When exercise equipment is limited and you are trying to work your chest muscles, you need to use a variety of pushups. Two of the most commonly used variations to the pushup exercise are incline and decline pushups. These two pushup variations target different parts of your chest to varying degrees and can provide you with the variety you need to develop your chest. Your triceps, deltoids and core muscles are also worked with these types of pushups.
To perform, place your hands on a one-foot tall block with your legs placed behind you. Start with your arms straight with your wrists centered under your shoulders. Lower your body to the block and touch it with your chest. After touching the block, push down with your hands and straight out your arms. The process of pushing off of the block requires your pectoral muscles to contract. However, this variation emphasizes use of the sternal fibers of your pecs. Your sternal fibers run from your shoulder to your breastbone.
While incline pushups focus on your sternal fibers, decline pushups primarily emphasize the clavicular fibers of your pectorals. These fibers also start in the shoulder but attach into your collarbone instead of your breastbone. To perform, place your feet onto the one-foot tall block and straighten out your body with your hands on the floor. Support your legs with your toes while placing your shoulders directly on top of your hands. Now, push your body off of the floor by pushing against the floor with your hands. Once your arms are fully straight, you can lower your body back to the floor.
While both exercises might emphasize different parts of your pectoral muscles, they both use the same synergistic or "assisting" muscles. These muscles also benefit from using these two types of pushups during training. Your triceps and the front part of your shoulder, the anterior deltoid, chest you extend your arms as you pushup with these two exercises. The muscles in your core, which include your abdominals and lower back muscles, help to keep your midsection rigid as you push. This prevents your butt from dipping down or protruding upward during the exercise. Maintaining the straight position is important for safety purposes but also allows force to be optimally transferred from your chest to the floor as you push.
You should include both variations of pushup in your workouts to ensure each section of your chest is being adequately trained; however, the decline pushup is much more difficult than the incline pushup. When your hands are on the elevated block, some of your body weight is being supported by the block itself. When your feet are on the block, your arms support a higher amount of your body weight. Two solutions can increase the difficulty of the incline pushup to make it comparable to the decline pushup to ensure your pectorals are getting an even amount of work. You can wear a weight vest or drape chains across your back in an X pattern to add resistance. This will also require increased core stabilization to maintain the straight posture with your back.
- NSCA's Essentials of Personal Training"; Roger Earle and Thomas Baechle; 2003
- ExRx.net: Incline Pushups
- 2Athletes.com: Incline Pushups
- ABCBodybuilding.com: Incline Pushups
- ExRx.net: Decline Pushups
- 2Athletes.com: Decline Pushups
- ExRx.net: Pectoralis Major (Clavicular Head)
- ExRx.net: Pectoralis Major (Sternal Head)