Calisthenics Push Up Progressions – 10 steps

female push up progression

A great part about calisthenics is your workouts will progress as you do. In this article we are going to talk about push up progressions.

Push up progressions are different types of push ups that are related to the pushing motion exercise. The variations allow muscle development in arms, chest and back for overall fitness.

No matter how new you are to calisthenics, or even if you’re a seasoned pro, there is a type of work out that will challenge you.

Take the basic push ups for example. For many, getting down and comfortably performing 10-20 reps will naturally come when done consistently. Your muscles will adapt, and grow, and be able to accommodate.

But where do you go from there? Doing the basic push up can be a viable way of working out. And it is for many. But with calisthenics, when you’re consistently increasing your repetitions higher and higher. Its generally a good sign that you are ready for the next level and to progress.

There are levels of push ups that can be performed by any individual depending on which level they are comfortable with.

Let’s look at some of the ways you can progress your push up workouts.

Push Up Progression ExercisesHow many repetitions in perfect form before going on to the next progressions
Incline Push Ups15 Repetitions
Regular Push Ups15 Repetitions
Elevated Push Ups15 Repetitions
Archer Push Ups10 Repetitions
Explosive Push Ups10 Repetitions
Clapping Push Ups10 Repetitions
Pseudo Planche Push Ups10 Repetitions
90 Degree Push Ups10 Repetitions
Planche Push Up Pumps10 Repetitions
Full Planche Push Ups10 Repetitions
A summary chart of the push up progressions and amount of repetitions per exercise

Push Up Progressions From Beginner To Advanced

We are going to take a look at a few push ups that is a good range for anyone starting out to avid fitness enthusiasts. As you get higher in your progressions the weighted overload on your arms will increase, as well as overall body control.

To prevent any injury and also to help you on your path of success with these workouts. It’s better to start at a level where you already feel comfortable or start from the beginning and begin mastering the different levels available.

Beginner Push Up Progressions

incline push up progressions

Incline Push Ups

What makes an incline push up great for beginners, is that that you can adjust this type of workout to what works for you. Its great for people who can’t fully do a “regular” push up and would allow the proper muscle development to do so.

Incline push ups involves something sturdy. A parallette bar, couch or chair would generally do. The idea is to perform push ups in a inclined position, that allows you to not fully take on your bodyweight making it a bit easier to build the muscles needed to perform a regular push up.

Regular Push Ups

The most well known type of push up and widely considered as the basic way of doing it. Perfecting this workout along with the incline push up will set you up immensely with the foundation needed to progress onto the other variations.

Keeping perfect form and ability to increase repetition is the sign that you’re ready to progress. The form to perfect here is have your hands at chest height, elbows tucked in (not pointing out) and keeping your back straight (no arching). Being able to keep all this in mind and still making multiple reps should be your main focus here.

Elevated Push Ups

Similar to the inclined push ups. You would need a sturdy elevated object in order to perform this workout. The difference here is that you would be elevating your legs and feet to add more overload and weight on your upper body.

Keep it easy and use a elevated position that doesn’t put too much weight on your first go. You can slowly increase as you find the right positions that fit you best. Start your elevation at the height of the first steps of your staircase and progress to other heights from there.

Intermediate Push Up Progressions

Archer Push Ups

One of the first types of modified push ups with your progression, the archer push up helps apply more weight on to one arm then you would get when doing regular push ups.

To perform this push up, you would set up with your arms slightly wider then shoulder length with your hands facing outwards. You would then proceed to go down on one side and push up with the arm on that side while letting the opposite help keep balance and stabilize.

Explosive Push Ups

Here you get the opportunity to work on the impact and being explosive with your arms. Doing explosive push ups increases the power and force needed to get your body slightly off the ground. Ideally, it would require you to put extra force into every single rep that you wouldn’t normally get in other styles of push ups.

This push ups variation is set up the same way as the regular push up. However, when coming up from the push up, the difference would be that you use the force needed to push yourself up as well as push your hands off the ground.

Clapping Push Ups

A natural progression from the explosive push up. The clapping push up will test your force and explosiveness to get to a certain height when you are off the ground.

The set up would be exactly the same as how you would do the explosive push up but as the added feature, you would have to clap your hands after you have completed your rep and are off the ground.

planche push up

Advanced Push Up Progressions

Pseudo Planche Push Ups

Entering a more pro level style workout with the pseudo planche push up, you will start seeing how important the previous push ups were in correlation to your success here.

If you’re just starting, try using a wall where your feet can rest on and help you from moving around too much.

To perform this push up you will be pushing from your waistline. Meaning, instead of your hands at the starting position of your chest line, move them closer to your waistline, as close as possible where you can still effectively do the work out. From this position is where you would start to push up.

90 Degree Push Ups

A good beginner stage workout to start when trying a full planche push up. For this workout you would no longer be using the assistance from the wall. And will purely be using the strength from all the previous push ups that you have done.

Perform this push up exactly how you would as the pseudo planche push up and the added feature would be when you lower your body to the grown, you will elevate your feet off the ground and hold your position briefly before completing the push up. When done correctly you should be balancing your hold body with only your hands.

Planche Push Up Pumps

The last step before attempting the full planche push up. Mastering this skill will help ensure that you are ready to do the full planche push up. The exercise will be making use of the multiple skills you have already master in the previous push up progressions.

Performing this push up would be similar to the previous planche push up set ups. Start completely flat on the ground, hands at the waist. From here you will be using the technique from the previous push ups, specifically the explosive push ups.

From a completely flat position on the ground, push your body from only your hands elevating your entire body into a full extension. If done correctly your body should still be straight at the top of the push up.

Full Planche Push Up

After mastering all the previous movements, you are easily completing your repetitions with perfect form, then you should be ready to start working on a full planche push up.

Performing this exercise would require elements from every other push up variation already mentioned. Putting it all together you will be perform a push, with your hands by your waist and with no outside assistance. The whole time your body will stay straight and not touching the ground the whole time


Progressing through the different levels takes a lot of dedication and consistency. Realistically, you should at least expect months if not years to progress from beginner to advanced. A lot of it will come down to how effective and how determined you want to be on your level of fitness.

The important thing to note is that you need to master and be completely comfortable with each level of push up before progressing to the next one. This is to properly prepare you body for the next level of stress that each workout brings, and more importantly to minimize the risk of injury.


Chris Heria:

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