Incline Push Up - The Only Way To Do It For Superior Results [Unique Benefits]
The incline push up is one of the most underutilized chest and triceps builders in the weighted calisthenics community today!
Calisthenics athletes are a funny bunch; they forget their bread and butter, chasing after circus tricks instead of paying their dues.
The incline push up is touted as a beginner variation of the push up. And rightly so, it is a wonderful way to get people accustomed to the physics of the exercise.
But, the incline push up can be used to build unrivaled upper body strength as well.
Especially for those who cannot do dips!
What’s the trick you ask? Read on to find out!
Benefits Of The Incline Push Up – And How To Reap Them!
The benefits of the incline push up are as follows
- Beginner friendly exercise that can be progressively overloaded – As I stated before, the incline push up is a beginner friendly exercise. This is because the incline push up reduces the amount of bodyweight being pushed up. The angle of inclination of the push up is what matters and people of varying fitness levels can be taught this movement very easily. In fact, the exercise gradually progressively overloaded up to the point where the athlete is performing weighted incline pushups! Check out my incline push up progression video below.
- Moves the entire body through space – As with any calisthenics movement, the push up moves the entire body through space. The benefits of moving the body through space is the involvement of more muscle mass. The more muscle mass you work during a movement, the stronger you become. Push ups also include a full body stabilization aspect that the bench press cannot emulate! The incline push up, when loaded works the abs and the spinal erectors in loaded isometric contraction, along with the quads, the serratus anterior and stabilizing muscles of the back!
- Works a horizontal pushing pattern with the feet placed firmly on the ground – On the field, or in real life, pushing against objects is done with the feet firmly placed on the ground. There are only 2 pushing exercises that can emulate this phenomenon. And only one of these exercises is considered a calisthenics exercise. The first exercise, the non-calisthenics one is the standing barbell overhead press and its variations. It has been used for ages to build real world pushing strength. The calisthenics alternative of the barbell overhead press is the handstand pushup! And however much we love this movement, however much we want it to be a functional movement with real world strength implications, it simply is not! There is never a time when we are standing on our hands in real life. So what are “pure” calisthenics practioners left with? Well the answer is obvious isn’t it. The weighted inclined push up!
But the biggest question is how do we reap these wonderful benefits?
I’m glad you asked!
How To Perform The Exercise For Maximum Gains
In order to reap the unique benefits of the incline push up, you must do the following:
- Utilize Full Range Of Motion – The main criticism I have with the weighted incline push up is that it is usually performed on a stable, horizontally laid out surfaces like barbells in racks, or a high concrete step etc. Performing the incline push up or any push up on horizontal flat surfaces restricts range of motion! This means that you are moving your muscles through a shorter range of motion, thus leaving gains on the table. So what’s the solution to this problem?
Gymnastics rings! Gymnastics add just the right amount of instability to the incline push up that makes the exercise comparable to a dumbbell bench press. The fact that the movement can be loaded with a dipping belt makes it comparable to the bench press (with the ability to micro load plates). What’s more it the ring also provide that extra bit of range of motion that allows you to eek out that much more from every repetition! They’re the perfect tool for this exercise!
- Pause at the bottom of each rep – Now that you’ve added weight and are using the gymnastics ring for added range of motion, its time to make the exercise just a bit stricter. You see, using rings also allow you to utilize what it known as a stretch reflex at the bottom of the movement. This stretch reflex can be used to spring back up from the bottom of the puh up, but it can be dangerous when done on the rings. In order to keep the movement as strict as possible, pause for a 1 count at the bottom of the movement before pushing back up again.
- Squeeze the shoulder blades, glutes and abs while performing the exercise – The incline weighted ring push up is an exercise that keeps on giving. To get even more out of the exercise (apart from what I’ve already mentioned), you must consciously activate your stabilizer muscles! This means, squeezing the glutes, the abs and the quads, while keeping a neutral spine throughout the movement. Doing so will not only build these muscles through the compounding effect, but will also allow you to move bigger weights!
- Add weight – The number one thing you must do to build muscle is to progressively overload an exercise. This means you have to keep making the exercise harder for the muscles being worked to perform! This is why I love the incline push up, it is extremely easy to progressively overload. Simply get yourself a dipping belt (staple piece of equipment in my kit) and add weight to the exercise. This variation of the push up lends itself extremely well to dipping belts, that it would be foolish to ignore. The inclination allows the plates to lower and rise without any disruption due to the nature of the exercise. If you want to build a thick chest, big triceps and round front delts, load up the exercise as heavy as you can execute with proper form and go to town!
How To Perform Incline Push Ups
If you’ve never done push ups before then fret not, this guide will help you perform the perfect incline push up.
In order to perform the incline push up, all you will need is an elevated surface. The higher the elevation, the easier the push up is going to be and vice-versa.
If you haven’t gotten yourself a pair a gymnastics rings by now, go straight ahead and get one! While incline push ups can be done on a bench, rings provide unmatched versatility. The rings themselves will allow you to change the elevation of the push up as you progress.
To perform the incline push up:
- Place your hands on an elevated surface, with your grip about shoulder width apart.
- Straighten your torso out such that you are keeping a neutral spine.
- Squeeze your glutes and quads.
- Retract and depress your scapula – That is; Pinch your shoulder blades together and “aim to put them in your back pocket”.
- Take a deep breath into your belly and squeeze your abdominal muscles.
- Lower yourself till your chest reaches your palms.
- Push straight back up, keeping everything mentioned above “tight”.
Incline Push Up Muscles Worked
Mostly lower chest, shoulders, triceps, abs, lower back, quads and glutes in isometric contraction,
In most circles, the incline push up is said to work the muscles of the upper chest, but in my experience, this isn’t really accurate. In fact, this exercise is much line the bench press, in that it builds all heads of the chest. Depending on how you angle your arms, you can also make this exercise an upper chest workout.
Therefore, depending on the angle of inclination, the incline push up primarily builds the muscles of the chest, shoulders and triceps. While also working several other muscles of the body – the upper, middle and lower back, the muscles of the hips, the legs as well as the muscles of the abdominal wall.
Alternatives to the Incline push up
The incline push up is an excellent triceps builder when performed on the rings with a close grip, by keeping the rings as close to the torso as possible! It can also be used to build a massive chest by taking a slightly wider grip on the rings.
But, in my opinion, it is best left as a triceps builder. For the ultimate alternate to the incline push up, the dip cannot be beat!
To learn more about the dip, read my article here.
The incline push up is the most basic push up variant out there! But, with the modifications mentioned above it can be turned into a serious mass builder!
Whether you’re a beginner or not, this must be a staple in your muscle and strength building arsenal!