, muscular endurance, and then strength.

If you are wondering why I included it among my favorite push-up alternatives, the answer is simple - it activates many of the same muscles, such as the deltoids and serratus anterior, but also the lower body to some extent.

You can use dumbbells or wrist weights to make standing punches more difficult. There are claims that wrist and ankle weights have a negative effect on knees, elbows, and other joints, but I disagree with that. A few pounds on your wrists during this exercise won’t cause an elbow injury if your technique is correct.


  • Cardiovascular conditioning
  • Calorie burn
  • Stress relief

How To Do It:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and your non-dominant foot in front.
  2. Bring your fists up to chin level, elbows tucked to your body, and look forward.
  3. Extend your arm forward, rotating your hip and pivoting your back foot as you throw the punch.
  4. Bring the arm back quickly to the guard position.
  5. Alternate punches between your dominant and non-dominant arms, maintaining a steady rhythm in a standing position.

Tips From A Trainer!

Concentrate on technique and form over speed or strength. You are not training to beat Tyson but to improve your upper body strength and endurance. 

7. Floor Press

Man Doing Floor press Exercise Outside

I rarely advise reducing the range of motion, but the dumbbell floor chest press is an exception that can replace push-ups successfully.

There are two reasons. This exercise is excellent for improving strength and thus getting past a weightlifting plateau.

I had probably the worst DOMS episode of the upper body ever after doing 4 sets of floor presses with 45 lb dumbbells. However, just a few weeks after that, I broke my bench press PR.

Another reason is shoulder-friendliness. If you recently had shoulder injuries, a floor press is the safest way to target pectoral muscles while recovering until you regain shoulder mobility and stability. The same goes for elbow and wrist injuries.

There is a good chance this exercise will set your triceps on fire, too, making the floor press perfect as part of a chest/triceps workout.

A chest press machine is another option, but I prefer free weights as a push-up substitute over a machine chest press exercise.


  • Shoulder and elbow-friendly
  • Good for lifting heavier weights
  • Pecs activation

How To Do It:

  1. Place the dumbbells close to the mat.
  2. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  3. Hold the dumbbells at a 45-degree angle above your chest with your arms fully extended.
  4. Lower the weights to your sides without changing the angle.
  5. Let your upper arms gently touch the floor to prevent momentum.
  6. Push the weights back up.

Tips From A Trainer!

Keeping your elbows at a comfortable angle is of utmost importance to prevent strain on your shoulders. A 90-degree angle is very uncomfortable for floor press. 

8. Barbell Bench Press

man doing barbell bench press at the gym

The barbell bench press is equally important for Arnold Schwarzenegger, the average Joe Blow, and a professional basketball player because it not only grows pecs but improves your performance with all other push exercises.

I mention it now after the other two variations - dumbbell press and floor press since those two exercises target muscles more similar to push-ups.

This does not mean you should exclude the barbell bench press from your workout unless you have a shoulder, chest, or elbow injury. Then, it is better not to do the barbell bench press for some time or to reduce the weight significantly.

You can use different grips and widths. A wide grip puts more stress on the shoulders, and a narrow grip on the triceps. Reverse (underhand) grip has certain benefits but is often uncomfortable and even dangerous. So, I wouldn’t recommend it to beginners, only to some intermediate exercisers and advanced exercisers.


  • Ultimate pushing exercise
  • Builds strength
  • Confidence booster

How To Do It:

  1. Lie on the bench with your feet flat on the floor and your eyes approximately under the barbell.
  2. Grip the bar with an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart (you can opt for other grips and widths).
  3. Lift the barbell off the rack and hold it above your chest.
  4. Try to keep your wrists aligned with your forearms and avoid a suicide grip.
  5. Lower the barbell to your mid-chest while keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle.
  6. Push the barbell back to the starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

Never arch your lower back too much while doing barbell bench press. This is a sign that you should reduce the weight or the number of repetitions. Otherwise, you risk severe injury. 

9. Pec Fly

Man Doing Pec Deck Fly Exercise At The Gym

You can do pec fly either on a pec deck machine (butterfly machine) or cable crossover machine. I'll talk about pec deck fly since that is one of the most common gym machines.

Contrary to the push-up, a compound movement, the pec fly is an isolation exercise but very effective in targeting the pectoralis major and minor.

By targeting both the upper and lower pectoral fibers (which run in different directions, making the pectoralis major look like several separate muscles instead of one), the pec fly contributes to a well-rounded and sculpted chest appearance.

Do not use weights that are not suitable for you. I always tell my clients machines are not intended for heavy weights but for isolation. Since your shoulders are vulnerable in the starting position, do not unnecessarily burden them because you will get nothing but potential shoulder injury.


  • Chest muscles isolation
  • Joint-friendly
  • Easy to perform

How To Do It:

  1. Adjust the seat height, weight, and position of the levers.
  2. Sit and grasp the handles.
  3. Open your arms wide, maintaining a slight bend in your elbows.
  4. Keep your chest up, shoulders back, and core engaged to prevent back arching.
  5. Squeeze your chest muscles as you bring the handles together in front of you.
  6. Slowly return to the starting position, allowing your chest muscles to stretch without fully relaxing.

Tips From A Trainer!

Once you bring hands together at the top of the movement, hold for a second to engage even more muscle fibers. 

10. Dips

Man Doing Parallel Bar Dips Exercise Outdoors While Listening To Music

Dips strengthen the triceps, shoulders, chest, and core. So, along with push-ups and pull-ups, they are the most effective bodyweight exercise for the upper body.

Their versatility is best reflected in their equally high popularity among bodybuilders, calisthenics (body weight) athletes, CrossFitters, and many other different types of exercisers.

You can attach weight plates on a chain and hook them around your waist, thus making the already challenging dips even more difficult. My advice is to be very careful with adding weight and to do it gradually.

Back at the beginning of my fitness career, my inexperience led to an injury to the sternocostal joints (joints of ribs and sternum). I was carried away by my triceps strength, and then I experienced an injury that prevented me from doing any chest exercises for months. Many everyday activities were painful as well.

Remember, quality repetitions yield better results than heavy weights and mere quantity.


  • Multi-joint exercise
  • Suitable for outdoor or in-home workout
  • Progression

How To Do It:

  1. Stand between parallel bars, placing your hands on each bar, arms straight.
  2. Keep your legs either straight or bent.
  3. Lower your body by bending your elbows, keeping them close to your body.
  4. Keep your core engaged.
  5. Push through your palms to lift your body back to the starting position once your shoulders are at or below your elbows.

Tips From A Trainer!

Leaning forward will engage your pecs more, and being in an upright position throughout the movement will emphasize the triceps. 

11. Lat Pullover

Man Doing Dumbbell Lat Pullovers

The lat pullover seamlessly integrates back engagement with core stability.

As you extend your arms overhead and lower weight behind you, you're strengthening your lats, core, and even your chest muscles, so the lat pullover is a great alternative to the push-up, except it doesn't hit the triceps.

This exercise has the potential to not only develop a strong and defined back but also enhance your overall upper body strength.

Start with a light weight and gradually increase as your strength and flexibility improve. It isn't just about lifting weights; it's about creating a connection between your back, core, and upper body.

If you have insufficient overhead mobility, you must start with corrective exercises for a few weeks until you improve. Also, you can try cable pullovers that demand less shoulder mobility.


  • Improves breathing capacity
  • Builds chest and back simultaneously
  • Numerous alternatives and variations

How To Do It:

  1. Lie on a bench with your head right on the edge.
  2. Hold one dumbbell (or loaded barbell/kettlebell) above your chest with both hands and arms extended.
  3. Keep your core engaged and avoid overarching your back to prevent strain.
  4. Keeping your arms slightly bent, lower the weight behind your head in a controlled manner.
  5. Focus on the stretch in your lats and chest.
  6. Contract your back muscles to lift the weight back to the starting position directly above your chest.

Tips From A Trainer!

You can do this exercise at home if you have any type of free weights, preferably a dumbbell. All you need is one sturdy chair. 

12. Wall Push Up

Woman Doing Wall Push Ups

One of the easier push-up alternatives is the wall push-up.

The wall push-up is a versatile starting point for learning push-ups and is probably the easiest push-up alternative. It's perfect for those new to fitness or looking to reintroduce strength training into their routine.

The wall push-up is gentle on your joints, making it suitable for those with joint concerns or mobility limitations.

If the regular wall push-up is too easy for you, and you are still not strong enough for more challenging alternatives, you can move away from the wall a bit more or try a one-arm wall push-up.

As you become more comfortable with different wall push-up variations, you should gradually start doing more challenging ones.


  • Good for beginners
  • Gradual progression
  • Improves push strength

How To Do It:

  1. Stand facing a wall at arm's length.
  2. Place your hands on the wall at shoulder height and slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Keep your body straight, engaging your core muscles.
  4. Bend your elbows and lower your chest towards the wall.
  5. Avoid arching your back.
  6. Push through your palms to return to the starting position with arms in full extension.

Tips From A Trainer!

Imagine pushing the wall away with your chest muscles and arms to maximize muscle activation. 

13. Bent Knee Push Up

Woman Doing Bent Knee Push Up

The bent knee pushup is an alternative halfway between wall push-ups, elevated push-ups, and standard push-ups.

This modified push-up bridges the gap between absolute beginners and those working towards full push-ups, offering a path to gradually build the strength of the chest, shoulder, and arm muscles.

A bent knee push-up is especially popular among my female clients, but men can also benefit from it.

It is easier than regular pushups because you are more stable, and the pressure on the muscles is smaller because of the shorter lever, but bent knee pushups are far from effortless.


  • Progressive approach
  • Joint-friendly
  • Suitable for women as well

How To Do It:

  1. Begin in a kneeling position on the floor.
  2. Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart (you can also try wider or narrower hand position).
  3. Add a resistance band if you want.
  4. Extend your legs behind so you're resting on your knees and toes (lifting feet from the ground will make it harder).
  5. Your body should form a straight line from head to heels.
  6. Bend your elbows and lower your chest towards the ground, maintaining proper body alignment.
  7. Push through your palms to return to the starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

The more horizontal you are, the more difficult bent knee pushups will be. 

14. Medicine Ball Chest Pass

Man Doing Medicine Ball Chest Pass Exercise At The Gym

The medicine ball chest pass is a perfect example of an exercise suitable for an explosive power training program. Such training regimes aim to combine strength and athleticism.

By using the force of a powerful throw, you're engaging your chest, shoulders, and arms in a movement that maximizes power output. Additionally, the movement requires significant core engagement to generate and control power, contributing to core strength and stability.

Whether you're an athlete seeking to enhance your performance or an individual looking to improve your routine with dynamic strength training, the medicine ball chest pass is your ticket to unlocking upper body explosiveness.


  • Explosiveness
  • Coordination
  • Functionality

How To Do It:

  1. Choose a medicine ball of appropriate weight.
  2. Stand facing a wall or a partner at a comfortable distance.
  3. Position your feet shoulder-width apart, with knees slightly bent.
  4. Hold the medicine ball close to your chest with both hands.
  5. Explosively push the ball forward, twisting your hips and extending your arms fully.
  6. Release the ball while maintaining a controlled motion.
  7. Either catch the ball after it rebounds from the wall or have a partner retrieve and return it to you.

Tips From A Trainer!

Focus on a powerful push and controlled throw rather than relying solely on momentum. Instead of a medicine ball, you can use a slam ball as well. In that case, throwing it on the floor instead of the wall is better. You can throw it in front of you or on the side. 

Benefits Of Push Ups Vs Alternative Exercises

When it comes to bodyweight exercises, the push-up stands as an iconic staple that has been part of fitness routines for generations.

Its popularity is not without reason – the push-up offers many benefits, even for long-term health.[1] Yet, in the world of fitness, variety is key. These are just some of the pros, and to reap maximum rewards, you should do both push-ups and alternative exercises.

Push up Benefits

  • Building upper body strength: Push-ups are unparalleled in simultaneously targeting the chest, triceps, and shoulders. These muscles work in tandem during the exercise, fostering balanced upper-body strength.
  • Equipment-free: No equipment is needed for push-ups, which can be performed anywhere. This accessibility makes them an ideal choice for at-home or on-the-go workouts.
  • Versatility: Push-ups can be adapted to suit various fitness levels. Modifications such as incline or knee push-ups allow beginners to build upper body strength gradually.

Substitute Exercise Benefits

  • Muscle imbalance correction: They provide an opportunity to work on muscle imbalances, especially if push-ups have become routine. 
  • Weight resistance: Exercises performed with dumbbells or a barbell allow you to gradually increase resistance for muscle growth. 
  • Isolation: Isolation exercises help you isolate the specific muscles, becoming an effective alternative to push-ups for targeted development. 
  • Breathing: Yoga poses often emphasize controlled breathing, enhancing your mind-body connection.
Man Doing Push Ups In The Outdoor Gym

What Muscles Do Push Ups Work? (Alternatives Included)

Push-ups and variations engage a spectrum of the same muscles for comprehensive upper-body and core strength.


The triceps brachii, situated on the back of your upper arm, undergoes substantial activation during push-ups, and it's one of the primary muscles in this movement. As you extend your arms, your triceps work to straighten your elbow joints, propelling you back to the starting position.

Pectoral muscles (pecs)

The pectoralis major, commonly called the "pecs," takes center stage during push-ups. This muscle group works in harmony to facilitate the upward movement away from the ground.

It's important to note that the pectoralis major is complemented by its counterpart, the pectoralis minor, which lies beneath.[2] Together, they stabilize the shoulder joint and improve balance during push-up motion.


The deltoid muscles at the shoulders (anterior, lateral, and posterior) are crucial for stabilizing your shoulder joints and controlling the movement of your arms during push-ups. They enable controlled descent and ascent.


Engaging the core muscles, including the rectus abdominis and obliques, is a must for maintaining a stable plank position throughout the push-up. A strong core minimizes arching of the lower back, supporting proper form.

Upper back

The upper back muscles, such as the rhomboids and trapezius, stabilize you during push-ups. They assist in keeping your shoulder blades retracted and your upper body aligned, preventing additional stress on your shoulders.

Biceps brachii

While not the primary mover, the biceps brachii help the push-up movement, particularly during the ascent phase. As you push your body up, the biceps aid in flexing the elbow joint.


The flexor and extensor muscles of the forearm stabilize your wrists.[3] These muscles play a critical role in maintaining proper wrist alignment during push-ups.

Shirtless Man Flexing Forearms

Common Questions About Push Up Alternatives

Can we build muscle without performing push-ups?

We can build muscle without performing push-ups. Building muscle isn't limited to a single exercise. Push-ups are effective, but a comprehensive strength-training routine involves various movements that target different major muscle groups. Incorporating exercises like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses, among others, contributes to balanced muscle development.

What happens if you only do push-ups?

If you do push-ups only, your chest, triceps, and shoulders will receive the most attention, potentially neglecting other muscle groups. While push-ups benefit upper body strength, exclusively relying on them might lead to muscle imbalances. For well-rounded fitness, you must include a mix of exercises that work your entire body.

Do slow push-ups make you stronger?

Performing push-ups slowly engages your muscles for a longer duration, promoting muscle endurance and control. Slow and controlled movements challenge your muscles differently, enhancing strength gains over time. Incorporating variations like slow push-ups can be a valuable addition to your training routine.

How many pushups should I do by age?

A general guideline is around 15-20 push-ups per set for individuals aged 20-29, with the number decreasing as age increases. However, focusing on proper form and gradual progression is more important than solely fixating on a specific number.

How many pushups a day will it take to see results?

The answer to this question depends on age, current fitness level, nutrition, recovery, and many other factors. Doing a few sets regularly will lead to incremental progress.

What exercise should you do if you hate pushups?

Dips, chest presses, planks, or even yoga poses like the Cobra Pose involve similar muscle groups. The idea is to find exercises you enjoy, as consistency is key to achieving your fitness goals.

So, Try The Variations!

Breaking away from the predictable and introducing diversity into your fitness routine is essential. You're now armed with 14 dynamic push-up alternative exercises, each poised to improve your chest workout.

The variations I presented to you ensure that your chest muscles remain engaged and continue to advance.

Now is your turn to translate knowledge into action. You're carving a path toward a perfect beach body with each rep and set.


  1. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2724778
  2. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Pectoralis_Minor
  3. https://teachmeanatomy.info/upper-limb/muscles/anterior-forearm/
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Filip Maric

Filip is a qualified ISSA Elite trainer since 2019. His main field of expertise is strength and conditioning, as well as working with professional tennis players. An avid amateur tennis player, you can often find him on the clay courts or enjoying a live tennis tournament.