Push-ups are a classic strength training exercise because they involve almost every major muscle group of the body. Of the dozens of variations on the classic push-up, the elevated--or incline--push-up is among the most commonly performed. Understanding how the elevated push-up changes the emphasis on the muscles helps you better understand how to include it in your training regimen.
The regular push-up is performed from a straight plank position, with the body supported in a straight line on the hands and balls of the feet. The hands should be a little wider than shoulder-width apart. From this position, bend the elbows until the upper arms are parallel to the floor. Keep the rest of the body in a straight line--prevent sagging or lifting of the hips. The elevated push-up is performed in the same manner, but with the palms on an elevated surface, such as an aerobic step or weight bench.
Both the regular and elevated push-up emphasize the chest and fronts of the shoulders. Holding the plank position activates the abdominals, back and legs. The backs of the upper arms, known as the triceps, also assist in the proper execution of the move, according to the American Council on Exercise. By placing your hands on an elevated surface, you slightly alter the emphasis so that the lower fibers of the chest get more of a workout.
Uses in Training
Deciding which push-up variation to use really depends on your training goals. You might use an elevated push-up after performing a round of flat bench chest presses to hit the pectoralis major from multiple angles. Alternatively, you might use a regular push-up after doing incline chest presses. If you have limited access to equipment, doing a round of incline push-ups, followed immediately by a round of regular push-ups is a way to fatigue the chest muscles. Either push-up is appropriate and may be used in boot camp or other fitness classes.
If you find either version of the push-up painful for your wrists, try wrapping your hands around the shafts of dumbbells as you perform the push-up to straighten the angle of the wrist and reduce pressure on the joints recommends Oxygen Magazine. If your upper body strength is not enough to do a full push-up, perform the regular push-up from your knees. You can perform the elevated push-up from your knees if the elevation is relatively low. Trying to put your knees down while your palms are on a high surface, like a weight bench, is awkward.
Some people believe that an elevated push-up is easier than a regular push-up. All push-ups are challenging, but because they take some of the pressure off the fronts of the shoulders, they may seem slightly easier. Push-ups, in all their variations, are not reserved for men alone. Women can and should do push-ups. While they may need to work up to the full version with knee-based or wall push-ups first--both the elevated and regular push-up can help a woman build strength, enhance upper body tone and improve bone density.