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An incline pushup is a relatively simple body weight exercise that primarily works the pectoral muscles. In addition to the sternal component of the pectoralis major, incline pushups also target the clavicular pectoralis major, triceps and biceps. To perform this exercise, all you need is a bench or support beam, making them easy to perform just about anywhere.
Incline pushups are performed from a more upright position than regular pushups, allowing for the legs to support a greater percentage of your body weight. Because less strain is placed on the upper body, incline pushups are much simpler than regular ones. Use incline pushups to build the foundational strength needed in the chest, arms and shoulders to perform regular pushups later on in your fitness routine.
All you need to perform incline pushups is a bench, bed, staircase, exercise ball or other support beam. Therefore, this exercise is ideal if you can't make it to the gym or are on the road. Incline pushups target the exact same muscles as an incline lever press machine, so you can effectively substitute these exercises when needed. Although a lever press machine allows for much greater loads, you can wear a weight vest or backpack to increase the difficulty of the incline pushup.
Unlike incline lever press machines, which support most of your body weight, incline pushups require the smaller stabilizer muscles in the shoulders and back to engage and maintain posture throughout the exercise. These muscles are critical to supporting joints and preventing injuries. Incline pushups are also effective for building general strength and endurance in the upper body.
Like other body weight exercises, it's easy to vary your training goals with incline pushups. Perform sets of 12 or more repetitions with just your body weight to build endurance. Wear a backpack or weight vest and perform sets of three to five repetitions at a high velocity to build explosive power. Or, add a heavier weight vest and perform sets of one to three repetitions to build maximum strength. According to strength and conditioning specialist Juan Carlos Santana, body weight exercises allow for more creativity and have greater transference to real-life activities than machine exercises.