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How to Do an Incline Push-Up

If You Want to Build to a Push-Up, This Is the Modification You Should Be Doing

Mastering a push-up is no easy feat. The classic bodyweight move challenges your abs and upper body all at once, and requires a tremendous amount of strength and control. While doing push-ups on your knees is a classic modification, it's not the most effective in helping you build up the strength to perform the exercise on your toes. To be honest, doing push-ups on your knees will only really help you get better at just that — doing push-ups on your knees. The best modification is one that mimics the same movement, while simultaneously activating all of the same muscle groups.

Performing negative push-ups is an ideal modification to get you to a full push-up, but can still feel challenging for beginners. If this sounds like you, opt for an incline push-up, said Austin Lopez, BS, CSCS, and personal trainer at DIAKADI. It stresses your body in the same way as a traditional push-up, but takes some of the weight out of it due to the angle.

  • Start in plank position, placing your palms on a stable surface like a wall, chair, kitchen counter, back of couch, or bench. Keep your arms and legs straight with weight on your toes, shoulders above the wrists, and core engaged.
  • Take a breath in, and as you exhale, bend your elbows out to the sides and lower your torso in one piece (it's common to leave your pelvis behind, aka sticking your butt out) toward your hands. Stop when your shoulders are in line with your elbows. Inhale and straighten your arms to return to your starting position. This counts as one rep.
  • Perform three sets of 8-12 reps.

As you become stronger and progress in the move, lower your incline until eventually you will be able to perform them parallel to the floor. If using a wall, take a step or two back to increase the angle.

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