The incline bench press is often heavily overlooked, with most turning to its much more famous cousin; the flat bench press.
However, there is a lot more than meets the eye with the incline bench press, and as you are going to find out, incorporating this exercise into your routine could just accelerate your chest, tricep, and shoulder growth.
Let’s dive right into it and take a look at how to perform the incline bench press, the benefits that come from this exercise, and some expert tips to help you along the way.
Incline Bench Press Overview
The incline bench press is a popular variation of the bench press exercise that primarily targets the upper chest muscles.
By adjusting the angle of the bench, you shift the emphasis from the middle and lower chest to the upper chest and shoulders.
This bench press variation is often overshadowed by the flat bench, but there are actually a variety of reasons why the incline bench press may actually be superior to the flat bench in some ways.
This is why the incline bench press is usually used by experienced lifters – it’s not usually an exercise that beginners start out with, but most come to realise how useful it can be with experience and training.
That’s not to say that the incline bench press isn’t a good choice for beginners, it’s just not as well-known as the flat bench, meaning fewer people are going to include it in their routine.
While we will go in-depth into what the incline bench press offers later on in this article, the main focal points are its ability to hit the shoulders much more than other bench press variations, and it can be a great accessory to improve flat bench if you have hit a plateau.
Incline Bench Press Instructions
How to Do the Incline Barbell Bench Press
Step 1 — Set Your Base
To begin the incline barbell bench press, adjust the bench to an incline angle of around 45 degrees.
Sit on the bench and position yourself with your feet flat on the floor, firmly planted for stability.
Ensure your back is supported against the bench throughout the exercise.
Step 2 — Find Your Grip
Grasp the barbell with an overhand grip that is slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
Your palms should be facing forward, and your wrists should be straight, not bent.
This grip width allows for optimal engagement of the chest muscles and provides stability during the movement.
Step 3 — Pull the Bar Down with Control
With the barbell positioned above your chest, take a deep breath, and engage your core.
Lower the barbell in a controlled manner towards the upper part of your chest. Focus on keeping your elbows slightly flared out, maintaining tension in your chest muscles as you descend.
Keep your shoulder blades retracted and squeezed together to stabilize your upper back.
Step 4 — Push the Bar Up
Once the barbell reaches the bottom position, pause for a brief moment and then push it back up to the starting position.
Exhale as you exert force through your chest muscles and extend your arms. Maintain control throughout the movement, avoiding any bouncing or jerking motions.
Incline Bench Press Video Exercise Guide
Incline Bench Press Tips
Warm-Up Properly: Before diving into heavy lifting, it’s crucial to warm up your muscles and prepare your body for the workout ahead. Perform some light cardio exercises to increase blood flow and dynamic stretches to loosen up your upper body. This helps prevent injuries and primes your muscles for better performance.
Choose the Right Incline Angle: Adjust the bench to an incline angle that suits your goals and comfort. Generally, an incline angle of around 45 degrees is ideal for targeting the upper chest muscles. However, feel free to experiment with different angles to find the one that feels most effective for you.
Maintain Proper Form: Form is crucial in any exercise, and the incline bench press is no exception. Ensure your back is firmly supported against the bench throughout the movement. Keep your feet planted firmly on the ground, maintaining stability and a solid base. Engage your core muscles to maintain stability and proper alignment.
Find the Right Grip: Experiment with different grip widths to find what feels most comfortable and effective for you. A slightly wider grip than shoulder-width apart is commonly used in the incline bench press. Ensure your wrists are straight and aligned with your forearms, allowing for proper force transfer and minimizing strain on your joints.
Control the Descent: As you lower the barbell or dumbbells towards your upper chest, focus on maintaining control and a slow, controlled descent. Avoid bouncing the weight off your chest or allowing it to drop too quickly. This controlled movement ensures proper muscle engagement and reduces the risk of injury.
Push with Power: When pushing the weight back up, focus on exerting force through your chest muscles and driving the weight upward. Exhale as you extend your arms, maintaining control throughout the movement. Avoid locking out your elbows at the top of the motion to keep tension on the muscles.
Gradually Increase the Weight: As you become more comfortable and stronger with the incline bench press, gradually increase the weight to continue challenging your muscles. However, always prioritize maintaining proper form and technique over lifting excessively heavy weights. Quality repetitions are more effective than sheer quantity.
Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to how your body feels during the exercise. If you experience any pain or discomfort, stop and reassess your form or decrease the weight. It’s essential to push yourself, but not at the expense of your safety or risking injury. Be mindful of your body’s limits and adjust accordingly.
Incline vs. Flat Bench: What’s Best for Your Chest?
When it comes to training your chest muscles, both the incline bench press and flat bench press have their merits.
Let’s explore the differences and benefits of each exercise to help you decide which one is best for your chest development.
Incline Bench Presses
The incline bench press is a fantastic exercise for targeting the upper portion of your chest, along with your shoulders and triceps.
By adjusting the bench to an incline angle, typically around 45 degrees, you shift the focus to the upper chest muscles. This variation helps create a more well-rounded chest development, giving your upper chest a lift and a fuller appearance.
Performing the incline bench press is similar to the flat bench press, but the angle change alters the muscle engagement.
The incline bench press places more emphasis on the clavicular head of the pectoralis major, the upper chest muscle. Additionally, it engages the front deltoids (shoulders) and triceps to a greater extent compared to the flat bench press.
Incline Bench Press vs. Flat Bench Press
The incline bench press and flat bench press target different areas of your chest.
The incline bench press primarily focuses on the upper chest, while the flat bench press emphasizes the middle and lower chest muscles.
To achieve a well-developed and balanced chest, incorporating both exercises into your routine can be beneficial.
Incline Chest Press, Step By Step
- Set the bench at an incline of around 45 degrees.
- Sit on the bench and ensure your feet are planted firmly on the floor for stability.
- Grasp the barbell with an overhand grip that is slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Lower the barbell in a controlled manner towards the upper part of your chest, keeping your elbows slightly flared out.
- Pause briefly at the bottom position and then push the barbell back up to the starting position, exhaling as you exert force through your chest muscles and extend your arms.
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, maintaining proper form and control throughout the exercise.
Flat Bench Presses
The flat bench press is a classic exercise that targets the entire chest, along with the shoulders and triceps.
It involves lying flat on a bench and pressing a barbell or dumbbells horizontally away from your chest.
The flat bench press primarily works the sternal head of the pectoralis major, which contributes to the middle and lower chest development.
Flat Bench Chest Press, Step By Step
- Lie flat on a bench with your feet planted firmly on the floor.
- Grasp the barbell or dumbbells with an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Lower the weight to your chest, keeping your elbows at a 90-degree angle.
- Pause briefly at the bottom position, and then push the weight back up to the starting position, exhaling as you extend your arms.
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, maintaining proper form and control throughout the exercise.
Before engaging in any exercise, including the incline bench press, it’s important to prioritize safety to prevent injuries and ensure a productive workout. Here are some safety precautions to keep in mind when performing the incline bench press:
Start with a Proper Warm-Up: Warm-up exercises help increase blood flow to the muscles, enhance flexibility, and prepare your body for the upcoming workout. Incorporate dynamic stretches and light cardio activities to warm up your upper body, specifically targeting the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
Use Proper Equipment: Ensure that you have a sturdy and well-maintained incline bench and a secure barbell or dumbbells. Check for any loose parts or damages before starting your exercise. If using a barbell, make sure the weight plates are securely fastened with collars.
Use Spotter or Safety Pins: If possible, have a spotter assist you during your incline bench press sets. A spotter can provide assistance if the weight becomes too challenging or help you rerack the barbell safely. Alternatively, if using a power rack or Smith machine, set the safety pins at an appropriate height to catch the barbell in case you cannot complete a repetition.
Start with a Manageable Weight: Especially if you’re new to the incline bench press or returning after a break, it’s important to start with a weight that you can comfortably handle. Focus on mastering your form and gradually increase the weight as you become more confident and stronger.
Maintain Proper Form: Proper form is crucial for both effectiveness and safety. Keep your feet flat on the floor, your back supported against the bench, and your core engaged throughout the exercise. Avoid arching your back excessively or using momentum to lift the weight.
Benefits of the Incline Barbell Bench Press
Add More Upper Body Muscle
One of the main incline bench press benefits is the fact that it is a great muscle builder.
The incline bench press targets the upper portion of your chest, specifically the clavicular head of the pectoralis major, as well as the shoulders and triceps.
By incorporating this exercise into your routine, you can effectively develop and sculpt your upper chest muscles, adding depth and definition to your physique.
Isolate the Upper Chest More
Compared to the traditional flat bench press, the incline bench press places more emphasis on the upper chest.
This targeted focus helps create a more balanced and aesthetic chest development.
Increase Upper Body Pressing Strength and Athletic Performance
The incline bench press not only improves the appearance of your chest but also enhances your overall upper body strength.
By regularly performing this exercise, you can increase your pressing strength, which translates to improved performance in other exercises and daily activities that involve pushing movements.
Engage the Shoulders and Triceps
In addition to the upper chest, the incline bench press also activates the anterior deltoids (front shoulders) and triceps to a significant degree. This exercise effectively works multiple muscle groups, providing comprehensive upper body stimulation.
Variety and Muscle Confusion
Incorporating the incline bench press into your training routine adds variety to your workouts. Introducing new exercises helps prevent plateauing and keeps your muscles challenged, promoting continuous growth and development.
Muscles Worked by the Incline Barbell Bench Press
The incline barbell bench press primarily targets the upper portion of the chest, known as the clavicular head of the pectoralis major.
This muscle group is responsible for the vertical and horizontal adduction of the shoulder joint, meaning it helps bring the upper arm toward the midline of the body.
Front (Anterior) Deltoids
The anterior deltoids, which are the front portion of the shoulder muscles, play a significant role in the incline bench press.
As you push the barbell upward, the front deltoids contract to assist in shoulder flexion, contributing to the pressing motion.
The triceps brachii muscles, located on the back of the upper arm, are also engaged during the incline bench press.
They act as synergists, supporting the chest and shoulders in extending the elbow joint during the pushing motion.
Who Should Do the Incline Barbell Bench Press
Strongman Athletes and Powerlifters
Strongman athletes and powerlifters can benefit greatly from incline barbell bench pressing.
Strengthening the upper chest and shoulders can enhance pressing strength and stability during events like log lifts, axle presses, and bench presses.
The incline bench press helps build the necessary upper body power and stability required in these disciplines.
Olympic weightlifters often rely on explosive upper body strength to execute movements like the clean and jerk or the snatch.
The incline bench press can assist in developing the necessary upper body pressing power, which complements their overall strength and performance in these lifts.
CrossFit is known for its varied and high-intensity workouts that test athletes’ overall fitness.
The incline bench press can be a valuable exercise for CrossFit athletes as it targets the upper body muscles, enhancing strength and power in pushing movements.
It also provides variety to their training routine, helping them achieve a well-rounded fitness profile.
The incline barbell bench press is not just limited to athletes; it can benefit regular gymgoers as well.
Including this exercise in your routine helps build a strong and aesthetically pleasing upper chest.
It also aids in developing overall upper body strength, promoting muscle balance and symmetry.
Incline Barbell Bench Press Sets and Reps
To Build Muscle Mass
If your primary goal is to build muscle mass, incorporating higher volume sets can be effective. Aim for 3-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions per set.
Select a weight that challenges you but allows you to maintain proper form throughout each set.
This rep range promotes hypertrophy, the process of muscle growth, by placing a sufficient amount of stress on your muscles.
To Increase Strength
If your focus is on increasing your strength and power, lower rep ranges with heavier weights are more suitable.
Perform 3-5 sets of 4-6 repetitions per set.
This rep range encourages neuromuscular adaptations, allowing your body to become more efficient in recruiting muscle fibers and generating force.
Choose a weight that challenges you while still allowing you to maintain proper technique.
Incline Barbell Bench Press Variations
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
The incline bench press dumbbell is a popular variation that offers several advantages. It engages each side of your body independently, improving muscle imbalances and promoting stabilizer muscle activation.
To perform this exercise, lie on an incline bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Lower the dumbbells to the sides of your upper chest, then press them back up while maintaining control and proper form.
Single-Arm Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
The single-arm incline dumbbell bench press provides a unilateral training stimulus, challenging your core stability and balance.
Lie on an incline bench with a single dumbbell in one hand.
Lower the dumbbell to the side of your upper chest, then press it back up while maintaining control. Repeat on the other side.
Tempo Incline Bench Press
The tempo incline bench press focuses on the speed at which you perform the exercise. By manipulating the tempo, you can increase time under tension, stimulate different muscle fibers, and enhance muscle control.
For example, you can perform a 3-second eccentric (lowering) phase, pause for 1 second at the bottom, and then press the barbell explosively.
This tempo variation adds an extra challenge to your workouts and promotes muscle adaptation.
Incline Barbell Bench Press Alternatives
Flat Bench Press
The flat bench press is a classic exercise that targets the entire chest, as well as the triceps and shoulders.
It’s a fundamental movement for building overall upper body strength and muscle mass. To perform the flat bench press, lie flat on a bench with a barbell at arm’s length above you.
Lower the barbell to your chest, then press it back up while maintaining control and proper form. This exercise allows you to lift heavier weights compared to the incline bench press, promoting overall strength development.
Seated Shoulder Press
The seated shoulder press, also known as the military press, primarily targets the shoulders, but it also engages the triceps and upper chest.
This exercise helps develop shoulder strength and stability, which is crucial for various pressing movements.
Sit on a bench with a barbell or dumbbells at shoulder level. Press the weight overhead while keeping your core engaged and maintaining proper form.
The seated shoulder press can be a valuable alternative for those looking to prioritize shoulder development.
Incline Close Grip Dumbbell Bench Press
The incline close grip dumbbell bench press shifts the focus to the triceps while still engaging the chest and shoulders.
It’s a great exercise for developing triceps strength and size. Set up on an incline bench and hold a pair of dumbbells with a close grip.
Lower the dumbbells to your upper chest, then press them back up while maintaining control and proper form. This variation targets the triceps more directly than the traditional incline bench press.
Decline Bench Press
The decline bench press places more emphasis on the lower portion of the chest. It targets the sternal head of the pectoralis major, providing a different stimulus compared to the incline bench press.
Lie on a decline bench with a barbell at arm’s length above you. Lower the barbell to your lower chest, then press it back up while maintaining control and proper form.
The decline bench press is an excellent option for individuals looking to develop the lower chest muscles.
Learn to Do The Incline Barbell Bench Press For A More Complete Chest
So, there you have it.
You now know everything you need to know about the incline barbell bench press to grow your chest, shoulders, and triceps.
But just knowing how to do the incline bench press is just one part of the process – you need to put your new knowledge into action.
Do not make the same mistake as most other people and just forget about the incline bench press.
This one exercise can completely transform your physique if you build a good program around it, and you should definitely consider including it into your routine.
Incline Bench Press – FAQs
What Is The Incline Bench Press Good For?
The incline bench press is good for placing more emphasis on the upper chest and the shoulders.
In some ways, the incline bench press is a better compound exercise than the flat bench press.
Is 15 Or 30 Better For Incline Bench Press?
Most studies indicate that the best incline bench press angle is 30 degrees.
This tends to lead to better overall muscle activation and growth.
Is Incline Better Than Flat Bench?
Yes, incline is better than flat bench for some people.
The incline bench press allows you to target your upper shoulders and chest more than the traditional bench press, so if you do not already have a shoulder movement in your routine or feel like your upper chest is lacking, then incline might be better for you.
Why Is Incline Bench So Difficult?
Incline bench is so difficult because it puts more stress on your shoulders and less on your chest.
With shoulders being the smaller muscle group, this can make incline bench feel more difficult than regular bench.
Can I Do The Incline Bench Press As My Main Chest Exercise?
Yes, you can do the incline bench press as your main chest exercise.
While the incline bench press does offer slightly less stimulus for the chest, it is still more than enough to grow a big and strong upper body.
Should I Start Or End My Chest Workout With The Incline Bench Press?
Unless you are doing the flat bench in addition to the incline bench press, you should start your chest workout with the incline bench press.
The incline bench press is a compound movement that activates numerous muscle groups, meaning you will gain a much larger benefit from including it at the start of your workout.
How Do I Progress My Incline Bench Press?
The best way to progress your incline bench press is to just focus on progress overload overtime.
However, the incline bench can be a little trickier to progress than regular bench, so you might also want to begin doing accessory exercises such as shoulder presses or skull crushers.
Is There an Incline Bench Press Machine?
No, there isn’t a dedicated incline bench machine.
You can, however, use a smith machine to achieve a similar result.
How Much for Incline Bench Press Weight?
You should try to pick a weight on the incline bench press that you can do for 8-12 reps with good form for optimal muscle growth.
We hope we have been able to give you a better insight into the extraordinary exercise that is the incline bench press.
While it often gets overshadowed by other bench press variations, many experienced trainers and industry experts often cite the incline bench press as being one of the best upper body exercises, even when compared to the flat bench press.
If you would like more info about the incline bench press or you are just interested in fitness in general, go over to MovingForwards to check out or other articles.
See you next time!