Dread Push-Ups? Try These 3 Easy Alternatives Instead

Liz Merritt
January 6, 2017
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If you dread doing push-ups for upper-body strength, finding effective push-up alternatives can be a welcome relief when you roll into the gym. According to our friends at the American Council on Exercise (ACE), these three simple exercises are proven to train the same muscles as push-ups and won’t leave you balled up crying like an infant on the gym floor.

With all of these exercises, be certain you start off with a weight you can manage safely and gradually build up. Do not attempt to lift more than you can safety handle and use a spotter for heavier loads.

Bench Press

push-up alternatives

Bench press is a classic weight-training move that works the major muscles of the pectorals and triceps.

Starting off with the bench press, this is a classic weight-training move that works the major muscles of the pectorals and triceps. Plus, it’s relatively easy to do and can be done with only a bench and barbells. There’s an added bonus. The bench press is a common exercise included in many standard fitness tests and evaluations. So if you can master these suckers, you’re golden.

  • Correct form is key and starts by lying on a workout bench with your back flat to the bench.
  • Grip the bar with an overhand grip that’s wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Lift bar off bench stand, slowly lower until it is a couple of inches away from your chest and pause for 1 second.
  • Extend arms fully to lift the bar, but don’t lock your elbow joint.

Offset One-Arm Dumbbell Chest Press

push-up alternatives

This exercise will strengthen the chest muscles, as well as the core.

You get a two-fer here. This exercise will strengthen the chest muscles, as well as the core and can be effective at light to medium weight loads.

  • Start by laying on a weight bench with you head, neck and shoulder supported on the bench and your legs offset.
  • Keep your body parallel to the floor and don’t let the hips dip down.
  • Feet stay flat on the floor with knees bent at a 90-degree angle and hips extended.
  • The arm that’s supported on the bench is your anchor.
  • Hold the dumbbell in your opposite hand, close to the chest.
  • Extend the arm straight above, in line with the middle of your chest.
  • Hold for 1 second and return to the starting position.
  • Finish all your reps with one arm, and then switch positions to work the other arm.

Machine Chest Press 

push-ups alternatives

Machine chest press is a great all-around chest exercise.

I love the ease of a machine in terms of weight adjustability. If the weight I’ve been working at starts to feel easier, it’s easy to adjust up or down quickly by moving the pin, rather than loading and unloading weight plates. So here’s a good all-around chest exercise.

  • First, adjust the seat height. Bar and handles should be in line with the middle of your chest.
  • Grab handles and press the bar away from you, squeezing the muscles of your chest together.
  • Keep a slight bend in your elbows at the end of the extension, hold for a second and lower back to starting position.
  • On this one, our ACE experts emphasize to keep your back, neck and head on the seatback throughout the movement and make sure you don’t lock your elbows out.

Have fun and kiss those push-ups goodbye!

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