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What Type of Push Up Works the Lower Chest?

author image Kim Nunley
Kim Nunley has been screenwriting and working as an online health and fitness writer since 2005. She’s had multiple short screenplays produced and her feature scripts have placed at the Austin Film Festival. Prior to writing full-time, she worked as a strength coach, athletic coach and college instructor. She holds a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton.
What Type of Push Up Works the Lower Chest?
Mature man doing a push up over a mat in a gym. Photo Credit monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

A pushup is an effective strength training exercise used by both military personnel and those interested in improving their general fitness. The exercise develops the upper body and can be done nearly anywhere with no additional equipment. All pushups work out the chest muscles, but you can alter which section of the chest muscle is primarily recruited by changing the angle at which you complete the exercise.

Pushups and Chest Muscles

Completing pushups primarily requires muscle activation by the pectoralis major, or the chest muscle, which originates at the sternum at the middle of the chest and fans across until it inserts nearby each of your shoulder joints. The pushup also requires work from the deltoids, or shoulders, and your triceps.

Pushup Angle

Pushups can be done on the floor, or they can be done at an incline or decline position by placing your hands or feet on an object. The angle at which the pushup exercise is completed affects what section of the pectoralis major is more heavily recruited. Completing the pushup in a decline position by placing your feet on an object will make the upper section of the chest do more of the work. Completing the pushup in an incline position by placing your hands on an object increases the amount that the lower chest must work.

Incline Pushup Technique

To complete an incline pushup, place your hands on the edge of a weight bench so that they’re slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Set your feet away from the bench and tuck your butt in so that your torso and legs create a straight line. Lower your chest down towards the bench by bending your elbows and allowing them to flare out. Continue down until your elbows are bent slightly more than 90 degrees and then extend your elbows to return back to starting position.


To increase the intensity of the exercise, complete incline pushups with an exercise ball. This will cause the exercise to be completed in an unstable environment, which requires the muscles that surround your shoulder joints to work harder to maintain balance. Place your hands on an exercise ball and complete the exercise as if you were completing it on a bench. If you feel uncomfortable completing regular incline pushups with an exercise ball, begin by completing them on your knees instead of from your toes.

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