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If you haven’t already included the incline push up variation in your training, you’re missing out on some major benefits. When done correctly, this movement not only builds your upper body strength, it also builds muscle in the chest, arms, and core.
If you’re interested in increasing your bench press or weight lifting skills, this movement isn’t just for beginners either.
Advanced fitness enthusiasts can use variations of the incline pushup to increase their strength. And, it develops more muscle mass in strategic areas of the upper body.
Before you get started with this variation, let’s take a look at the benefits of incline pushups and how to achieve proper form.
Incline Push Ups: Benefits
First, we’ll take a look at the top 4 benefits of the incline version and how these add value to your training sessions.
Incline Push Ups Benefit #1: Decreased Resistance
This first benefit is fairly obvious. With classic push ups, you have to overcome a resistance that translates to about 50% to 75% of your body weight. In comparison, incline pushups use between 36% and 45% of your body weight.
When you raise the incline of your push ups, there is a decrease in the resistance that your muscles must overcome to execute the exercise.
An incline push up uses physics to your benefit. The lower body ends up supporting more of your weight, which results in less resistance on the chest and arms.
This makes it a great exercise for those new to strength training. It’s an easier alternative to decline push ups and regular pushups.
Incline Push Ups Benefit #2: Portability
This pushup variation is easy to perform anywhere. You can be on a military base, in the woods, or at home and still do these.
Unlike other exercises, you don’t need a massive set of weights or highly specialized, expensive equipment, which makes them perfect for home workouts too. Grab your weight bench and get going.
If you travel for business often and can’t take your home gym equipment with you, pushup variations are a great way to keep up the training. Best part is you can use any elevated surface.
Incline Push Ups Benefit #3: Easy to Learn & Modify
Compared to other bodyweight exercises like pull-ups, pushups are fairly easy to learn yet hard to master. This makes them perfect for all fitness levels, especially as you can make them easier or more difficult depending on your needs.
Incline Pushups Benefit #4: Strengthens Core & Glutes
If you tend to arch your back when you do pushups, it’s probably because your core isn’t strong enough to maintain a neutral spine alignment.
The incline push up can rectify this problem. Your core and abs will get stronger. And, as a result, you’ll be able to progress onto harder variations of this exercise.
Since your lower body takes more of the weight, you also work your legs and glutes. Perform the incline push up effectively and you’ll feel it in your lower body at the end.
How to Perform the Incline Variation
Correct form is important for any exercise. Before you get started with this type of pushup, check out these tips for good form.
#1: Stand in front of the stable surface – it can be a bench, ledge, or box. Crouch down and place your hands pointing forward on the surface, shoulder-width apart.
#2: Walk your body back into a stable plank position. Keep your body in a straight line. Do not allow your lower back to arch or cave in. Arms straight, elbows tucked, and eyes forward. This is your starting position.
#3: Slowly bend your arms and lower your chest towards the surface. Keep your core engaged during the movement. Then, straighten your arms to return to the plank starting position.
#4: Be aware of your muscle activation. You want to make sure the right muscles are being worked. See which muscle groups should be activated below.
The incline push up activates the following muscles.
Incline push ups work your deltoids, the round muscles covering the top of your shoulders. The anterior deltoids are located at the front of the clavicle and the shoulders.
During this exercise, it’s important to keep your core engaged to protect your back. This develops your core strength, which will have a positive knock-on effect with all your other exercises, like your efforts on the pull up bar.
This is the main chest muscle. This push up variation primarily targets the sternal portion (mid-lower section) of your chest. Your upper chest (clavicular area) is also worked, but not to the same extent.
You’ll find these at the back of your arms above your elbows. These muscles enable you to extend your elbows.
Incline Push Modifications
Here are some ways to modify incline pushups to make them easier and harder.
Making Them Easier
If you’re a beginner, you may be starting with a weaker core and upper body. In this case, you may need to modify these pushups to match your level.
#1: The higher the ledge you’re working with, the easier the move. This means that using a countertop in the kitchen would be much easier than using a low bench or step.
#2: Do knee pushups. Instead of the plank position, put your knees on the floor and push from this position. You’ll still work your chest as long as you keep your core engaged.
Making Them Harder
If you want to make the incline push up harder, there are a few variations you can try out.
#1: For a great triceps workout, put your hands closer together on the surface. Moving them closer than shoulder width will also decrease your support base, making you work harder.
#2: Perform the incline push up with a single leg lifted. This challenges your core strength and works one leg at a time.
#3: As mentioned, the steepness of the incline directly affects the difficulty of the exercise. Choose a lower surface to challenge yourself more.
#4: Use an exercise ball or something less solid to really test your core muscles.
#5: Move onto classic pushups. Take away the incline and use the floor as your support. Keep your body straight and lower your chest to the ground. Then, push yourself back to the plank position.
#6: For a real challenge, experiment with decline push ups. Decline versions work your shoulders and arms the most, while also engaging core muscles.
Is the Incline Push Up for You?
If you’re just beginning to develop your chest muscles and build upper body strength, this is a good place to start. You’ll find it easier than other chest exercises and can use it as a solid foundation to improve your overall form.
The incline variation works your chest and core but with less stress than the traditional and decline push up.
If you’re struggling with upper-body injuries or joint problems, this push up variation is also a great alternative. The incline version reduces stress on the shoulders, arms, and wrists. Ask a personal trainer, doctor, or fitness coach if you need advice on what variations are suitable for you.
If you do not suffer from injuries, you may benefit from including this variation as well as decline push ups and the classic push up into your training routines. In that way, you maximize the muscle groups trained and challenge your body.
Nadia is a USA-HomeGym.com Senior Editor with 15 years+ experience in the health, supplement and nutrition niches. Nadia became a health & fitness evangelist after rebuilding her gut health in 2008 using the Weston A. Price method. She developed a Facebook group that grew to more than 15,000 members sharing information on diet for allergy reduction, eczema & psoriasis cessation. Since 2011, Nadia has been an avid stair climber, achieving race times in the top 5% of her age group and maintaining average times of 3’40 – 3’55 minutes per 12 floors.