Pushups are one of the most effective bodyweight exercises you can incorporate into your routine.

Targeting your arms, chest, back, and shoulders, it takes a decent amount of strength to complete multiple reps correctly.

The American College of Sports Medicine makes recommendations for the number of pushups a physically fit person can do, based on their age. For example, males ages 40-49 should be able to complete 13-16 pushups. A woman in the same age range should be able to complete 11-14.

If you’re not quite there, wall pushups are a great starting point, and a good way to progress to the standard move. Variations on wall pushups can be even more challenging than the regular version.

Always remember to concentrate on form when performing pushups. Keep your elbows tucked close to your body and your shoulder blades drawn back and down. Your body should form a straight line from head to feet.

Try these four wall pushup variations based on your current ability level for a strong chest, shoulders, and back.

1. Standard wall pushup

You can make this exercise easier or more challenging by adjusting the distance your feet are away from the wall. The farther away they are, the more of your own body weight you’ll have to support, and the harder the move will be.

Muscles worked: chest, shoulders

Equipment needed: wall

  1. Assume the starting position with feet and legs together, standing about 2 feet from a wall with your arms straight out in front of you. Your palms should be on the wall at about shoulder-level height and shoulder-width apart, with finger pointed toward the ceiling. If you feel like you’re reaching too far, move your feet closer.
  2. Bend your elbows and begin to lean your body toward the wall until your nose almost touches it. Ensure your back stays straight and your hips don’t sag.
  3. Push back to the starting position and repeat.
  4. Complete 4-5 sets of 20 reps.

2. Close stance wall pushup

In this variation, instead of taking a wide placement with your hands, you’ll move your palms in toward the midline of your body. This will place more emphasis on your triceps than your chest. These will be more challenging than standard wall pushups.

Muscles worked: chest and triceps

Equipment needed: wall

  1. Assume the starting position with feet and legs together, standing about 2 feet from a wall with your arms straight out in front of you. Your palms should be on the wall at about shoulder-level height, but this time, almost touching, with finger pointed toward the ceiling.
  2. Keeping them tucked, bend your elbows and begin to lean your body toward the wall until your nose almost touches it. Ensure your back stays straight and your hips don’t sag.
  3. Push back to the starting position and repeat.
  4. Complete 4-5 sets of 20 reps.

3. One-arm wall pushup

If you can complete multiple reps and sets of a regular pushup, consider adding a one-arm pushup progression. It’s a unilateral move, meaning it works one side of your body at a time. This can help even out strength imbalances. This move should only be attempted if you can easily support your own body weight.

Muscles worked: chest, back, shoulders, arms

Equipment needed: wall

  1. Assume the starting position with legs and feet wide, about 2 feet from the wall. One arm should be straight out in front of you, palm on the wall, at about shoulder level and in line with the center of your body. The other arm should be around your back.
  2. Bend your elbow and begin to lean your body toward the wall as far as you can go. Ensure that your back stays straight and your hips don’t sag. Try to keep your body weight evenly distributed instead of leaning to the side you are pushing from.
  3. Push back to the starting position and complete as many reps as possible.
  4. Switch arms and repeat.

4. Feet on the wall pushup

This is an advanced move, requiring strength and balance. Only attempt this if you are an advanced exerciser.

Muscles worked: chest, shoulders, core

Equipment needed: wall

  1. Start in a plank position on the floor with your feet touching the wall.
  2. Walk your feet up the wall until you reach a comfortable height. This can be parallel to the floor, or on a decline. The latter is more challenging. This is your starting position.
  3. Bend your elbows and perform a pushup, ensuring your back stays straight and your hips don’t sag.
  4. Push back to the starting position.
  5. Complete 3 sets of 10-15 reps.

Next steps

Whether you’re progressing to a regular pushup or adding more intensity, wall pushup variations are an effective way to gain strength in your chest, shoulders, back, and arms. 

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