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What Kind of Push-Ups Work the Upper Chest?

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
What Kind of Push-Ups Work the Upper Chest?
Decline push-ups emphasize the upper chest. Photo Credit: Dirima/iStock/Getty Images
Medically Reviewed by
Kenneth R. Hirsch

All push-up variations strengthen your chest, 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.

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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.

Step 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.

Step 2

Brace your abdominals so you form a straight line from your heels to your shoulders.

Step 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.

Read More: Muscles Worked with Decline Push-Ups

Stability Ball Decline Push-Up

A decline push-up using a ball increases instability.
A decline push-up using a ball increases instability. Photo Credit: Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images

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

Step 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.

Step 2

Brace your abdominal muscles so you you don't sag through your mid-section and hips.

Step 3

Bend and extend your elbows to bring your chest toward the floor.

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. 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.

Do a variation of pike push-ups outside.
Do a variation of pike push-ups outside. Photo Credit: Milenko Bokan/iStock/Getty Images

Step 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.

Step 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.

Step 3

Straighten your arms to return to the starting position on the bench to complete one repetition.

Complementary Moves for Your Upper Chest

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.

Step 1

Lay 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.

Step 2

Brace your abdominals and press your back into the bench. Keep your feet flat on the floor throughout each exercise.

Step 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.

Step 4

For an incline dumbbell fly, use slightly lighter weights. From the extended arm position, turn your palms to face each other. Softer 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.

Read More: Proper Angle for Incline Bench Press

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