The 17 Variation Push Up Challenge will challenge your cardiovascular and muscle endurance as you perform 17 different push up variations to failure.

Do your lagging pecs, shoulders and triceps require a serious wake-up call that’ll force them to grow?

Or perhaps you’d like to further improve their size and shape while cranking your metabolism to 10 to bring your bodyfat down to the low single-digits?

If you answered yes to either of these questions then the following program and the methodology behind it may be just what you’re looking for.

The workout to follow is hard and will push you to your physical limits, but the results will make every ounce of sweat a worthy investment.


HIIT for Muscle Gains and Definition

Before the HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) methodology arrived to rescue legions of frustrated shredders from hour upon hour of endless steady state, low intensity (LISS) cardio, achieving optimal fat loss while preserving valuable muscle was, for many, a delicate balancing act that often ended in metabolic inefficacy, and poor results.

Now, by coupling short bursts of ultra high-intensity work with short rests and/or active recovery over a period of 15-20 minutes, devoted lifters can achieve phenomenal results in both muscle retention and fat loss, fast. While cardio often takes center stage when it comes to fat loss, many do not take full advantage of its application to building quality size.

Related: 5 Best 20 Minute HIIT Cardio Workouts For Rapid Fat Loss

By going to failure on a series of resistance movements back to back, with just enough rest to recover for the next set, the muscles are forced to work harder, more blood is shuttled into the target area and the metabolism receives a tremendous boost. When such an approach is incorporated judiciously, a leaner and more muscular physique can be yours.

The following workout uses the HIIT principle to thoroughly smash the pec/shoulders/triceps into submission.

Try it. Stick with it. Use it wisely and your pecs will have no choice but to grow.

The Workout

Exercise Sets Reps
1. Plyo Clapping Push Up 1 Failure
2. Push Up with Feet on Swiss Ball 1 Failure
3. Reach Under Tap Push Up 1 Failure
4. Reverse Grip Incline Push Up 1 Failure
5. Weighted Push Up 1 Failure
6. Lateral Hand Walk Push Up 1 Failure
7. Spider Man Push Up 1 Failure
8. Decline Push Up 1 Failure
9. Alternating Reach Push Up 1 Failure
10. Shoulder Tap Push Up 1 Failure
11. Pause Push Up 1 Failure
12. T-Push Up 1 Failure
13. Knuckle Push Up 1 Failure
14. Yoga Push Up 1 Failure
15. Wide Grip Incline Push Up 1 Failure
16. Single Leg Push Up 1 Failure
17. Close Grip Push Up 1 Failure

Workout Guidelines

  • Perform all movements as one giant set with 45 seconds to 1.5 minute’s rest between each movement (depending on skill level and recuperative abilities).
  • Each movement is to be performed for as many reps as possible (AMRAP). Twenty reps per set may work best for lifters with great endurance.
  • This workout is designed for lifters with at least a year of solid training experience.
  • For less experienced lifters (or beginners) the workout can be modified for safety purposes. If you’re just starting out you may want to drop the reps, remove certain movements and/or increase rest periods between sets.
  • Always begin with a warmup.
1. Plyo Clapping Push Up

This movement helps develop explosive strength through the arms, chest and shoulders while targeting the fast twitch muscle fibers for impressive size gains.

To perform this movement you’ll be completing a regular push-up, but with a few alterations.

Begin the plyo clapping push-up by dropping a little faster into the eccentric phase. Do not pause at the bottom. Instead, transition as fast as possible from eccentric to concentric and explode to the top with maximum speed. Instead of stopping at the top, keep pushing through until the upper body leaves the ground and clap. Land back into starting position and continue in a controlled manner.

2. Push Up (with Feet on Swiss Ball)

Besides hitting the chest, with secondary stress on the shoulders and triceps, this movement fully engages all of the core muscles.

To perform, place feet and shins on top of a Swiss ball and hands on the ground, slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Push up from the ground and repeat for the desired number of reps.

3. Reach Under Tap (or Weight Transfer) Push Up

With this variation, one arm is made to stabilize the body while the opposite arm reaches across and under the working arm. The body must therefore be kept stable to prevent the working shoulder from giving out.

To perform, assume the standard push-up position; complete one rep, take one hand off the ground and reach under the opposite (supporting) arm, tap the ground, and return. Complete another rep, then repeat with the other side. Alternate for the desired number of reps. Rep range for this movement may be lowered to accommodate its difficulty of execution.

Athlete Performing a Push Up

4. Reverse-Grip Incline Push Up

Performed from an inverted position with palms facing up, this push-up variation works more muscles compared to its conventional counterpart. The shoulders, arms, legs, core and upper back are all engaged, along with the chest.

To perform, grasp the bar with body at an approximately 45 degree incline and with toes flat on the ground. With a reverse grip, slowly lower body to bar and press.

5. Weighted Push Up

An advanced progression of the conventional push-up, the weighted variation challenges the same muscles while overloading them to a greater extent. With the addition of weight, this movement better replicates the traditional bench press than a regular push-up. In addition, because resistance must be balanced, more stabilizer muscles are called upon to assist in the completion of this movement.

To perform, assume the regular push-up position and have a partner load a weight plate onto your back. Complete a standard push-up while keeping the plate balanced at all times.

6. Lateral Hand-Walk Push Up

Requiring greater than normal coordination and agility compared to the standard push-up, this movement targets the inner and outer pecs while challenging the core.

To perform: adopt a regular push-up stance but with hands closer together and feet wide. Perform a push-up. Then move hands wider and while placing feet closer together. Perform the second push-up. Keep alternating for the desired number of reps.

7. Spider Man Push Up

In addition to working the key push-up muscles, this movement also enhances hip flexibility and mobility while improving posture and total-body agility.

To perform, complete a regular push-up from the usual plank position but with elbows slightly out on the downward phase. As the body is lowered to the ground, pull the right knee toward the right elbow, straighten it, then push-up to the starting position. Repeat on the other side. Alternate from side to side for the desired number of reps.


8. Decline (Feet on Wall) Push Up

The decline wall push-up targets the upper pecs to flesh out this stubborn area. This movement can be difficult to master at first but, once perfected, adds a great deal of resistance to the upper body (since the legs are out of the equation).

To perform, position the feet against a wall with body kept at a 45 degree angle. Lower the body until the forehead touches the ground. Return.

9. Alternating Reach (Arm/Leg) Push Up

This movement further challenges the core to stabilize the body as opposite arms and legs are elevated simultaneously. This movement is to be performed slow with plank-perfect form.

To perform, complete a regular push-up and on the upward phase reach out to the front with the left arm while extending back and up with the right leg. Bring both arm and leg back to the starting position and repeat with the opposite side on the next rep. Keep alternating for the desired number of reps.

10. Shoulder Tap Push Up

This movement challenges all of the upper body muscles while forcing the core to stabilize the body at the top of each rep.

To perform, assume a standard push-up position, complete one rep, then hold the body in a plank position with arms fully extended. Reach across the body with one arm and touch the opposite shoulder; repeat a further rep. Alternate for the desired number of reps.

11. Pause Push Up

By pausing at the bottom of a standard push-up the stretch reflex that would otherwise assist on the returning phase (or the tendency of a muscle to spring back to its original state) is eliminated.

To perform, complete a standard push-up but rather than pushing back from the fully stretched position without any rest, hold the contraction for a full two seconds. Then rapidly explode back to the starting position.

ALLMAX athlete Performing a Push Up

12. T-Push Up

This movement builds rotational strength of the core while forcing the pecs, shoulders and arms to work one side at a time.

To perform, begin with body fully lowered to the ground, as per the standard push-up. Explode up, but rather than stopping, allow one arm to leave the floor. Raise this arm to the ceiling while fully twisting the torso to the side. Keeping the body straight at all times, roll onto the sides of the feet with each rep. Repeat on the opposite side and alternate for the desired number of reps.

13. Knuckle Push Up

This movement is a great way to limit the wrist strain which occurs to a degree with all other push-up variations (the pressure is placed on the knuckles instead of extended wrists).

To perform, adopt a regular push-up position but balance the body on the knuckles instead of the wrists. Complete the press up from this position.

14. Yoga Push Up

The yoga push-up (or chaturanga dandasana) requires more of a combined total body effort compared to other variations. In particular, the hips and entire shoulder girdle are made to flex and extend with each full rep. The mobility of the thoracic spine is also increased.

Related: Smart Training - Don't Break Your Body Trying to Build It

To perform, adopt the standard push-up position, lower the body all the way down, with hips touching the ground, and push up and rock back onto the heels. Point the hips as high as possible and fully outstretching the arms to where the thoracic spine achieves full extension, hold for a one-count, repeat.

15. Wide Grip Incline Push Up

This movement is a greater way to hit all of the major pec muscles with an emphasis on the lower portion. In addition, by adopting a wide grip, more stimulation is placed on the pecs and less tension is focused on the shoulders and triceps.

To perform, position the body at a 45 degree angle against a stationary Smith machine barbell and grab the bar as wide as possible while safely controlling the body at all ranges of the movement. Slowly lower into the rep and explode back up.

16. Single Leg Push Up

This movement is a great way to work the stabilizers while also targeting the pecs, shoulders, triceps and core.

To perform, adopt the standard push-up position, placing one leg on the ground and elevating the other. Keep the non-working leg elevated for the first rep, switch to the other side, and repeat.

Be sure to keep the glutes and entire core area tight to prevent the body from rocking side to side with each rep.

17. Close Grip Push Up

This movement is an effective way to target the triceps for size and strength improvements. Compared to the wide grip push-up this movement requires the body to be as compact as possible. Keep elbows in and shoulders tight.

To perform, complete a regular push-up but with hands turned slightly inward and thumbs extended so that a triangle shape is formed with fingers and thumbs touching.

Posted on: Sun, 06/26/2022 - 12:28

Hi So you take a 45 second to minute rest after each set of a push up? Also you can do this on an off day from lifting?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 06/27/2022 - 08:56

Hey Steve, do all the push up versions in a row before taking the 45-60 seconds. Yes, you can do this on an off day.

Posted on: Tue, 06/28/2022 - 06:08

But here you wrote different..."Perform all movements as one giant set with 45 seconds to 1.5 minute’s rest between each movement (depending on skill level and recuperative abilities)."

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 06/28/2022 - 09:32

Both sentences basically mean the same thing, except I said 45-60 seconds, instead of 1.5 minutes. If you need the extra time, take it.

Posted on: Tue, 06/28/2022 - 11:35

So, we have to do all types of pushups (17 of them) and then take a rest?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 06/30/2022 - 08:57


Posted on: Sun, 06/25/2023 - 13:40

He means do one set of plyos to failure, rest 45 seconds, then do one set with your feet on the ball to failure, rest 45 seconds, etc..

Posted on: Sun, 02/27/2022 - 19:54


Posted on: Sun, 02/27/2022 - 16:02

Perform how many times a week?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 02/27/2022 - 19:45

Hi, Rudy. Do them once a week.

Posted on: Sun, 02/27/2022 - 15:54

How many time a week?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 02/27/2022 - 19:44

Once a week, Max.

Posted on: Sun, 06/25/2023 - 13:51

Only once weekly?
What about guys who do 500 plus pushups a day?
I mean is one weekly workout going to be enough for growth especially since most are bodyweight only pushups.
Please advise.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 06/26/2023 - 10:55

My answer for him was how often he do a pushup specific workout. That is a minimum, not a max. If you can do more, by all means, go for it.

Thorne Palmer
Posted on: Thu, 04/16/2020 - 15:06

I wish there was a pdf version of this one!

Posted on: Sun, 06/25/2023 - 15:11

If you have a printer or even if you don't.
If you hit "Print", then PDF, you can save it as s PDF.
But yeah, PDF's are cool. Great for printing, sharing and saving