incline push upsShare on Pinterest

Healthline and our partners may receive a portion of revenues if you make a purchase using a link on this page.

An incline pushup is an elevated form of a traditional pushup. Your upper body is elevated with an exercise box or other piece of equipment.

You may find incline pushups to be a step up from your normal routine. The incline position primarily works your chest muscles, but you’ll also need to engage your core muscles to protect your back.

While traditional pushups work your chest, arms, and shoulders, incline pushups take some of the pressure off your arms and shoulders to give you a solid chest workout.

Share on Pinterest

The key to incline pushups is to make sure that your body is in a straight line while you’re in plank position. One common mistake is setting yourself up too close to the box, which can cause your back to arch.

You’ll also want to make sure that you perform this exercise on a sturdy surface and away from objects that can slide underneath you. An ideal setup is having an exercise box on rubber workout flooring.

Consider nonslip pads or rubber or foam tiles if you’re using equipment at home. Shop nonslip accessories online.

To perform an incline pushup:

  1. Stand in front of your box or bench, then squat or bend down and place both hands on either side of it with your fingers pointing forward. Your hands should be about shoulder-width apart. If you need a wider piece of equipment to safely elevate yourself, don’t be shy about swapping it out.
  2. Once your hands are in the right position, step your body back into a plank position, one leg at a time. Make sure your body is in a straight line, your head is aligned with your spine, and that your lower back isn’t sagging before continuing. Looking a few inches ahead of you, rather than down at the box, can help keep your body straight.
  3. Next, bend your arms to help you slowly lower your chest toward the box. Straighten your arms to bring yourself back up into a straight line.
  4. Repeat 10 times for 3 sets to start. You can increase the repetitions within each set as you get stronger.

There are a few ways you can modify incline pushups. This all depends on whether you want to make them easier, harder, or if you want to use your shoulders a bit more.

Less of a challenge

If you’re new to this movement and find it difficult to keep your body in a straight line, you may find it helpful to do knee pushups. You’ll still get a great chest workout as long as you keep your spine long and your core tight.

More of a challenge

For an added challenge, you can move your elbows and hands slightly inward to narrow your base of support. This position makes your triceps work harder.

No matter which modification you choose, form is the most important consideration. Even if you can make an incline pushup more challenging, you won’t gain any benefits if you don’t perform it correctly.

Research shows that creating instability won’t necessarily benefit your muscles any more than a regular pushup.

Decline pushups are just as they sound. Instead of being on an incline, your upper body is positioned lower than the rest of your body.

You can still use the same box or bench to do an incline pushup. Instead, the box is positioned underneath your toes while you’re in plank position.

Incline pushupsStandard pushupsDecline pushups
WorksTakes some pressure off the shoulders and wrists, putting the most emphasis on the chest muscles.Overall, works the chest, core, shoulders, and arms.Uses core muscles, shoulders, and arms more to keep you steady.

Which type of pushup should you do? For a more well-rounded physique, you might consider rotating between all three. These pushups all work your chest muscles, with an incline pushup working them a bit more in isolation.

Regular and decline versions work your arms and shoulders more than incline pushups. At the same time, decline pushups engage your core muscles the most.

Your preferred pushup may also depend on whether you have any upper-body injuries. Incline pushups take the most pressure off your wrists, arms, and shoulders because of the angle of your body.

Ask a trainer about how you can safely perform pushups without causing any injuries.

As a rule of thumb, a doctor or trainer can help you determine how you can safely perform incline pushups and whether these movements are right for you.

If you’re looking for other chest exercises, consider machine chest presses, bench presses, or alternating one-arm chest presses with dumbbells. Keep in mind, though, that these movements may not work your core as much as pushup variations.

It’s also important to remember that working your back, arms, and shoulders is also key to strengthening your upper body. The following movements can complement incline pushups:

Incline pushups are an ideal exercise if you’re looking to mix up your routine or if you’re wanting to take pressure off your upper-body joints.

It’s still a good idea to perform other types of upper-body exercises for well-rounded strength, so you may want to experiment with multiple kinds of pushups.

Modify as needed to make sure that you have the form down without hurting yourself.