Incline Push Up to Work Your Chest With Emphasis on Lower Chest

Incline Push Up

The incline push up is a fantastic bodyweight exercise that you can do to build your chest (pecs). It offers various benefits and is perfectly suited for beginners and pros looking to build upper body strength.

The best part is, you can do it almost anywhere, so long as you have an object to push yourself off from.

This push up can help you build the strength foundation you need to work up to more challenging variations – classic push ups, plyometrics, decline push ups, and more.

Today, we’ll take an in-depth look at this exercise. Let’s go.

What Is The Incline Push Up?

The incline push up is a variation of the classic exercise where you push yourself off from a raised object instead of the ground. For example, you can lean against a kitchen countertop and push yourself off it. This is one example of incline push ups.

You can also use objects like a chair, a gym bench, a sofa, a box, a sturdy table, or something else.

Because of your body’s position, this push up is easier than other push ups because you have to push a smaller percentage of your body weight. 

The more upright you are, the easier the push up is. So if your upper body is at a 45 degree angle with your feet below your head, the push will be 50% easier than if your body is more horizontal.

The more upright you are when performing an incline push up, the easier the push up will be (less resistance). A push up on a kitchen counter will be easier to perform than on a low bench or low table. So the incline push up should be performed near the very end of a push up workout (easiest goes last). Put the harder push ups first in the routine, and the easier push ups near the end.

For example, countertop push ups are easier than chair push ups, which are easier than classic push ups.

This variation emphasizes your chest muscles and targets your triceps and shoulders because of your body’s position.

How to Perform an Incline Push Up

The incline push up is performed much like the classic push up. The only difference is the angle of attack. You want to incline your body so that your head and chest are higher than your classic push up.

And make sure that you have a solid grip on the object that you are using. Classic push ups are very safe because your hands are positioned on the floor. But with incline push ups, if you’re using a table or bench then your hands can slip off, so you need to take caution.

Also make sure the push motion is slow, controlled, and deliberate. This will yield the safest form, as well as the best results.

Incline Push Up Form

Muscles Worked

Primary

  • Chest (emphasis on lower half of the chest, which is different than decline push ups which target the upper half of the pecs)

Secondary

  • Shoulders
  • Triceps

NOTE: Incline push-ups put less strain and resistance on your wrists. Classic push-ups, and even more so decline push-ups, put more strain on your wrists due to higher resistance. So if you have wrist issues or wrist strains, consider making incline push-ups more prominent in your chest workout. They are wrist-friendly, but still provide a great workout!

What Makes the Incline Push Up Different?

The primary thing that differentiates this push up variation from the rest is your body’s angle. Here, the goal is to have your body remain a bit more upright than usual. In doing so, you have to push a smaller percentage of your body weight and have an easier time with the exercise.

The more vertical your body is, the easier push up is to perform. For example, if you push yourself off a wall, there is barely any resistance. The lower you go, the more difficult it gets. For example, if you push off a chair or low table, you have more resistance.

Incline Pushups at Home

When to Perform the Incline Push Up

These push ups are a fantastic (and necessary) addition to any pushup routine or chest-focused workout. Because of their simplicity and the lower resistance of the exercise, you should do them towards the end of your workout. 

And when performing incline push ups, you can always do multiple sets of incline push ups with the angle becoming increasingly more vertical. This makes them progressively easier. This is an effective way to completely fatigue your pecs.

For example, this would show a typical progression from more difficult to less difficult (on the resistance):

  1. Decline push ups
  2. Close-grip push up (1)
  3. Classic push ups 
  4. Incline push ups (on a low table)
  5. Incline push ups (on a kitchen counter)
  6. Incline push ups (on a wall when you’re nearly standing straight up)

Safety Considerations and More

While simple, the incline push up is still a compound exercise, and you have to treat it with respect. Make sure to warm-up well each time before you do this movement. This will ensure optimal performance and will drastically reduce your risk of getting injured.

When doing this exercise, you also need to consider the surface you’re doing them on. Ensure that you’re pushing off a solid foundation, be it a table, bench, chair, or something else – double-check to be sure that it stays in place and doesn’t wobble. Your grip should also be solid – if your hands don’t feel secure, stop the set and see where the problem lies.

And finally, as with all types of physical activity, make sure to warm-up well. Besides the obvious health benefits of staying hydrated, it also boosts your exercise performance and helps you feel optimal while training. (2)

Proper chest stretching will always improve the performance and safety of any chest workout.

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David Williams

David Williams

A diet and fitness enthusiast, David is an ex-Army Airborne Ranger and Infantry soldier with decades of fitness and wellness experience. A West Point graduate with a degree in engineering, he focuses on technical research related to fitness, nutrition, and wellness. He loves the beach and working out, and spending time with his wife and daughters.

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References

  1. Close-grip push-up guide: How to master close-grip push-ups – 2022. MasterClass. (n.d.).
    https://www.masterclass.com/articles/close-grip-push-ups-guide
  2. Contributors, W. M. D. E. (n.d.). Warm-up exercises: Do they improve performance and reduce injuries? WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/benefits-of-warmup-exercises

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