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How To Do a Decline Push-Up?
Muscles Worked & Common Mistakes

Last updated: August 19, 2021

Decline push-ups are one of the best chest-builder exercises to try, but you have to perform it in its proper form to effectively engage your upper chest muscles and avoid pain and injury.

I spent hours digging into articles and research to give you this complete guide on properly performing decline push-ups. Let's go!

What is a Decline Push-up?

man in a decline pushup position

Decline push-up is a more challenging variation of the basic pushup, performed with your feet on an elevated surface using a bench, chair, or something similar.

Performing push-ups from this more intense angle forces you to push a greater percentage of your body weight.

This means the resistance is harder, and you are making your muscles work harder.

Decline pushup targets the upper chest, particularly the pectoralis major, and the front shoulders or the front deltoids.

Forcing your upper pectoral muscles and deltoids to work intensely increases upper body strength.

Decline vs. Regular Push-Up

man in a regular pushup position in a gym

Basic pushups and decline pushups both engage the upper chest, shoulders, arms, and upper back muscles.

However, with the decline variation, the change in angle puts more work on the upper pecs and the front deltoids.

Another thing is that you're pushing more percentage of your bodyweight with decline pushups than the regular push-ups.

It means you are creating more resistance using just your body weight with the decline variation.

Compared to the regular or incline variation (incline pushups are done with your body on an elevated surface), the decline pushup is a much tougher variation, especially when the angle gets steeper.

How to Do Decline Push-Ups

man in bedroom doing decline pushups

Here's your step-by-step guide to doing decline push-ups with the proper technique.

You will need a bench, a chair, a box, or something similar for a raised surface. It can be as low as an inch or two or as high as 1 or 2 feet.

Going higher increases the difficulty significantly, so if you are new to decline pushups, try to start with a lower surface until you can build your upper body strength and work your way up.

Exercise tip: Perform basic pushups as a warm-up to prepare the muscles for training and get into a smooth and steady motion.

  1.  Position yourself facing away from the bench and place your hands on the ground shoulder-width about 45 degrees.
  2. Place your feet on top of the bench. Move until your body is extended, and make sure to keep it in a straight line.
  3. With your core braced, keep your body straight as you bend elbows to lower chest to the floor.
  4.  Push against the floor until your elbows are straight, returning to the starting position. Repeat as many reps as recommended.

Recommendation

Complete at least 2-4 sets and begin with lightweight to moderate repetitions, such as 8 to 20 repetitions.

Decline Push-up Variations

woman doing pushups with ball, and a man doing clap pushups

Modify your decline pushup according to your fitness level or goals.

  • Make decline pushups easier  - If you find decline pushups too hard or trouble maintaining proper body alignment, then practice the basic pushup movement first.  Once you've mastered the normal pushup, decline push-ups are a great way to challenge yourself and keep your workout interesting. You can also start with lower raised surfaces like an inch or two to make decline pushup easier.
  • Make decline pushups harder - If you want to make your decline push up more difficult, try increasing the height of the elevated surface.  Here are other challenging variations to make your push-up sessions fun.
  • Stability ball push up - Do incline push-ups using a stability ball. This will activate your core muscles and increase your core stability.
  • Medicine ball push up - Perform regular push-ups with one hand on a medicine ball. This push-up variation works the shoulders in a slightly different range of motion to increase shoulder stability.
  • Clapping push up  - Here’s a very demanding variation of push-up that builds body strength and power.  As you press up, push your upper body as hard as possible to lift your body and hands off the floor. Clap mid-air and gently return to the starting position.

Common Mistakes

close up image of a man pushing up
  • Hips rises or dips - When your hips rise or dips, it could be an indication of a weak core. Practice and try to perfect your plank to increase core strength or try easier variations of push-ups.
  • Elbows are locked - Avoid locking your elbows during the upward movement because it places too much stress on your joints and may lead to injury. Maintain a slight bend in your elbows and allow them to stop at your rib cage.
  • Neck is not neutral with the spine - To get the full range of motion, your neck may be slightly bent. But you want to keep your neck neutral with your spine to avoid neck strain.
  • Hands are too far forward - If your hands are further forward from your body, you put too much pressure on your shoulders. Place your hands under your shoulders, and your elbows should be at 45 degrees at your body's side.

Benefits of Decline Push-Ups

shirtless man with abs, woman flexing her arm muscles

Builds Strong Upper-Chest Muscles

Decline push-ups are a functional exercise that trains your pec major muscles (pectoralis major) for the pushing motions you encounter daily. It helps you perform daily tasks more efficiently and with reduced risks of injury.

Having strong pecs contributes to the overall strength of your upper body, which you need to improve your ability to push things like a heavy barbell, a shopping cart, or a couch.

Improves Shoulder Health

Shoulder training exercises improve posture and strengthen the shoulder muscles around the joints [1]. With decline push-ups, you get to work your shoulder blades, which is essential for shoulder health.

Engages the Entire Core

Having a ripped and strong core goes beyond the six-pack abs; it has ripple effects that improve your life's overall quality.

“Having a strong core is crucial for better posture, better balance, and moving around with more ease. It helps you feel a whole lot better.”- Laura Pachnos, Instructor at Solidcore and Yoga and Pilates Teacher

Are You Going to Include Decline Push-Ups to Your Routine?

Whether you want to tweak your push-up position or work up your upper pecs muscles more, decline push-ups can do the work.

Decline push-ups are a great way to challenge yourself, increase your upper body’s power, and fire up your core.

One of the perks of this exercise is that you get to modify it according to your experience or fitness level.

Ready to incorporate decline push-ups in your sessions? Make sure to tell us what you think and your experience in the comments.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5857441/

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