Earlier I covered the subject of building the chest and triceps with a few pushup variations. You can find those at the following links:
How to Build a Muscular Chest with Bodyweight Exercise
How to Build Muscular Triceps with Bodyweight Exercise
Of course, all of these exercises target all of these muscles, just to a bigger or lesser degree. Now, we turn to building the shoulders, specifically the deltoid muscles.
Planche Pushup/Psuedo-Planche Pushup
A planche is when you hold your body parallel to the ground with only your hands touching it. This is a very advanced exercise usually reserved for gymnasts, b-boys and circus performers. If you can do it, then you’ll certainly have some strong and muscular shoulders (among much else). Holding this position is called the planche, and then pushups can be done in this position by raising and lowering your body to and from the ground.
For us mere mortals, we can replicate the position of the exercise while still keeping the feet on the ground. This pseudo-planche position can be made easier or harder depending on how far you lever your shoulders away from your hands.
While maintaining this levered out position, do a pushup. Much more strain is placed on the shoulders than in a regular pushup.
(Note that this position great wrist flexibility if you keep your fingers facing forward as in a regular pushup. This can be minimized if you turn your hands out to the side or work on parallel handles.)
Raised Feet Pushup
In the regular pushup, depending on how top or bottom heavy you are, you’re pushing approximately 55% of your bodyweight. By raising the feet up on a platform you’re going to take on ever increasing amounts of that bodyweight.
At the same time more of the work is being transferred away from the chest and onto the shoulders as the angle increases beyond 90 degrees. Eventually this turns into the…
Pushups are great. But at some point, as you progress in your strength I feel like there is a “graduation” to handstand pushups. Not that pushups won’t still have their place, and very tough variations can’t be done. I have just found personally, and confirmed with many other bodyweight training advocates, that more of their training emphasis gets put on this exercise and its variants.
In the handstand pushup you’re handling 100% of your bodyweight (or close to it, depending on if there is any lean against a wall). This means it’s higher intensity than pushups or even raised feet pushups.
Secondly, because of the angle the muscles of the chest, while still being used, are minimized. More of the work must be done by the shoulders which serve to raise your arms overhead, whereas the chest mostly pushes the arms in front of you.
For much more on variations and programming with the handstand pushup be sure to check out The Ultimate Guide to Handstand Pushup.
Just reading the product description will open your eyes to how small changes can make big differences in this great exercise.