Getting the body you want takes time and dedication, so if you have a busy schedule, you might want to find some nifty little exercise you can do when you can't hit the gym -- such as decline push-ups. You don't have to go anywhere besides your living room to do decline push-ups. All you need is an exercise ball or something to rest your feet on while you do your push-ups (hence the "decline"), and you can work a number of muscles without any sophisticated equipment. The decline push-up doesn't work every muscle in your body, but it's sure to help you tone and strengthen your chest, upper arms, shoulders and lower back.
Don't be surprised if you have a sore chest after performing decline push-ups, as the primary target of this exercise is the pectoralis major. This muscle is a large one that spans across your chest and working it can help tone and tighten your upper body. Strengthening your chest muscles also supports strong arm movements, as the pectoralis major drives internal rotation, extension and adduction of your shoulder joint, which helps move your arms in different directions. By doing decline push-ups you are strengthening your pectorals like you would with the bench press or incline dumbbell fly.
If you're looking for tight, strong, no-sag arms, the decline push-up can help. That's because this exercise helps tone your triceps, the large muscles on the back of your upper arm. In addition to promoting a slim, sexy appearance for your arms, working your triceps with the decline push-up can give you more strength for everything from carrying kids to hammering nails to throwing a Frisbee. Your decline push-ups have you working your triceps just like you would with regular pushups or triceps pushdowns.
Another group of muscles that assist in shouldering the burden of the decline push-ups are the deltoids, which are located in your shoulders. Working your deltoids can help provide strength for lifting, carrying and throwing, whether during your daily chores or athletic activities. By doing your decline push-ups you're strengthening your deltoids like you would with the dumbbell overhead press, lateral raises or bench press.
Adding the decline push-up to your workouts can also help strengthen and tone your biceps. Your biceps play a different role than most of the other muscles in the exercise, as they stabilize your body rather than provide the force to move your body up and down. The biceps help prevent against extraneous side-to-side movement so you can focus your muscles on doing the pushing. When doing your decline push-ups, you're strengthening your biceps like you would with barbell and dumbbell curls.
As with your biceps, your erector spinae -- located in your lower back -- provides a stabilizing function while you perform the decline push-up. This muscle helps keep your back from sagging down during the exercise, which would throw off your form and could make the exercise more difficult. Your decline push-ups have you working your lower back just like you would by doing barbell rows and lat pull-downs.
Brian Willett began writing in 2005. He has been published in the "Buffalo News," the "Daytona Times" and "Natural Muscle Magazine." Willett also writes for Bloginity.com and Bodybuilding.com. He is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer and earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of North Carolina.