The versatile push-up exercise works your chest, shoulders and arms. Because you must keep your abdominal area tight throughout the movement, it also gives your core muscles an effective workout. Unlike chest-press machines, doing push-ups will give you functional strength in addition to a well-developed chest. Beginners can do modified versions of the exercise to build strength and measure how their strength/endurance levels are improving, while intermediate to advanced exercisers can use a set of 20 to 30 push-ups to warm up for more demanding chest exercises, such as the bench press.
Do modified knee push-ups to build up push-up strength. Lie face-down on the floor. Place your hands by your shoulders and your knees against the floor. Push away from the floor so only your knees and hands are in contact with the floor. Your legs should be bent and crossed behind you. Lower yourself back to the floor. Repeat as many times as you can, or until you can do 20.
Do standing push-ups. Stand facing a wall. Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on the wall. Step back until your feet are 2 to 3 feet away from the wall so that your body is at an incline. Bend your elbows until your face almost meets the wall, then extend them again. Repeat as many times as you can, or until you can do 20.
Do planks to develop core and shoulder strength. A plank is a stationary push-up, meaning instead of bending your elbows and lowering your body, you remain in the "up" position the entire time. Hold for as long as you can, working up to three minutes.
Do incline push-ups. Do push-ups against an object such as a table or weight-training bench to place your body at more of an incline, thereby increasing the difficulty of your push-ups. Bend your elbows so your body lowers toward the ground and then back up again, repeating for as many repetitions as you can. Aim for a goal of 20. Your elbows do not have to bend into a full push-up (90-degree angle) position. Keep practicing, bending lower and lower, and eventually you will be strong enough to go that low.
Do "halfway" push-ups. Find a thick mat and practice lowering yourself into the "down" position of a full push-up. Hold for as long as you can. Let yourself collapse onto the mat once your arms give out. This is similar to doing a plank, except your elbows are bent. According to the website Shape Fit, hitting your muscles from different angles will increase your strength.