Andy Speer demonstrates a diamond push-up exercise

Mastered Regular Push-Ups? Try Diamond Push-Ups

All it takes is a simple hand position tweak to effectively target the triceps.

By Renee CherryMarch 21, 2024

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Push-ups have a strong reputation as an indispensable bodyweight exercise.

You may associate push-ups with strength benefits for your chest, shoulder, triceps, biceps, and/or back muscles, as they’re primarily an upper body exercise. However, they also engage your core and legs, promote functional fitness, increase endurance, and help improve posture, as The Output previously reported.

If you’ve mastered regular push-ups, let me introduce you to diamond push-ups: a functional fitness enthusiast’s BFF. The exercise, a twist on a classic staple, can engage muscles throughout your body with an extra focus on the triceps.

While the purpose and benefits of diamond push-ups are similar to regular push-ups, they include some key differences. With that in mind, here’s a complete breakdown of the benefits, targeted muscles, common mistakes, and modifications that are specific to diamond push-ups. 

What Are Diamond Push-Ups and How Are They Different From Regular Push-Ups?

Diamond push-ups get their name from the hand placement that’s characteristic of the exercise. “Diamond push-ups are a form of push-up where the hands are placed so close together that they form a diamond shape,” says Peloton instructor Erik Jäger. During regular push-ups, your hands are positioned farther apart from each other, shoulder-width apart or slightly wider. Diamond push-ups are considered a more advanced progression of standard push-ups.

What Are the Benefits of Doing Diamond Push-Ups?

The difference between diamond push-ups and regular push-ups is subtle, and you can expect to achieve similar benefits from both exercises. However, diamond push-ups place more of an emphasis on strengthening the triceps compared to regular push-ups, according to Erik. 

This difference in muscle activation due to hand placement is backed by research. For example, during a small 2016 study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, participants performed push-ups with narrow, standard, and wide hand placements. The narrow push-ups provoked more muscle activity of the participants’ triceps, pectoralis minor (located in the chest), and infraspinatus (part of the rotator cuff muscles around the shoulders) muscles. The narrow and standard push-ups sparked greater muscle activity in the participants’ pectoralis major muscles (the largest muscle of the chest), compared to the wide hand placement push-ups. 

Performing exercises that strengthen your triceps can pay off for your overall upper body strength. “Triceps make up a large portion of your arm and play a huge part in daily activities including holding bodyweight,” Peloton instructor Tunde Oyeneyin previously told The Output. “They stabilize the shoulder joint, and training triceps helps improve shoulder and elbow strength and performance overall.” 

Muscles Worked By Diamond Push-Ups

As mentioned, push-ups are a full-body exercise, although they predominantly work upper-body muscles. The main muscles that diamond push-ups target are the triceps, says Erik. Your triceps consist of three parts, and they function to allow your elbow to extend. Diamond push-ups target all three parts equally, notes Erik.

While diamond push-ups mainly work your triceps, muscles of your upper back and shoulders deserve honorable mention. “Diamond push-ups strengthen the deltoid and trapezius muscles, which also stabilize the movement,” says Erik.

Andy Speer demonstrates a diamond push-up exercise

How to Do a Diamond Push-Up

If you want to start taking advantage of diamond push-ups during your workouts, you’ll benefit from learning how to use proper form. This is exactly how to pull off the exercise, according to Erik. 

  1. Starting on all fours, form a diamond shape with your hands on the ground directly in line with your chest. Your thumbs and index fingers should be touching, forming opposite corners of the diamond. Engage your core and step backward with both feet, straightening your knees to assume a plank position.

  2. Bend your elbows, allowing your body to lower toward the ground until your chest touches your hands. Maintain a straight line from your head through your heels, keep your elbows in at your sides, and keep your core engaged throughout.

  3. Keeping your entire body straight and your core engaged, press through your palms, allowing your elbows to straighten and your body to ascend back up to a plank position.

Diamond Push-Ups: Common Mistakes

Diamond push-ups aren’t easy, and a few things can go wrong if you’re not fully focused on maintaining your form. Here’s how to avoid the most common mistakes that people make when attempting diamond push-ups, according to Erik:

  • Don’t perform the exercise with too shallow of a range of motion. If you aren’t allowing your body to drop close enough to the ground, you won’t engage the full range of muscles that you could be using. If needed, modify the movement until you’ve built up to a standard diamond push-up (more on that below).

  • Don’t allow your shoulders to raise up toward your ears during the movement. This causes the muscles in your shoulders to compensate, taking focus away from your triceps.

  • Don’t place your hands too far forward, making sure that they’re directly in line with your chest. Placing your hands too far forward can take emphasis away from your core muscles, instead drawing more strength from your shoulders.

  • Don’t forget to engage your core muscles throughout the exercise. Keeping your core engaged allows you to maintain a straight back when pushing back up into a plank.

  • Don’t allow your elbows to shift outward and away from your body during the exercise.

    Tunde Oyeneyin doing diamond pushups

Diamond Push-Ups: Variations

Diamond push-ups aren’t easy, but you can scale down the exercise and build up to the ability to pull off the exercise. One way to modify the exercise is to place your hands on an elevated surface, like a box or a bench, before completing the exercise, says Erik. Another modification is to perform the push-up with your knees on the ground. You can also use a set of dumbbells—placing the weights together on the ground and holding onto the handles rather than forming a diamond with your hands—to relieve some of the pressure on your wrists, he adds.

And if you’re feeling ambitious and are ready to make the advanced exercise even harder, you can perform the movement with your feet elevated on a box or bench, says Erik. “However, I recommend simply slowing down the speed, up to five seconds when going down and a maximum of one second when going up explosively,” he says.

How to Add Diamond Push-Ups to Your Workout Routine

Standard push-ups are difficult for a lot of people, and diamond push-ups are even harder, making them ideal for those who are up for a challenge. “Diamond push-ups are ideal for intensive and functional arm training,” says Erik.

Ideally, you’ll place diamond push-ups toward the end of upper-body sessions to blast your triceps. “Because the diamond push-up doesn't put a lot of strain on the chest muscles and shoulders, it's great for really working out the triceps at the end of the workout,” says Erik.

It’s also smart to perform diamond push-ups after a pull exercise, using the concept of antagonistic training, according to Erik. (Antagonistic training refers to training opposing muscle groups together.) Examples of pull exercises, wherein the difficult portion of the exercise occurs when you’re pulling against resistance, include moves like rows, pull-ups, and lat pulldowns.

Moral of the story, simply changing the hand positioning when you perform push-ups can amp up the triceps involvement. If you like challenging and effective bodyweight exercises, consider the diamond push-up a true gem.


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