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The decline pushup takes your traditional pushup and makes it more of an upper-body exercise. This move requires no additional equipment other than a bench or a step. While the decline pushup mainly targets muscles in your chest, it brings in nearly half a dozen other muscles for assistance and stabilization.
The decline pushup and the traditional pushup put your shoulder joint through the same motion. The elevation of your feet puts more emphasis on your chest and arm muscles than the traditional pushup, which uses more abdominal muscles. During the lowering portion of the decline pushup, your shoulder joint goes through transverse extension. This happens when you move the upper portion of your arm away from your chest while your elbows are out to the sides. The reverse, transverse flexion, occurs when you push back up.
As you lower toward the ground with the decline pushup, your pectoralis major with the clavicle head reaps most of the benefits. This muscle makes up the upper part of your chest or pecs. It starts in the medial half of your clavicle and stretches diagonally down and out before inserting into your humerus. Its primary responsibility is moving your shoulder joint through a range of motions. This includes flexing, extending, rotating and adducting your shoulder.
Three muscles in your chest and arms assist your pectoralis major to complete the decline pushup. Without these muscles, you wouldn't be able to do this move. Your pectoralis major with the sternal head assists with moving your shoulder joint. This muscle makes up your lower pecs and runs from your sternum and second through sixth ribs before inserting into your humerus. Your anterior deltoid, also called your front delt, assists with transverse flexion. Your tricep muscles help straighten your elbow joint as you push back up.
Several muscles contract during the decline pushup to help stabilize joints. Your biceps work double duty during the decline pushup; they assist with flexing your elbow and with transverse flexion of your shoulder. In your spine, your erector spinae, which runs from the base of your skull down to the lower portions of your spine at your sacrum, helps stabilize your spine and neck throughout all parts of the move.