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Muscles Worked With Decline Pushups

author image Kathryn Vera
Kathryn Vera holds a master's degree in exercise physiology, as well as licensure as a Registered Dietitian. Currently, she works as a Clinical Exercise Physiologist in Cardiac Rehabilitation, where she provides care to patients living with chronic heart disease.
Muscles Worked With Decline Pushups
Do not consider attempting a decline pushup until you have mastered a basic pushup. Photo Credit: Ammentorp Photography/iStock/Getty Images

Pushups are a great exercise that don't require specific equipment -- so can be done almost any time, anywhere. Over time, the basic form of this exercise will become easier, and may require changes in position to make it more effective. The decline pushup, in which the feet are elevated off the ground, is a challenging spin off the more traditional exercise that can increase strength and muscular tone. Understanding which muscle groups are targeted by this exercise can be useful for those who wish to maximize their workout routine.

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Decline Pushups Basics

A decline pushup is a challenging execise that can be included in the workouts of those who have mastered the more basic pushup. The decline pushup requires you to push up a higher percentage of your body weight than other pushup variations. To perform a decline pushup, place your hands on the ground under your shoulders, and extend your legs behind your body. Instead of resting your feet on the ground, elevate them on a chair, bench, or other similar surface. Flex your elbows, lowering your upper body towards the ground, and return to your original position. Repeat two to three sets of ten to 15 repetitions of the exercise for best results.


According to the American Council on Exercise, the pectorals are a muscle group which originate on the clavicle, sternum, first six or seven ribs, and attach to the upper humerus. This muscle group -- which are commonly referred to as the "pecs" or "chest muscles" -- aids in shoulder flexion and horizontal adduction. To perform the decline pushup, the pectoral muscles must contract eccentrically while lowering the body towards the ground, and concentrically as it is raised from the ground. The higher the feet are elevated during the decline pushup, the harder the pectoral muscles will have to work.


The triceps muscle -- otherwise known as the triceps brachii -- originates on the scapula and inserts on the ulna. This muscle group aids in elbow flexion and stabilizes the shoulder during the decline pushup. As with the pectoral muscles, the higher the feet are elevated during a decline push, the more stress will be placed upon the triceps. Keep the elbows tight to the body to target the triceps even more during a decline pushup.

"Core" Muscles

The effect of the decline pushup on the core muscles is what differentiates it the most from more traditional forms of the exercise. During the decline pushup, the core muscles -- including the abdominals, obliques, and erector spinae -- help stablize the torso, thus preventing potential injury or accident. To stress the core muscles even more while performing the decline pushup, consider placing your feet on an unstable surface, such as that offered by an exercise ball. It is important to remember that this is an advanced version of the exercise, and should not be attempted by beginners.

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