The push-up is like the cockroach of the bodybuilding world. It's been around forever and it ain't going anywhere anytime soon. And why should it? This basic upper-body exercise is a gym staple to this day for one simple reason: it works.
The push-up—like any type of press or pull—requires the use of several muscle groups working on concert. But unlike some of its barbell or dumbbell counterparts, the push-up calls several smaller muscle groups—which work as stabilizers—into play. Your abs, serratus, lower back, hip flexors and rotator cuffs all reap the benefits of a well-executed set of push-ups, even though your pecs are the main target. And strengthening that supporting cast will only help you on your bigger moves for your chest like heavy incline presses.
But the standard U.S. Marine Corps "drop and give me 20" version shouldn't be the only item on your push-up menu. By varying your hand spacing or calling extra equipment into play, you can make the push-up one of if not the most challenging exercise in your routine. Experiment with the following variations to start taking advantage of all the push-up has to offer your physique.