What Kind of Push-Ups Work the Upper Chest?

All push-up variations strengthen your chest says Harvard Health Publishing, but certain ones can really put extra emphasis on the upper portion so you build pecs that pop. Drive resistance toward the front your shoulders and the clavicular region of your chest with a decline, which can be achieved with a workout bench, step or ball.

Stability ball push ups work your upper chest. (Image: nd3000/iStock/GettyImages)


All push-ups work the chest. Certain ones, however, make the pecs really pop, like decline push-ups.

1. Standard Decline Push-Up

The decline push-up is optimally performed using a workout bench or a plyo box measuring 16- to 20-inches high.

  1. Get into the top of a push-up position with your hands at shoulder level and approximately 36 inches apart. Walk your toes onto the elevated surface.
  2. Brace your abdominals so you form a straight line from your heels to your shoulders.
  3. Bend your elbows to a 45-degree angle with your torso as you bring your chest down to nearly touch the floor. Extend your arms to return to the starting position to complete one repetition.

2. Stability Ball Decline Push-Up

In addition to choosing a different surface height, swap out the equipment to add more challenge to the exercise.

  1. Get into a push-up position with your legs propped onto a stability ball. To make the move less intense, prop your knees and shins on the ball; for more intensity, place the tops of your feet on the ball; to make it the most intense, leave only your tip toes on the ball.
  2. Brace your abdominal muscles so you don't sag through your mid-section and hips.
  3. Bend and extend your elbows to bring your chest toward the floor.
  4. Make it easier by using a smaller ball, says ExRx.net.

3. Pike Push-Up

Handstand push-ups work your shoulders and triceps primarily, not your chest. But, creating a dramatic decline in a pike position will work the upper chest, says ExRx.net. Balancing on two workout benches gives you room to lower your head between your arms. Unlike other push-ups, you do not hold your trunk straight.

  1. Place two workout benches parallel to each other, about 8 to 10 inches apart. Put one knee on each surface and one hand on each end. Raise your hips so that your arms and legs are straight and you form a triangle shape with your buttocks.
  2. Bend your elbows as you lower into a push-up. Your head will drop between the benches and your elbows flare slightly out to the sides.
  3. Straighten your arms to return to the starting position on the bench to complete one repetition.

4. Complementary Upper Chest Moves

Augment these push-up variations with incline dumbbell presses and flyes to further build your upper chest. Use a bench placed at a 30- to 45-degree angle.

  1. Lie back on the incline bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Raise the weights over your chest — arms straight up toward the ceiling. Choose a dumbbell that will make you feel fatigued in eight to 12 repetitions.
  2. Brace your abdominals and press your back into the bench. Keep your feet flat on the floor throughout each exercise.
  3. For a dumbbell press, bend your elbows so that your elbows make a 45-degree angle with your body. Extend your arms to complete one repetition.
  4. For an incline dumbbell fly, use slightly lighter weights. From the extended arm position, turn your palms to face each other. Soften your elbow joint and open your arms until you feel a stretch in the front your chest and shoulders. Bring your arms back to the starting position in a hugging manner.
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