Incline pushups are a variation of the standard pushup and are performed with the upper body higher than the lower body. Similar to the standard pushup, incline pushups work several upper body muscles while particularly targeting the inferior part of the pectoralis major. Incline pushups are often easier to perform than the standard pushup, making it an effective alternative for those just beginning an exercise program.
The triceps brachii is a large fleshy muscle located on the back of the upper arm. It has three different heads that connect the scapula and upper humerus to the elbow. All three heads work together to extend the arm at the elbow as seen in the upward phase of the incline pushup.
The deltoid is a thick, multipennate muscle that makes up the roundness of the shoulder. During an incline pushup, the anterior fibers of the muscle work together with the pectoralis major to powerfully flex and medially rotate the humerus bone of the upper arm.
The pectoralis major is the most superficial muscle of the chest and is divided into the clavicular and sternal parts. This large, fan-shaped muscle is the prime mover of arm flexion, the primary movement of the upward phase of the pushup. Performing a pushup with your body at an incline will put more emphasis on the lower portion of the muscle, which can help develop a more defined chest.
The serratus anterior is a muscle that lies deep along the lateral rib cage. While performing incline pushups this muscle contracts to secure the scapula against the rib cage, thereby locking the arms onto the torso.
Although not dynamically worked during an incline pushup, the core muscles are necessary to perform the exercise. The core muscles, which include the abdominal muscles, spinal stabilizers and gluteal muscles, work to keep your body straight and stable throughout the entire exercise.