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3 Ways You Can Modify Push-Ups, for Every Body Type

Push-ups don’t have to be a punishment. Here’s how to make ‘em easier.

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Drop and give us 10! You may think of push-ups as punishment (in fact, they’re often used for that in the military and martial arts disciplines), but push-ups are actually an incredibly effective and efficient form of exercise.

“Push-ups engage three major muscles of the upper body,” says Joan Pagano, an exercise physiologist in New York City. “The push-up targets the chest, the front of the shoulders, and the back of the arm [the tricep], and it engages your core muscles.”

As timeless as the push-up is, let’s face it, performing one is not as easy as it looks. That’s because you’re basically lifting the weight of your whole body with your shoulder, chest, and arm muscles. If those muscle groups are not as strong as you’d like, doing a few push-ups may seem like an impossible feat.

Enter: The push-up modifications.

“If you don’t like traditional push-ups there are a [few] modifications you can do that will make them more manageable for you,” says Pagano. Here are three push-up variations that are effective for every body: the wall push-up, the kitchen counter (diagonal) push-up, and the half push-up.

The Wall Push-Up

  1. Stand with your arms stretched out in front of you at shoulder level. Your body should be at about a 45-degree angle from the wall and your arms should be 3-4 inches wider than shoulder width apart.

  2. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees as you lower your chin to the wall and then exhale and push back.

  3. Repeat 10-15 times.

The Kitchen Counter Push-Up

“It’s a diagonal push up where you’re using the counter to brace your hands,” says Pagano. “It’s very important that you use something that’s totally stable. Don’t try this against a table.”

  1. Place your hands on your kitchen counter. Your arms are straight, about 3-4 inches wider than shoulder-width apart. Your body is at about a 45-degree angle.

  2. Bend your elbows lowering your chest toward the kitchen counter. Use your core muscles to keep your spine straight. Your head, neck, and shoulders should be aligned with your spine.

  3. Repeat 10-15 times. 

The Half Push-Up

  1. Get on the floor in tabletop position, with your hands and knees on the floor. Cross your ankles.

  2. Walk your hands forward until they are slightly forward of your shoulders, and 3-4 inches wider than shoulder-width apart.

  3. Drop your hips so that there’s a nice straight line from your head and neck, which are in alignment with your spine all the way to your knees.

  4. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and lower your chest to the floor.

  5. Exhale and push to the up position.

  6. Repeat 10-15 times.

Now that you’ve mastered the many ways of doing a push-up, try these three squat modifications.