Incline vs Decline Push Ups. What’s the difference and which are best for women?

Incline vs Decline Push Ups. What’s the difference and which are best for women?

Incline vs Decline Push Ups. What’s the difference and which are best for women? 

The basic push-up in general seems like a simple enough exercise, right?! In truth, with some practice and good form, you can master them rather quickly. However, there are surprisingly many different variations of the push-up. Knowing the options, and which one is best for you, will help you reach your goals quickly and safely.  

Today we’re going to run through Incline vs Decline Push Ups: how to do them both and which one is right for you. 

A Bit About Incline Push-Ups  

An incline push-up is a simple variation to the starting position of a standard push-up. Rather than performing your push-up with your hands and feet flat on the floor, you raise the position of your hands. You are at an inclined angle from foot to head. 

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.  

How to Nail Your Incline Push-Ups 

To perform an incline push-up, you need a stable, slightly-elevated surface. Exercise boxes are common, but you can also use retaining walls, a fence (like this previous example), or a bench.

Make sure whatever objects and surfaces you’re using will not slip and slide away. Also, make sure it’s wide enough that your hands can be a full shoulder-width apart, for the best form. 

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.
  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.
  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.  

Tips to Modify: 

Modifying this exercise is the same as normal push-ups, with one additional range of motion. Using your knees instead of your toes makes the push-up easier. Bringing your hands slightly closer together makes it harder and works your triceps more. 

A Bit About Decline Push-Ups 

If incline push-ups raise the level of your head and hands when you perform the exercise, decline push-ups lower it. You form a declining angle from your feet to your head, by putting your feet on a higher surface. 

You can still use the same box or bench to do a decline pushup. Instead, the box is positioned underneath your toes while you’re in plank position. For decline push-ups, you have the option to select a stable or unstable object for your feet.  

Stable surfaces to raise your feet are objects like exercise boxes, stairs, retaining walls, benches or chairs. Unstable surfaces are objects like yoga balls or Bosu balls. It’s up to you what you want to use.  

To perform a decline pushup: 

  1. Kneel down with your back to the bench. Put your hands on the floor, shoulders over your wrists and elbows at 45 degrees.   
  2. Brace your core, glutes, and quads.  
  3. Push into the floor to return to starting position, extending your elbows. 
  4. Repeat 10 times for 3 sets to start. You can increase the repetitions within each set as you get stronger. 

Where regular push-ups work your core, arms, and shoulders, and incline push-ups will work more of your chest, decline push-ups work more of your arms and core. It’s more difficult to keep your core straight, and you will need to keep your abs, back, and glutes tight while performing the exercise. Additionally, you’ll get more focus on your arms and shoulders with this variation of the workout. 

Tips to Modify 

Modifying decline push-ups has the same range of options as modifying other push-ups. You can add weight to make it harder. You can use one arm or one leg to make it harder. Using a balance ball forces you to work your core to an additional extent to keep yourself stable.

Which Form of Push-Up is The Best for Women? Incline vs Decline Push Ups.

The answer is “it depends”. All forms of push-ups are good for working your upper body in general, but the modifications you make can help them focus on specific muscle groups. 

If you want to work on your upper chest, decline push-ups are the best. Decline push-ups also help with the upper back and shoulders, so if those are your areas of concern, the decline option is generally good. Incline push ups primarily work your chest muscles as well but, also require your core to engage in order to protect your back. Incline push ups also take some of the pressure off your arms and shoulders.

You can also get into a routine of switching between each kind of push-up every day. Do inclines one day then declines the following day. And don’t forget about the traditional flat push-up in the weekly rotation. The sequence can help keep your muscles shifting and working in different ways and pushes off the plateau you may reach. 

Doing push-ups every day, or working them into your overall exercise routine, can do a lot to build up your core and strength in your upper body. In particular, they’re an excellent exercise for your triceps, pectorals, and abdominal muscle groups. Just be sure to be safe, practice your form, and push yourself as necessary to reach your goals.