3 push-up alternatives for sculpted shoulders and arms

Are you fed up with the push-up? While push-ups are an effective and efficient exercise, they are not ideal for everyone. If you suffer from shoulder joint instability, weak wrists, or rotator cuff pain, or have trouble lifting your own body weight, these push-up alternatives are for you. All you will need is a set of free weights.

Wide floor chest press
Push-ups require a tremendous amount of core strength to stabilize the body and keep the hips from sagging with each repetition. Fortunately, you can chisel your chest without compromising your lower-back health by performing floor chest presses. The floor provides spine support and increases the difficulty level of a standard standing chest press by forcing your muscles to work against gravity.

Note: If shoulder instability is a concern, use a low weight or skip over exercise and try the narrow chest press below.

  • Begin in a supine position with your back firmly pressed against the floor and your knees bent so that your feet are planted hip-width apart.
  • Holding your free weights, position your arms away from your chest to form a right angle at the shoulders.
  • Exhale as you push the weights straight up over the chest. Squeeze your hands and chest muscles at the top of this move to fully engage your biceps and pectoral muscles.
  • Inhale as you return the weights back to the starting position. Repeat 12-15 times.

Narrow chest press
For this exercise, you’ll remain in the same position as the wide floor chest press with a slight shift in the location of your arms. By narrowing your position from a wider grip, the shoulder has less force working against it, subsequently engaging the triceps more. This is a safer position for someone challenged by shoulder joint instability.

  • In the same supine position, adjust your elbows so they are touching your ribcage and the palms of your hands are facing each other.
  • Exhale as you extend your arms up and inhale as you bring your arms back down, touching your triceps to the floor. Repeat 12-15 times.

High plank
One of the main benefits of the push-up is its ability to enhance core strength. The plank offers a similar experience by engaging the core muscles without the added joint stress generated by repeatedly lifting your own body weight. If you encounter sore wrists during this exercise, simply adjust your positioning to a forearm plank.

  • Begin on all fours, aligning your hands below your shoulders.
  • Walk your feet back and push through your core to elevate your body into a straight line from your head through your heels. For beginners, hold for 30 seconds. For more advanced plankers, hold for at least 60 seconds.

Ashley B. Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach. To learn more, visit ashleyblakefitness.com.

We encourage respectful comments but reserve the right to delete anything that doesn't contribute to an engaging dialogue
Help us moderate this thread by flagging comments that violate our guidelines

Comment policy:

Philly.com comments are intended to be civil, friendly conversations. Please treat other participants with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated. You are responsible for what you say. And please, stay on topic. If you see an objectionable post, please report it to us using the "Report Abuse" option.

Please note that comments are monitored by Philly.com staff. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable. Personal attacks, especially on other participants, are not permitted. We reserve the right to permanently block any user who violates these terms and conditions.

Additionally comments that are long, have multiple paragraph breaks, include code, or include hyperlinks may not be posted.

Load comments