3 push-up alternatives for sculpted shoulders and arms

Are you fed up with the push-up? Push-ups are like the Godfather of total-body toning exercises. And while they are effective and efficient, they are not ideal for all. If you suffer from shoulder joint instability, weak wrists, rotator cuff pain, or hate the thought of lifting your own body weight, these push-up alternatives are for you.

You will need a set of free weights for the following exercises:

Wide Floor Chest Press

  Best for lower back stability ||   Muscles worked: pecs, anterior deltoids, triceps + core

Best for lower back stability || Muscles worked: pecs, anterior deltoids, triceps + core

Push-ups require a tremendous amount of core strength to stabilize the body and keep the hips from sagging with each repetition. Chisel your chest muscles without compromising your lower back health by performing floor chest presses. The ground provides spine support and increases the difficulty level of a standard standing chest press by forcing your muscles to work against gravity. If shoulder instability is a concern, use a low weight or skip over this 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 both feet are planted hip-width apart. Protect the lower back and work your core muscles by keeping your back flush against the floor for the entire exercise.

  • Holding your free weights, bring your arms out and away from your chest forming a right angle at the shoulders.

  • Exhale as you push the weight 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

  Best for lower back + shoulder stability ||   Muscles worked: pecs, deltoids, triceps + core

Best for lower back + shoulder stability || Muscles worked: pecs, deltoids, triceps + core

For this exercise we remain in the same position as the wide floor chest press with a slight shift in the location of our arms. By narrowing our stance from a wider grip, the shoulder has less shear force working against it and engages the triceps further. This is a safer position for someone challenged by shoulder joint instability.

  • Adjust your arms so they are touching your ribcage and the palms of your hands are facing each other.

  • Exhale as you extend the arms up and inhale as you bring the arms back down, touching the triceps to the floor. Repeat 12-15 times.

High Plank

  Best for building muscle endurance + core stability ||   Muscles worked: core, chest, back, shoulders, glutes, hamstrings + quads

Best for building muscle endurance + core stability || Muscles worked: core, chest, back, shoulders, glutes, hamstrings + quads

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 muscles deep within the core without the added joint stress generated by lifting your body weight. If you encounter sore wrists during this exercise, simply adjust your positioning to a forearm dominate plank.

  • Begin on all fours, aligning your hands below your shoulders.

  • Walk your feet back and push through your core, hips and hands to elevate your body into a plank. Your body should form 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.

Don’t let physical limitations keep you from pushing forward toward your goals.

This article was featured on philly.com