Pushups may be a form of calisthenic exercise that is as old as ancient Greece, if not older. The strange “dances” which the Persian warriors described the Greeks as performing before a battle were actually warm-up calisthenics, which may have included pushups in order to “charge up” the whole body. The pushup is a classic compound exercise which uses the whole muscular structure to raise and lower your weight.
Many of these variations are meant to produce greater effort and thus build the muscles faster (or stronger). These are simple, strength boosting exercises which allow you to continue using pushups as part of your routine when your muscular development has advanced to the point where you can only use plain pushups as a light warm-up exercise.
Other variations on the pushup are meant to target different muscle groups instead. These can be useful if you notice that your physical development is not as well-rounded and even as you would like, and want to fill in the gaps while also ensuring that the rest of your muscles stay as toned as possible. They can even be used if you are getting bored with ordinary pushups and want a change of pace.
Calisthenic pushup variations
There are even more variations on the pushup than are described here, but most of them involve the use of extra equipment such as dumbbells. These are not calisthenic exercise devices – the only tools needed here are the occasional chair, box, or bench for raising parts of the body at unusual angles. Calisthenics, after all, are a form of bodyweight exercise and should be possible with no equipment or a minimal amount of equipment.
Triceps pushups shift effort from the torso to the arms in order to further develop the arm muscles. To carry out this exercise, put your hands flat on the floor under your shoulders, rather than just outside them, and tuck your elbows against your flanks. Carry out pushups in the normal fashion while in this pose – you will feel the extra effort in your arms.
Decline pushups target the muscles of the shoulders for additional development, though of course the rest of the body is also worked fairly strongly. Position yourself as normal, except that your feet should rest on a bench, a sturdy chair seat, or any other stable object of approximately the same height. This will force your shoulders to work harder, as well as some of the large back muscles supporting them, such as the latissimus dorsi.
Diamond pushups are among the most vigorously effective of all pushups – that is, they are almost impossible for beginners to do, and provide a good workout even for more advanced calisthenics aficionados. Get into a classic pushup pose, but place your hands close together, with your thumbs and the tips of your pointer fingers touching to form a diamond on the floor. Raise and lower yourself with your arms in the pose for an extremely intense physical workout.
It may take time to build yourself up to the point where you can lower your chest to the floor at the lowest point of the pushup. Lower yourself as far as is humanly possible, which may be no more than a few inches at first.
Move slowly and keep your body as straight as possible from neck to feet. Be sure to prevent your hips from slumping downwards while you are raising or lowering.
If you are unable to do these exercises at all when you first add them to your regimen, place your hands six to eight inches apart, which will give you more leverage. As your strength improves, narrow the gap between your hands until you can form a proper diamond on the floor.
Once you are fit enough to touch chest to the floor (or rather, the backs of your hands) at the bottom of each repetition, then you can add more effort to your pushups by lifting one leg into the air, then the other, alternating so that you are carrying out a three-point diamond pushup rather than a four-point one.