Keep up the press-ups with 10 variations

There’s no need to go to the gym to perform the simple press-up, which should be part of any rugby conditioning programme. Here are 10 types to integrate into your players’ training…

Press-ups help develop the upper-body strength that all players need. Specifically, they improve the chest, upper back, core, shoulder and arm muscles.

Most players do a press-up in only one way, but by altering the methods and speeds they can accrue a variety of benefits. Different techniques place more, or less, strain on the core muscles and develop various aspects of strength, such as explosive power, core tension, balance and muscular endurance.


  1. Avoid the temptation to curve the back to reduce pressure on the arms. You must keep a straight line through the body to achieve strength and stability benefits.
  2. Start with a small number of repetitions and increase gradually in line with good body shape.

  1. If a player is struggling to do normal press-ups, he can do them resting on his knees, not his feet. However, the back must still remain straight.

You should build press-ups into regular parts of your sessions, including the warm-up and warm-down, or they can be done before or after drills and games.

Explaining why the exercise is performed in a certain way will benefit the players. It should become a core skill that players enjoy doing. Over time, players will feel stronger and more confident in contact.

Ideally, all press-ups should be done with only the toes and hands in contact with the ground. But weaker players can go on their knees if necessary (see graphic above). In both cases, keep a straight line through the body to enhance core strength and stability, and strengthen the lower back.

  1. Standard – where the hands spread the width of the shoulders. The back is straight and the body weight is lowered towards the ground with back and legs in a straight line. Keep the head up and avoid locking arms when they’re straightened.
  2. Wide arm – the hands are placed wider than the standard press-up. This leads to a lower descent.
  3. Diamond – the hands are placed together so that the fingers and thumbs form a diamond.
  4. Claps – an excellent plyometric exercise that improves explosive strength. The player has to clap their hands when they come up from the press-up, meaning they have to lift themselves off the ground.
  5. Raised feet – put the feet on another player’s back or a chair. The back and legs should still be straight when performing the press-up.
  6. One hand – for show-offs only! Keep one hand behind the back and perform the press-up with just one hand.
  7. Press and twist – at the top of a normal press-up, rotate the body and reach up into the air with one hand, before returning to the normal position. Alternate which side of the body rotates and which hand is raised.
  8. Staggered arms – one hand is placed further ahead of the other hand.
  9. One leg raised – perform the press-up with one leg raised.
  10. One arm raised – one arm is put on a platform.

Get your players to do a press-up test. A full standard press-up must be completed and the press-ups need to be continuous.  Use this table as a guide to success.Younger, growing players will have more varied scores, but you’re looking for improvement. 

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