Push-ups are a great exercise- They require no gear, use only your body weight, and have infinite variations that work on different muscle groups as you require.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the most relevant variations and techniques for Calisthenics practice and we’ll even give you a quick workout based only on push-ups.
Calisthenics Push-Up Technique
A Calisthenics push-up is pretty much like any other push-up. A few requirements are necessary for maximum benefit:
- You should be looking straight ahead, rather than down, as is usual with beginners.
- Your arms should be at shoulder length or only slightly wider.
- Your body should be straight as an arrow. No bending of the legs/ass.
If these 3 requirements are too much for you, try applying them to knee push-ups, i.e- a push with your knees touching the floor rather than the toes.
This is preferable to doing bad form push-ups as these can cause injuries and contribute to bad habits in the long run.
As is usual, we leave you with a great video by ThenX that demonstrates some of the points raised above:
One Leg Push Up
One leg push-ups are one of the few variations that put emphasis on the legs. To do them, simply get in push-up position, raise one leg and do a push-up.
Holding the leg in the air in a static push-up position is also a good exercise that works on the whole body.
Wide Grip Push Up
Set your hands waaaay apart. Now do a push. Congrats, you’ve just done a wide grip push-up.
Mountain Climber Push Up
Do a normal push up, and when you’ve completed it and your arms are stretched, bring your knees to your chest, as shown below:
This exercise will work on your abs and legs, as well as the other muscles worked by normal push-ups.
Feet Elevated Push Up
As the name suggests, this variation consists of getting a volume, placing your feet in it so that your feet are above your head, and doing push-ups as you would on the floor.
This variation focuses on the upper body, especially the chest and shoulder area, which are essential for calisthenics exercises such as the muscle up, and the front and back lever.
Calisthenics Diamond Push
The diamond push-up works mainly on the triceps but also develops the chest and shoulder area. This is a good exercise to complement dips and front levers.
To do this push-up get your hands close together, forming a diamond, i.e- your index and thumb fingers should be touching. Then do a push up as you would normally do.
This variation is a slight cheat as it requires some gear, namely gymnastic rings.
Set up the rings so that they are close to the floor, about 10 inches away. This can also be done with a TRX.
Dominik Sky has a great video on this subject:
This exercise is an absolute ab killer. If you really go for it, you’ll be in agony every time you laugh for a few days after.
It’s an exercise that is not easy to explain with words, so we’ll leave you with the video below, which does a great job of explaining it:
Calisthenics Push-Up Routine
Now that we’ve shown you some variations of the push up that are relevant for calisthenics, let’s see how these exercises can be applied to do a calisthenics push-up only routine.
Part 1- Upper Body Push-Up Routine
This is the easy part. We’ll warm up by doing normal push-ups, then move on progressively to more complicated variations. Here’s our suggestion:
- 3 sets of normal push-ups.
- 3 sets of elevated push ups.
- 2 sets of diamond push-ups.
- 2 sets of wide grip push-ups.
The above routine is certainly not for beginners, so here are a few tips if you’re struggling to get any significant number of repetitions done:
- Do as many repetitions as you possibly can. If that means doing only 3 or 4, then be it. Having said that, it is optimal to get at least 6 repetitions per set. If this seems like to much try:
- Doing the push-ups on your knees.
- Elevating the hands.
Part 2- Core and Legs Push-Up Routine
After completing the first part, you’ve probably done close to 100 push-ups or more. That’s no easy task, so if you’ve made it this far, congrats! It should get a little easier now.
In this section of the workout, we’ll work on the legs and then progress to the core.
Here are the suggested exercises:
- 3 sets of mountain climber pull-ups.
- 2 sets of one leg push-ups per leg. I.e- 4 sets in total.
- 3 sets of reverse push-ups.
- 3 X maximum hold push-up plank.
The outlined routine shouldn’t take you more than 30 minutes to complete and it’s an absolute killer. It uses pretty much all muscle groups, though obviously, the upper body will be engaged a bit more than the rest of the muscle groups.
If you have any thoughts or suggestions, we’re all ears. Please leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to get back to you!
Chris is an experienced Calisthenics practitioner focused on isometric exercises and street workout. He founded thehybridathlete.com in 2017, which was subsequently acquired by theyhybridathlete.com
He is based in Portland and has been working out using solely his own body weight and bars for the past 6 years.