I’ve said in the past that you can tell how long the push-up has been around by the sheer variety of variations on the standard push-up there are out there. In the past, I’ve gone through variations by modifying the position of the feet, hands and the height that the push-up is executed at. Now, I’m going to tackle the gagetry. There are a lot of items out there that you can do push-ups on to change the focus of the exercise and they run the gamut in difficulty.
The first one that I met are bars. The idea behind these is they give you a few extra inches of height. These allow you to descend farther down below your hands, giving your chest muscles more activation on the downward and upward motion. Some also complain about wrist pain when doing push-ups on their hands. Bars can solve this by straightening out your wrist. Bars are nice because they are usually pretty small and easy to travel with in a suitcase.
Moving up the ladder of difficulty is the relatively new Perfect Pushup Device. These rotating handles hit the shoulders more intensely because they allow you to move the shoulder muscles in a more natural way that hits them harder. You should expect to drop your number of repetitions by a third, minimum. Plus, they give you the extra height that bars have so you also get the increased chest activation. So, the drop in reps isn’t a bad thing because the exercise is more effectively working the chest and shoulders. I was skeptical about the Perfect Pushup when they first came out. Now, I’m such a fan that I have the standard model as well as the travel version.
The next two are difficult, advanced devices that will really give you some serious challenges. The first one (and the one that I have more experience with) are rings. Initially I made my rings for pull-ups but the allure of the instability drove me to add some longer rope, get the rings closer to the ground, and try out push-ups on them. What I found was probably the most effective way to put the focus of the push-up on the chest muscles. The extra height combined with the constant need to pull the rings inward while descending downward and upward hits all of the chest muscles like no other push-up device can. A rigid core is important too.
The newest piece of push-up equipment that's I've been working with are T-shaped handles. These delightfully nasty objects demand a high level of core tension to stabilize the body upon descent as well as some seriously strong arms and forearms to keep the handles from rolling in the hands. I've also noticed that they've helped my rep counts on pull-ups, particularly the towel pull-ups that I'm so fond of.