An incline push-up is a chest workout where you perform a push-up while your upper-body’s elevated. All you need to give it a try is an exercise box or another piece of equipment (like a sturdy bench) to get started.
Before you push it to the limit, make sure the surface that’s supporting you is steady. It shouldn’t slide around, even with your total body weight on it.
An ideal setup is an exercise box on rubber flooring. They should have a pretty solid setup at your local gym, but a bolted down park bench can work, too.
Once you’ve got your setup sorted, here’s what to do:
- Stand in front of the elevated surface.
- Squat or bend down.
- Put both bands on either side of the surface, fingers forward, arms shoulder-width apart.
- One leg at a time, slowly step back until you’re in plank position. Your bod should be in a straight line: Head and neck aligned with spine. (Pro tip: Look a few inches ahead, instead of down at the box, to keep your body straight.)
- Bend your arms to slowly lower your chest toward the box.
- Straighten your arms to form a straight line again.
- Try to repeat 10 times for 3 sets. Work your way up as you build strength.
Compared to regular push-ups, incline push-ups really isolate your chest to give that area a solid workout. Though they will work your arms and shoulders as well, your chest should def feel the burn. (Hello, burly pecs.)
They also put less strain on your wrists and arms than regular push-ups do. So, if your wrists or arms are sensitive to regular push-ups or weightlifting, you may want to consider trying inclines. It’s also a good idea to get personalized advice from a certified personal trainer, especially if you’re experiencing discomfort from some moves.
Incline push-ups vs. decline push ups
As the name suggests, decline push-ups are pretty much the opposite of inclines. You can use the same box or bench — just position it under your toes instead.
Unlike inclines, which mostly isolate your chest, decline push-ups primarily work your:
- upper core muscles
If you’re looking to work those abs, decline push-ups beat out incline push-ups. However, if you’re more focused on bulking up your chest or need to take the stress off your wrists, arms, or shoulders, then you may want to stick to the inclines.
Since diversity is the spice of life, add even more variation to your incline push-ups with the following mods:
Make it easier: Incline knee push-ups
If you’re new to this move and find it tricky to keep your bod perfectly straight, try starting with some incline knee push-ups.
Simply get on your knees on the ground and press up off the box as usual. You’ll still get a killer chest workout, just make sure to keep your spine elongated and your core tight.
Make it harder: Narrow incline push-ups
If you can do 20 or so incline push-ups in a row, it may be time to ramp up the challenge so you can gain more strength.
To make your incline push-ups harder, move your elbows and hands slightly inward, narrowing your base of support.
Bonus: This will really work those triceps.
Test your balance: Stability ball incline push-ups
Pro tip: If you don’t have a ball handy, you can also challenge your strength and balance by doing one-legged push-ups on the incline.
Peter Parker who? When you do these advanced push-ups, you’ll work your chest, triceps, shoulders, hip flexors, and quads. Before you know it, you just might be scaling buildings.
Here’s how to get those spidey senses tingling:
- Start in regular push-up position, hands directly under shoulders. Your bod should be a straight line from your heels to your head.
- Squeeze your core, lower your chest to the floor, and bend your elbows until they’re at about 45-degree angles.
- Raise your right foot and pivot your right knee up and out. Your right knee and elbow should just about kiss. Your chest should hover about an inch off the mat.
- Bring it back now, y’all: Extend back up to plank position as you extend your knee. Bring your right foot back to the floor.
- Return to starting position. Now flip it and reverse it: Repeat on the opposite side, bringing your left knee to your left elbow.
- Repeat for a couple sets of 8–10 reps.
Another solid way to step up your arm game is with bench dips (aka triceps dips). While these mostly work the triceps, they’ll also fire up your chest, anterior deltoid, and shoulders.
Like with the incline push-ups, you’ll need a sturdy, stationary surface like a workout box or bench to get started.
Now it’s time to dip, baby, dip:
- Sit on the bench with your hands by thighs.
- Palms pressed into the bench, walk your feet out and extend your legs. Lift your booty off the bench and hold it there with arms extended.
- Hinge at the elbow and lower your bod down as far as you can, or until your arms make a 90-degree angle.
- Push up through your arms, back to start.
- Repeat for 3 sets of 10–12 reps.
Pro tip: If this is a bit too tough, try bending your knees and walking your feet closer to your body before you dip.
High plank to low plank
When you add a little high-to-low transition to the mix, you’re also emphasizing the lower chest a bit more, similar to the incline push-up.
Here’s what to do:
- Start in high plank position, wrists in line with your shoulders. Your bod should form a straight line from heels to head.
- Engage your core, straighten your back, and drop into a forearm plank, one arm at a time. Hold for a few secs.
- Push back up to high plank. Keep your core and back strong and spine straight.
Incline push-ups are a legit exercise if you’re looking to shake up your exercise routine. They can also help alleviate pressure from your wrists, elbows, or upper body that regular push-ups can exert.
For a well-rounded exercise routine, be sure to mix up your strength exercises and fit in some cardio, too.