Inverted Push Up for a Bodyweight Workout for Shoulders, Triceps, & Chest

Inverted Push Up

While not as popular as other push up variations, the inverted push up is highly effective and excellent for building upper body strength and power.

Learn what makes the movement great, how to do it correctly, and what variations you can try.

Table of Contents

Main Takeaways

  • The inverted push-up is an advanced variation of a pike push-up, and will primarily target the 3 heads of the shoulder muscle.

  • These exercise can be done at home with just a chair or bench.

  • There are multiple variations of inverted push-up, so find what works best for you.

  • This is a very challenging exercise, so progress slowly to a full vertical position (with your upper body).

What is the Inverted Push Up?

The inverted push up is an advanced variation where the objective is to elevate your feet on a sturdy object (e.g., a gym bench, chair, or plyo box), bend at the waist, and perform push-ups with the top of your head pointing at the floor.

This unique position makes the exercise similar to pike push-ups.

Fun fact: Inverted rows are the same as advanced pike push-up variations. Your body position is essentially the same, and you train the same muscle groups.

Speaking of muscles trained, inverted push ups primarily work the shoulders because of your body’s position and the direction of the press. It’s essentially the same as an overhead press; only you’re pushing against the floor from an upside-down position.

Other muscles worked during inverted push ups include the chest (primarily the upper or clavicular portion), triceps, upper back, and midsection (abs, obliques, etc.). (1)

As a whole, inverted push ups are a decent movement for training the upper body, building strength, and improving your balance.

Muscles Worked

Primary Muscles Worked 💪

  • Anterior Deltoid (Main Deltoid Emphasis)
  • Lateral Deltoid
  • Posterior Deltoid

Secondary Muscles Worked 💪

  • Triceps
  • Chest (Pecs)

How to Perform the Inverted Push Up (Step-by-Step)

Things to keep in mind:

  • Place a pillow on the floor at first as a cushion for your head
  • Engage your abs during the set-up
  • Do reps slowly and with great control
  • Lower yourself as much as you can, but be mindful of your current strength

How to:

  1. Stand in front of a plyo box, gym bench, or chair. Face away from the object.
  2. Lean forward and place your hands flat on the floor, similar to how you would during a regular push-up.
  3. Place your toes on top of the sturdy object (around its middle).
  4. Bend your body at the waist and keep your spine neutral.
  5. Take a deep breath and squeeze your abs.
  6. Slowly lower your head close to the floor by bending your elbows.
  7. Descend as much as you can and press yourself back to the top position as you exhale.

Inverted Push Up Benefits

The most notable benefit of inverted push ups is that you get to train the shoulders with almost no equipment. You can even do the exercise at home with a simple chair.

You can’t adjust the resistance as easily as possible on traditional shoulder presses (e.g., using heavier or lighter weights). Still, you can tweak your form to increase or decrease the difficulty. We’ll talk about that in the next point.

Another benefit of inverted push ups is that they are quite difficult to balance, which means your core muscles work extra hard. Thus, the movement strengthens your midsection alongside the actively working shoulders, triceps, and chest.

Tweaks and Variations of Inverted Push Ups

1. Feet On The Floor

If inverted push ups, as described above, feel too challenging, perform the exercise with your feet on the floor. This variation is also known as pike push up and is somewhat easier because you have to press a smaller percentage of your body weight. (2)

2. Inverted Close Stance Push Up

This variation is even more advanced and highly beneficial for targeting the triceps alongside the shoulders.

To perform it effectively, position your hands close and slightly more forward than usual with your fingers pointing forward.

Doing so will allow your wrists to remain in a more comfortable position, essentially turning the push up into a tricep extension motion.

3. Inverted Push Up With Stands

This is a minor tweak that can be helpful if regular push ups cause wrist discomfort.

Instead of keeping your hands flat on the floor, hold onto a pair of push up stands. Doing so allows you to lower yourself slightly more (depending on how tall the stands are) and keep your wrists straight.

4. Weighted Vest Inverted Push Up

This is perhaps the most advanced variation. Here, the goal is to wear a weighted vest for additional resistance and to create overload as you get stronger.

There are adjustable weight plates that allow you to control the extra resistance.

Is an inverted push-up too challenging for you? Don’t feel bad! They definitely take some practice. Here are some other bodyweight shoulder exercises you can do as your progress in your fit journey. Your triceps and chest also assist when doing inverted push-ups, so check out these push exercises to strengthen your pushing power. Also check out our list of bodyweight exercises. Not sure on how to perform these? Check out our video library for more detailed instructions.

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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. Lim, A. (2023, September 14). Clavicle. Kenhub.
    https://www.kenhub.com/en/library/anatomy/the-clavicle
  2. Romine, S. (2020, June 23). How to do the perfect pike push-up. Greatist.
    https://greatist.com/health/pike-pushups

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