There are exercises out there that target both your chest and triceps without having to do a single push up. I’ll introduce you to alternative bodyweight exercises to a push up here so that you don’t have to waste your time scrolling through the internet, and maybe not having to do another push up again.
What Muscles Are Worked By Push Ups?
As I have mentioned in a complete push up tutorial I’ve previously written, the primary muscles worked in push ups are the chest, triceps, and anterior deltoids. The secondary muscles worked are the abdominals, obliques, serratus anterior, glutes, and quadriceps.
Push Up Alternatives
Try these push ups alternatives if you have weaknesses in the shoulder, chest, or wrist area. Some of these exercises put your body in a different position or perform different movement paths to a standard push up which may be better alternatives for many people.
#1 – Dips
This exercise builds strength in your chest, triceps, shoulders, and core. It promotes upper body strength which is a great substitute for push ups. The Men’s Health calls this the king of tricep exercises. Find out more about this exercise and its variation in this comprehensive tricep dips tutorial.
- Place your hands on dip bars with your arms locked out, torso upright, knees bent, and feet off the ground.
- Inhale as you slowly descend by bending your elbows until your triceps are parallel to the ground. Brace your core throughout this movement to ensure stability.
- Exhale as you extend your arms and return to the starting position.
- Perform this for 5-10 reps for 4 sets.
#2 – Bench Dips
The bench dip is a regression exercise to parallel dips as this places your feet on the ground which takes the body load away from the upper body muscles. The benefits of this variation are the same as the prior exercise.
- Sit on a bench with your palms on the sides of your body, gripping tightly on the edge of the surface. Your fingers are facing forward.
- Extend your arms and shift your body forward until your bottom is in front of the bench. Your legs are extended, feet are together, and heels are on the ground.
- Inhale as you lower by bending the elbows until your triceps are parallel to the ground. Brace your core throughout this movement.
- Exhale as you drive through your palms to extend your arms and return to the starting position.
- Perform this for 10 reps for 4 sets.
#3 – Bodyweight Skull Crushers
This is a great exercise that emphasizes your triceps, deltoids, and core. It is a cool-looking calisthenics exercise that develops your upper body strength.
- Place your hands on a horizontal bar or a bench at shoulder width. Extend your arms in front to be in an inclined push up position. Your body is in a straight line from head to feet.
- Inhale as you slowly descend by bending your elbows until your head goes below the horizontal bar. Keep your elbows tucked in rather than flaring out. Keep your core tight and body rigid throughout this movement.
- Exhale as you contract your triceps to extend your elbows and return to the starting position.
- Perform this for 5-10 reps for 4 sets.
#4 – Diamond Plank
This is an isometric exercise, which means your muscles are being engaged without any body movement. Isometrics are great for building strength and stability for the range of motion of a push up. This also works the core as your body will be in a plank position. I have previously covered seven variations of this exercise in this plank tutorial.
- Begin in a diamond push up position where you form a diamond shape with your hands by connecting the thumb and index finger together, and locate this at the center of your chest. Your shoulders are in line with your wrists. Brace your core.
- Squeeze your chest and triceps while in this plank position.
- Hold this position for 10-20 seconds for 4 sets.
Push Up Alternatives For Weak Wrists
This section will cover push up alternatives for weak wrists, which could be caused by previous injuries, inflexible wrists, or weak wrists.
#5 – Resistance Band Chest Press
This is a great exercise for targeting the chest especially if you get wrist pains from doing push ups. They will develop your pushing strength while minimizing stress on your shoulders. A 2019 study suggests that elastic resistance training promotes similar strength gains to conventional resistance training.
- Lie on your back with a band under your shoulder blades.
- Grasp your hands on the ends of the band with your elbows bent, and hands in line with the elbows. Squeeze your core and place your feet flat on the floor for stability.
- Exhale as you press your arms over your chest. Hold for a second at the top position.
- Inhale as you return to the starting position.
- Perform this for 10 reps for 4 sets. Increase the thickness of the resistance band to progress.
#6 – Ring Chest Fly
The ring chest fly targets your chest and back muscles. Gymnastic rings will also work your core stabilizers from the get-go. There are many brands to get your calisthenics gear from, which is why I’ve written an article highlighting where you can purchase them from. Check out this top ten calisthenics equipment blog.
- Begin in an incline push up position with your body at a 45-degree angle. Your body is in a straight line, legs extended, and arms straightened in front of you.
- Inhale as you slowly lower your torso to the floor and flare your arms out to the sides, with your elbows slightly bent. Keep constant tension in your body to remain straight. Lower down until your arms are in line, and pause for a second at this position.
- Squeeze your arms and chest together and bring your hands back to the starting position.
- Repeat this for 5-10 reps for 4 sets.
The Takeaways: Push Up Alternatives
There you have it my Gymless heroes, the six alternative bodyweight exercises to push ups you can do at home or the local park. You can do these six exercises in your next chest workout to build upper body pushing strength.
These exercises will provide your body with a new stimulus as you’ll be activating your targeted muscles in different ways. This will strengthen your body, prevent boredom, and help you push past plateaus. Have fun with them, and let me know how you find it in the comment section below!
If you’d like an expert personal coach who will guide you during your fitness journey, then I suggest you check out one of our 4-12 weeks periodized training programs.
I’m Pat Chadwick, a qualified Level 2 and Level 3 calisthenics coach and athlete from London, England, with six years of experience. I’ve competed in various UK competitions, including the Kalos Stenos Championships, where I achieved third place in the lightweight category. My passion is highlighting the beauty of calisthenics as an authentic and pure form of body expression. I believe that everyone has the potential to become a champion of their body and mind, and that calisthenics opens the door to personal empowerment.