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.
Wide chest press
Ashley Greenblatt
Wide chest press

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.
Ashley Greenblatt

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 Greenblatt

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