Incline and Decline Push-Ups vs. Regular Push-Ups

Incline push-ups are a modified variation that's easier on your body.
Image Credit: Bojan89/iStock/GettyImages

If you like to keep your work outs simple, push-ups should be at the top of your exercise list. This move strengthens your whole body and doesn't require any equipment or much space.


Plus, you can vary your push-ups to find the version that's best for your fitness level. Learn more about the differences between decline and incline push-ups and start strengthening your body from head to toe.

Video of the Day

Comparing Incline and Decline Push-Ups

Technically speaking, incline and decline push-ups are opposites. Incline push-ups involve positioning your hands so that you're in an inclined position, whereas decline push-ups place your body in a declined position (more on that below).


Incline push-ups are a modified version of the standard push-up, making them among the less challenging variations you can try. On the contrary, decline push-ups are a progression of the standard version, making them one of the more difficult push-up variations.

Incline Push-Ups vs. Regular Push-Ups

Incline push-ups primarily target the middle to lower region of your chest, known as the sternal region. They take a little pressure off the fronts of your shoulders and your triceps, making them great for anyone who finds a full push-up just too hard, according to Carolina Araujo, CPT, a New York-based strength coach.


In a standard push-up, where your feet and hands are parallel to the floor, you resist a large percentage of your body weight. An incline push-up uses physics to your advantage. When you angle your upper body higher, your lower body supports a greater amount of your weight, so you end up pushing less resistance.

The higher the platform you use for the incline, the less challenging the incline push-up is to complete. A kitchen counter push-up is much more manageable than a push-up done with your hands on a low stair step, for instance.


With that said incline push-ups make a great modification to regular push-ups, Araujo says. As you grow stronger, you can slowly lower the incline until you're able to do a standard push-up.

Decline Push-Ups vs. Regular Push-Ups

A decline push-up is more challenging than the standard push-up. This variation involves placing your feet on a plyo box, hands on the floor, sending more of your body weight into your upper body, according to Araujo.



Compared to a standard push-up, the decline version gives your upper chest and front deltoids a harder workout. The higher your legs, the more your front shoulders take over. As a result, your upper and lower chest become synergists, or helpers. Your pecs still work, but not as hard as they might with a less significant decline or a flat push-up.

Before trying a decline push-up, be sure you can successfully pump out a set of 10 to 12 regular push-ups with relative ease. Modify a decline push-up by choosing a very modest angle.


Form Considerations

All push-up variations call for a rigid torso, which is achieved by bracing your core, pulling your belly button toward your spine. If you have difficulty keeping your core tight, you should try a modified variation.

Another form tip? Keep your hips level with your body, Araujo recommends. If your hips sag or hike upward, you lose a big benefit of all the push-up variations. Plus, you put your spine in a compromised position.


Even in the decline push-up, try to keep your shoulders back away from your ears. You want to focus on working your chest and that becomes more challenging when your shoulders hunch up.



Report an Issue

screenshot of the current page

Screenshot loading...