9 Best Push-Up Alternatives (That Do The Job Just as Good)

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Published by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: January 29, 2024
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If you cringe at the thought of doing push-ups, you are not alone.

Luckily, there are many variations out there that you can practice with.

After hours of research, we’ve come up with a list of the best alternatives that are just as effective.

Quick Summary

  • The best push-up alternatives are overhead presses, dumbbell chest presses, shoulder presses, modified push-ups, rotating planks, forearm planks, and parallel planks.
  • Push-up workouts are very effective when it comes to building strength, and muscular endurance.
  • According to the National Institutes of Health, exercises like the overhead press and forearm plank are effective for improving weightlifting performance and building strength in activities involving overhead movements with a 7.1% increase in muscle thickness and a 47.1% increase in perceived exertion.
  • In my opinion, incorporating a variety of push-up alternatives into a fitness regimen is an excellent strategy for those who struggle with traditional push-ups or seek to add diversity to their upper body workouts.

9 Alternatives To Boost Upper-Body Strength

Most of these moves require no resistance other than your body weight and basic equipment like free weights and a yoga mat.

1. Overhead Press

Overhead Press

Based on a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the overhead press enhances weightlifting and sports performance by improving strength and power, especially in activities involving overhead movements.

Its technical demands and coordination requirements also offer valuable variation in training stimulus [1].

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold one dumbbell in each hand with your wrists facing each other. Keep the weights level with your shoulders.
  3. With your knees soft and your core engaged, press the weights up overhead.
  4. Fully extend your arms and lower the dumbbells (with control) back at shoulder level.

2. Dumbbell Chest Press

Reverse Dumbbell Chest Press

Also known as the bench press, this classic exercise will strengthen your shoulders, chest, and core.

You can try doing this on a gym bench or a stability ball to challenge your lower body muscles further.

This move will have your glutes and thighs working hard to keep your body in one straight line.

  1. Start lying flat on your back on a floor, bench, or ball.
  2. Bend at the knees and firmly press your feet on the ground.
  3. Grab your free weights and bring your arms out to the sides until they form a 90-degree angle at your shoulder joint.
  4. With your palms facing your waist, press your arms up and tighten your chest muscles as you bring the dumbbells together.
  5. Slowly lower the weights back down to your starting position for one rep.

3. Shoulder Press

Woman doing a seated shoulder press

This one will work all of the upper body muscles you use when doing standard push-ups.

  1. Start by standing tall with a free weight in each hand.
  2. Lift your arms so that your elbows form a 90-degree angle and your triceps are parallel to the floor.
  3. Take a deep breath and as you exhale, bring your elbows toward each other until you feel a stretch in your upper back.
  4. Inhale and pull the weights away from your body and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  5. Lift your dumbbells up into a starting position.

4. Modified Push-Up

Modified Push-Up

Based on my first-hand experience, the modified push-up is the closest alternative to a standard push-up and is highly doable, making it an ideal choice for beginners and intermediate exercisers

Modified push-ups take a lot of work away from the legs and abs, making it a great way to train your chest and shoulders for the real thing.

Make sure you focus on form instead of speed here.

Related: Best Hack Squat Alternatives: Killer Leg Workout

  1. Start by assuming a tabletop position.
  2. Walk your hands another foot forward to create a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
  3. Lower your chest with your feet rising off the ground as the push-up goes to the floor.
  4. Keep your core tight as you bring your torso to the ground.

5. Rotating Plank

rotating plank

This push-up alternative will activate your shoulders, lats, glutes, abs, and obliques.

  1. Get into a high plank position.
  2. Open up your hips and chest to the left side to assume a side plank position.
  3. Raise your right arm to the ceiling.
  4. Rotate back to the original pose and then back up to the side plank pose, raising your right arm again.
  5. Repeat the steps when you change your side from left to right.

6. Forearm Plank

A woman doing a plank hold

According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the forearm plank is a popular exercise for building strength and endurance in the core and limbs. Like the overhead press, this exercise can also target the triceps and muscles surrounding the shoulder [2].

You can hold this position for at least 30 to 60 seconds.

The longer you hold this plank position, the more it will impact your upper body muscles.

  1. Start by getting on all fours.
  2. Place your forearms on the ground and stack your shoulders directly above your elbows.
  3. Keep your hips stacked above your knees and position your feet to keep your toes on the floor.
  4. Take your knees off the ground and form a straight line with your body from head to hips to heels.

7. Parallel Planks

Parallel Planks

Push-ups are basically planks in motion. This plank variation, in particular, is meant to perk up your pecs and shape your core.

  1. Get into a high plank pose.
  2. Move your right hand and right foot to the right side.
  3. Maintain this pose for one count and return to the starting pose.
  4. Move your left hand and left foot to the right side.
  5. Continue this side-to-side pattern for one minute.

8. Slow Mountain Climbers

Mountain Climbers

This movement can relieve pressure on your knees and allow you to identify muscle imbalances.

  1. Get into a high plank position. Ensure that your hips are in line with your back.
  2. Bring your right knee to your left elbow.
  3. Step your right foot back and bring your left knee to your right elbow.
  4. Alternate for 5 to 10 reps on each side.
  5. Make sure to keep your back as straight as possible during the whole duration of this exercise.

9. TRX Chest Fly

TRX Chest Fly

TRX straps test and improve your strength, balance, and stability.

This exercise will engage the chest, shoulders, core, and a lot of other small stabilizer muscles.

  1. With your back to the anchor, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Grab the handles with an overhand grip (palms facing down).
  3. Put your arms out in front of you at shoulder level.
  4. Lean forward until your body is at a diagonal.
  5. Carefully spread your arms out to a “T,” but keep your elbows slightly bent as you lower your chest to the ground.
  6. Reverse the movement and go back to the starting position for one rep.

What To Do If I Can’t Do Push-Ups?

Woman struggling to do push ups

If you find it challenging to do push-ups, there are alternative exercises that can help you build strength and muscular endurance effectively.

Based on a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), push-ups are among the most effective exercises that build strength and muscular endurance [3].

However, not everyone can pull them off.

Certain injuries may prevent people from doing it, while others just haven’t developed enough upper body and core strength to crank out even a single one.

“Strengthening muscles takes time, and being able to execute a push-up with proper form takes practice and reps. Trying out alternative movements to build the strength needed to complete a push-up is a great option.”

- Lacee Lazoff, Certified Personal Trainer & Strength Coach

As indicated by my tests, if standard push-ups are challenging for you, the following exercises we've trialed offer similar benefits and can be a great alternative.

My team of experts also suggests these top-notch dumbbells to perform the push-up alternatives mentioned.

You May Also Like: Best Push-Up Variations to Supercharge Your Strength


  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6548056/
  2. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9365105/
  3. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4037310/
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About The Author

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
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Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
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