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BIM Lab: 3 Push-Up Variations

What’s the best part about push-ups? 

You guessed it – the fact that your shoulder blades can move! However, this is not the case for bench and floor press variations (both barbell and dumbbell) where your shoulder blades need to remain fixed against the bench or floor. Not to say that you have to choose one over the other, as a good mix of both in your pressing programming is what’s ideal for most people.


In this post, we will be sharing 3 push-up variations that further promote shoulder health by adding in an extra layer of instability. All 3 variations promote activation of your rotator cuff and core muscles – amongst a few other benefits which we will elaborate on further in this post. 


Exercise 1) Chaos Push-Ups


The nice thing about chaos push ups is that you can use stronger bands and a higher incline to make them easier, and progress both as tolerated. 

All the regular rules of a push up apply here: front plank engagement of your core, glutes, and quads. Chin tucked. Keep elbows out at about a 45 degree angle. 

Be sure not to bounce your chest off the band (which would be cheating!). Moving a bit slower will help to remove that tendency. Pulling the band apart can also be helpful to ensure you are keeping tension in both your core and shoulders. And, an extra push away at the top will help you reset your shoulders as well as your spinal position. 

These can be used as a stand alone exercise or as a shoulder primer before any heavier pressing work.


Exercise 2) Stability Ball Push-Ups


These are very similar to the chaos push ups in the above exercise. The biggest difference is the ball can roll away on you! If you are not confident in your ability, then we suggest placing the ball against a wall and then moving it away as you improve your proficiency with this exercise. 

As with the chaos push up, be sure not to bounce your chest off the ball. Hand position will vary, but we like to place the hands to the outside of the ball as that takes a bit of stress off the wrist joints. An extra push away at the top will help you reset your shoulders as well as your spinal position.

This can be used as a stand alone exercise or as a shoulder primer before heavier pressing work.


Exercise 3) TRX Push-Ups


This last push up variation has the benefit of instability but also allows you to increase the range of motion of your push ups. Increasing the range of motion of your push up may or may not be a good thing depending on who you are and what is happening in your shoulders! The most important thing when it comes to using more challenging variations is that you don’t go to technical failure and are modest about how quickly you progress the level of incline, depth, and amount of reps.

Since this variation is more demanding, we recommend for it to be completed as a stand alone pressing variation with already properly warmed up shoulders!



We hope you found this series of push-up exercises helpful, and if you have any questions or want to know more about anything featured in this post, please feel free to email Andrea at 

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About the author

Andrea Lawson has been a practicing Kinesiologist since 2008 and is the founder of Balance in Motion, a training facility created for people to rehabilitate from injuries, improve athletic performance, and crush their health and fitness goals. She is passionate about providing a space where anyone can step foot in and feel both comfortable and productive no matter the injury, age, or stage they may be at in their fitness journey. With this vision, Andrea has witnessed her clients achieve goals they never thought possible, and gain unmatched levels of confidence in themselves, helping them to Go Beyond Better.