Pushups With Feet Elevated

Handsome man doing push ups on the gym ball
Pushups are a challenging upper body exercise. (Image: humonia/iStock/Getty Images)

Pushups target your chest, arms and shoulders, toning the muscles in these areas. If you find a standard pushup is no longer challenging, take pushups to the next level by elevating your feet, called a decline pushup. Choose among different objects to add additional challenge to your core, or perform a decline pushup without equipment by using your legs to change the weight distribution.

Basic Equipment -- The Bench

Pushups with your feet elevated on a bench maximize a decline pushup. The height of the bench determines how much of an angle your body makes to the floor. The greater the angle, the more weight your pectoralis major will bear. The pectoralis major is the largest muscle of the chest and the primary muscle that works in this variation of a pushup.

To perform a decline push with your feet on a bench, assume pushup position in front of a bench with your hands shoulder-width apart and your arms straight. Lift your feet one at a time onto the bench so that your weight is on your toes. With your back perfectly straight, bend your elbows to lower your face toward the floor. Then push your arms straight to complete a pushup.

Challenge Your Core

Stability balls are not stable surfaces like exercise benches, so your core will feel like it is working along with your chest, triceps and deltoids. Using a stability ball increases the muscle challenge of a decline pushup. Stability balls come in different sizes, which allows you to control the elevation you use. Smaller balls are even less stable than larger balls, though. They engage your core even more than larger stability balls.

To perform a decline pushup on a stability ball, place your toes, shins or abdomen on top of stability ball instead of a bench. Space your hands shoulder-width apart and tighten your abs. Descend and rise using the usual form required for a pushup.

Using a Half Ball

Elevate your feet on an inflated ball that's half stability ball, half platform. This type of ball is also an unstable surface, like a stability ball. It offers two options for decline pushups; each variation targets your pecs primarily and employs your triceps as secondary muscles, with one working the deltoids, too. If you want to concentrate on your chest and triceps, perform the exercise with the flat side of the ball on the floor and your feet on the rounded side. To include your deltoids, turn the ball over and place your feet on the flat side. Descend and rise using the usual form required for a pushup.

No Equipment Needed

Pushups with your feet elevated are harder than pushups with your feet on the floor because the upper body lifts more of your weight. To perform decline pushups without equipment, lift one leg off the floor. This is just enough distance so that you have only three points of contact, forcing even more weight into your upper body. It's an easy way to add decline pushups to your workout without searching for a bench or ball. Switch legs to balance the muscles engaged.

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