What are Incline Push-Ups?

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 far less load on your upper body. Your body will be at an inclined slope and the majority of your weight will be distributed to your legs.

 

In a study conducted in 2014, researchers found that suspended push-ups (incline push-ups) increase core muscle activation compared to standard push-ups on the floor.

What Muscles are Worked by Incline Push-Ups?

The primary muscles worked are the pectoralis major triceps, anterior deltoids. The secondary muscles worked are abdominals, obliques, quadriceps, and glutes.

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. 

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.

4. Repeat

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 sets 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. 

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 decrease 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 to 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Exhale as you push back up to starting position, then lift your ring hand to tap the opposite left shoulder and the top position. 
  4. Repeat this movement with the left arm tapping the right shoulder. Aim to perform this between 6-20 reps for 4 sets.

Hindu Push-Ups 

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. Exhale as you reverse the movement exactly until you’re back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat this movement between 5-16 reps for 4 sets.

Spider-man Push-Ups

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. Exhale as you reverse the movement to return to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side, by bringing your left knee to touch your left elbow.
  4. Repeat this movement between 6-18 reps for 4 sets.

Decline Push-Ups 

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Exhale as you push back up to return to the starting position. Lock your arms out fully to ensure a full range of motion.
  4. Repeat this movement between 5-20 reps for 4 sets.

About the Author

My name is Pat Chadwick, I am a calisthenics coach with over 4 years of experience in helping people from all backgrounds to achieve their calisthenics goals. My goal is to become the number one calisthenics coach in the world as it is my passion to help people change their lives through inspiring bodyweight movements. I believe everyone deserves the right to feel good about their health, body, and be delighted inside and out.