Table of Contents
- 1 What are Incline Push-Ups?
- 2 Incline Push Ups Muscles Worked
- 3 What Level are Incline Push-Ups?
- 4 Are Incline Push Ups Good?
- 5 How to do Incline Push-Ups?
- 6 What are the benefits of Incline Push-Ups?
- 7 What are the different variations of Incline Push-Ups?
- 8 Incline vs Decline Push Ups
- 9 The Takeaways: How to do Incline Push Ups
- 10 All Push Exercises
What are Incline Push-Ups?
The Incline Push-Up is a great bodyweight pushing exercise to target the lower chest area. It is an easier variation to the traditional push-up as you will place your hands on an elevated platform, which puts less load on your upper body. When at an inclined slope, most of your weight will be distributed to your legs.
Men’s Health suggests that if you want to get better at push-ups, instead of dropping your knees to the floor to do knee push-ups, do incline push-ups to build real strength while working your way up to a full push-up. This is because knee push-ups are not training the glutes and core to stabilize the body properly.
Incline Push Ups Muscles Worked
Incline push-ups primarily target your lower pectorals and chest muscles. The primary muscles worked are the pectoralis major, triceps and anterior deltoids. The secondary muscles worked are the abdominals, obliques, quadriceps, and glutes. Not only will this exercise develop your upper body strength, but it will also help you build muscles in the chest, shoulders, arms, and core.
What Level are Incline Push-Ups?
Incline push-ups are for beginners as this is a great exercise to develop the strength and endurance required for the floor push-up. As mentioned earlier, there will be less load on your upper body due to the inclined body position. Nonetheless, all fitness levels should practice incline push-ups to target all angles of your muscles. Intermediate and advanced athletes can make the exercise more difficult by either:
- Slowing the tempo (e.g.: try a 3-5 second negative/eccentric motion)
- Narrowing the angle (the closer your head is to the ground, the more difficult it gets)
- Adding weight (e.g.: wearing a weight vest)
Are Incline Push Ups Good?
Yes! Incline push ups are beneficial for building upper strength and having more lower pec definition. They work the pectoral muscles, triceps, and shoulders. When done with the correct form, they also develop the lower back and core region by engaging the abdominal muscles. Incline push ups are effective for building strength toward the full traditional push-up. PS: if you want to learn the common mistakes in achieving push-ups, check out this standard push ups tutorial. Proper form is key!
How to do Incline Push-Ups?
1. Stand Tall
Start by standing tall facing an elevated surface such as a bench or a plyometric box. Place both hands on the edge of the bench at the shoulder-width position. Your arms are straight and your feet are together. Engage your glutes and core to ensure that your body is in a straight line. This is your starting position.
2. Gradually Lower Down
Inhale as you lower your chest towards the bench by bending the elbows. Lower until your chest almost touches the bench. Keep your body straight throughout the movement.
You can change the grip position whilst practicing incline push-ups to target different angles of the working muscles. This would be easier than doing them on the floor. For example, diamond push-ups target the triceps, wide push-ups target the outer chest and archer push-ups target the upper chest.
3. Gradually Push Up
Exhale as you push your body away from the bench to return to starting position. Lock both of your arms out before repeating the next rep to ensure a full range of motion.
Repeat this movement for a desired number of repetitions (see the recommended reps and sets range below).
Incline Push Ups workout
Beginners should perform between 3-5 reps for 4 sets, 3 times a week.
The intermediate level should perform between 6-20 reps for 4 sets, 3 times a week.
The advanced level should perform between 20+ reps for 4 sets, 3 times a week.
Once your reps and set goals have been achieved, you can try different variations to increase the intensity.
What are the benefits of Incline Push-Ups?
Great For Beginners
Incline push-up is a beginner’s level exercise, which makes it great to practice if you find the traditional floor push-up challenging. This exercise still targets the main muscle groups such as the pectoralis major, triceps, anterior deltoids, and abdominals, but, it puts considerably less load on the upper body, therefore you are pushing less bodyweight.
Typically, in a standard push up, your lower back tends to arch because your core is not yet strong enough to maintain a neutral spine. The inclined push up can resolve this problem so that you can progress to harder variations. I have created a full tutorial on these movements such as the archer push ups tutorial and the decline push up tutorial.
Develop Core Strength
We often think that push-ups are an exercise for the chest and triceps muscles, however, they are great for your midsection also. Wide push-ups assist in strengthening your core stabilization muscles, which is a foundational strength for all body movements.
Improve Cardiovascular Health
Push-ups can be altered into a cardio-style workout by increasing the tempo, such as increasing the number of reps per set, increasing the pace of push-ups, and decreasing the rest time. In a recent study conducted in 2019, researchers found that individuals who were able to perform 40 or more push-ups were connected with a significant reduction in incidents of cardiovascular disease compared to those who can perform less than 10 push-ups.
No Equipment Needed
Incline push-ups can be done anytime and anywhere as you don’t need equipment for this awesome bodyweight exercise. They can be easily integrated into a home workout, or whilst you are traveling. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced-level athlete, there will always be a push-up variation that you can practice to challenge yourself.
What are the different variations of Incline Push-Ups?
Shoulder Tap Push-Ups
Shoulder tap push-ups take your incline push-ups to the next level as it focuses on the chest, triceps, and shoulders while also strengthening your core. With this, you are achieving both upper body and core strength, whilst working on your balance at the same time. To perform this you will:
- Begin in a plank position with hands shoulder-width apart, with shoulders stacked directly on top of your wrists. Engage your core and glutes to ensure a rigid and straight body. This is your starting position.
- Inhale as you lower your chest down towards the ground with elbows bending and tucked in towards your torso. Keep your core engaged throughout this movement.
- Exhale as you push back up to starting position, then lift your ring hand to tap the opposite left shoulder and the top position.
- Repeat this movement with the left arm tapping the right shoulder. Aim to perform this between 6-20 reps for 4 sets.
Hindu push-up is an intermediate-level exercise that strengthens the upper body muscles, whilst improving your flexibility and mobility. The movement involves two yoga poses which are the downward dog and the cobra pose. To perform this, you will:
- Begin in a downward dog pose with hands at a shoulder-width position, with both feet together. Engage your core. This is your starting position.
- Inhale as you slowly swoop down into a cobra pose by bending your elbows and bringing your head down towards the floor and back up to the sky to the cobra, your back will be arched. Keep your elbows in towards your torso.
- Exhale as you reverse the movement exactly until you’re back to the starting position.
- Repeat this movement between 5-16 reps for 4 sets.
This variation will help you to develop your inner superhero strength – especially the upper body and core strength. This is a progression from the floor push-ups as it further targets the core along with lower body muscles such as the quadriceps and hip flexors. To perform this, you will:
- Start in a plank position with your hands at a shoulder-width position. Shoulders stacked directly on top of your wrists. Your body should form a straight line with your core and glutes engaged. This is your starting position.
- Inhale as you lower your chest towards the ground. Simultaneously, you will draw your right knee up towards the side of the right side of the body. Your right knee touches the right elbow.
- Exhale as you reverse the movement to return to the starting position.
- Do this on the opposite side, by bringing your left knee to touch your left elbow.
- Repeat this movement between 6-18 reps for 4 sets.
Decline push-ups are inverse to incline push-ups. It is performed with your feet on the elevated surface and your hands on the ground, which puts more load and stress on your upper body muscles. This variation targets the upper chest and the anterior deltoids. To perform this, you will:
- Begin in a plank position with your feet on an elevated surface such as a bench or a plyometric box. Your hands are on the ground at shoulder-width. Engage your glutes and core to ensure your body is in a straight line. This is your starting position.
- Inhale as you lower your chest down towards the ground until your triceps are parallel to the ground. Keep your core engaged and body rigid.
- Exhale as you push back up to return to the starting position. Lock your arms out fully to ensure a full range of motion.
- Repeat this movement between 5-20 reps for 4 sets.
Incline vs Decline Push Ups
Incline push ups targets your lower chest muscles while the decline push up variation puts more emphasis on your upper chest and shoulder muscles. Both variations are reversed if each other, incline push ups are easier than standard or decline push ups, which makes it a great progression for those who struggle to do normal push ups.
When your feet are on an elevated surface and your hands are on the ground, your body is at a declining slope, and this increases the resistance of the upper body muscle. Whereas the incline push up is the opposite which transfer weight to your lower body hence why incline push ups are easier.
The Takeaways: How to do Incline Push Ups
If you’re new to developing your chest muscles to build upper strength, then the incline push up is a good place to start. You’ll find it easier than floor push ups due to the incline body position you’ll be in. Use this variation as a foundation to develop your overall form.
When you can do 10 or more incline push ups in a row, I recommend you reduce the height of the elevated surface to increase resistance to your upper body muscles. This way you can challenge your strength, balance, and ensure progressive overload. If you’re up for another challenge try these push ups variations that I have previously covered.
All Push Exercises
I’m Pat Chadwick, a qualified Level 2 and Level 3 calisthenics coach and athlete from London, England, with six years of experience. I’ve competed in various UK competitions, including the Kalos Stenos Championships, where I achieved third place in the lightweight category. My passion is highlighting the beauty of calisthenics as an authentic and pure form of body expression. I believe that everyone has the potential to become a champion of their body and mind, and that calisthenics opens the door to personal empowerment.