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.
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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.
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.