Did you know that having strong chest muscles is important for a wide range of everyday activities? Whether you’re carrying groceries or playing sports, you rely on your chest muscles more than you may realize!
To make sure you’re getting the most out of your workouts, it’s essential to include chest exercises in your routine. The chest press is one of the most popular and effective exercises for building chest muscles, but the question is: which version is best – the incline or flat bench chest press?
Well, the truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. It really depends on your personal preferences, goals, and what you’re looking to achieve.
The incline bench press is a popular exercise among gym-goers and bodybuilders, especially those looking to sculpt a killer chest. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of the incline bench press, including how to perform it, its benefits, and some common mistakes to avoid.
What is the Incline Bench Press?
The incline bench press is a variation of the traditional bench press. As the name suggests, it involves pressing a weighted barbell while lying on a bench set at an incline angle. This slight incline targets the upper chest muscles, specifically the clavicular head of the pectoralis major muscle, which is responsible for creating the appearance of a full and defined chest. Additionally, the incline bench press engages the shoulders and triceps to a lesser extent, making it a versatile exercise that targets multiple muscle groups at once.
Muscles Worked Or Effect of Bench Angle on Muscular Activation During Bench Press Exercise
A 2015 study compared the muscle activation of the pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, and triceps brachii during different angles of free-weight barbell bench press. Fourteen healthy resistance-trained males participated in the study, performing one set of six repetitions for each bench press condition.
Surface electromyography (sEMG) was used to examine the muscular activation during the eccentric and concentric phases of the bench press. The study found that a horizontal bench press resulted in the greatest muscular activation of both the upper and lower heads of the pectoralis.
However, a bench incline angle of 30° or 45° resulted in greater muscular activation during certain time points. Therefore, it is important to consider how muscular activation is affected at various time points when selecting bench press exercises.
How to Perform the Incline Bench Press
Before you start, make sure you have the right equipment. You’ll need a bench set to an incline angle, a barbell, and weight plates. Start with a weight that is comfortable for you, and gradually increase it over time as you become more comfortable with the exercise.
- Adjust the Bench
Adjust the bench to a slight incline angle, usually between 30 and 45 degrees. Make sure the bench is stable and secure before you start.
- Lie Down on the Bench
Lie down on the bench with your feet firmly on the ground and your back flat against the bench. Make sure your head and neck are also comfortably supported.
- Grasp the Barbell
Grasp the barbell with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip, and lift it off the rack. Hold the barbell with your palms facing away from your body and your wrists in a neutral position.
- Lower the Barbell
Slowly lower the barbell to your chest, keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your back flat against the bench. Don’t bounce the weight off your chest, and avoid arching your back.
- Press the Barbell
Press the barbell back up to the starting position, exhaling as you lift the weight. Keep your movements controlled and avoid locking out your elbows at the top of the lift.
Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, usually between 8-12 reps for 3-4 sets.
Benefits of the Incline Bench Press
The incline bench press is an effective exercise that targets the upper chest muscles, making it a great choice for anyone looking to build a more defined and aesthetically pleasing chest. It also helps to increase overall upper body strength, which is useful for sports performance, functional strength, and overall health and fitness.
Another benefit of the incline bench press is that it engages the anterior deltoids or the front part of your shoulders. This can help to improve your overall shoulder strength and stability, which is important for activities such as throwing, pushing, and pulling.
The incline bench press also recruits the triceps muscles, which are important for overall arm strength and aesthetics. By including the incline bench press in your workout routine, you can help to develop stronger, more defined triceps.
Comparing the Effects of Horizontal and Incline Bench Press on Neuromuscular Adaptations in Untrained Young Men
A study published in the International Journal Of Exercise Science investigated the effects of horizontal and incline bench press exercises, as well as a combination of both, on neuromuscular adaptation in untrained young men. The study involved 47 untrained men who were randomly assigned to three groups: horizontal bench press group, incline bench press group, and a combination group.
The training was conducted once a week for eight weeks, with equalized number of sets among groups. The results of the study showed that both horizontal and incline bench press exercises, as well as a combination of both, can render similar changes in general strength. However, the incline bench press exercise showed the greatest changes in muscle thickness in the second intercostal space of the pectoralis major.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Like any exercise, it’s important to perform the incline bench press correctly to avoid injury and get the most benefit. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:
- Using Too Much Weight
Don’t be tempted to use too much weight when you’re first starting out. Start with a weight that feels comfortable, and gradually increase it over time as you become more comfortable with the exercise.
- Arching Your Back
Another common mistake is to arch your back as you lower the weight. This not only reduces the effectiveness of the exercise but also puts unnecessary strain on your lower back, increasing the risk of injury. To avoid this, keep your core engaged throughout the exercise, and focus on maintaining a neutral spine.
- Bouncing the Weight
Bouncing the weight off your chest is another common mistake to avoid. This not only reduces the effectiveness of the exercise but also increases the risk of injury. Instead, lower the weight slowly and under control, and pause for a moment at the bottom of the movement before pressing the weight back up.
- Using the Wrong Grip
Using the wrong grip can also reduce the effectiveness of the exercise and increase the risk of injury. Make sure to grip the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and keep your wrists in a neutral position throughout the exercise.
- Neglecting Warm-Up Sets
Finally, neglecting warm-up sets is another common mistake to avoid. Before you start your working sets, make sure to perform 1-2 warm-up sets using lighter weights to help prepare your muscles and joints for the heavier weights to come.
Best Alternatives To Incline Bench Press
We have covered in detail, the top 8 incline bench press alternatives you can do at home in one of the articles we published earlier, please check it out.
Incorporating the Incline Bench Press into Your Workout Routine
If you’re looking to build a more defined and aesthetically pleasing chest, then the incline bench press is a great exercise to incorporate into your workout routine. Try adding it to your chest workout routine once or twice a week, starting with 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.
You can also vary the incline angle to target different parts of the upper chest. For example, a lower incline angle of 30 degrees will target the upper part of the chest, while a higher incline angle of 45 degrees will target the middle part of the chest.
The incline bench press is an effective exercise that targets the upper chest muscles, making it a great choice for anyone looking to build a more defined and aesthetically pleasing chest. It also engages the shoulders and triceps to a lesser extent, making it a versatile exercise that targets multiple muscle groups at once.
Remember to avoid common mistakes such as using too much weight, arching your back, bouncing the weight, using the wrong grip, and neglecting warm-up sets.
With proper form and technique, the incline bench press can help you build a stronger, more defined chest, and improve your overall upper body strength and aesthetics. So why not give it a try and see the results for yourself?
Rahul is a sports and performance consultant. Over the course of his 15-year career in the fitness sector, he has held positions as a strength and conditioning instructor, gym owner, and consultant.
He is deeply committed to assisting people in finding happiness and feeling good about themselves.
Rahul has a master’s degree in exercise science and is a certified NSCA CSCS and CISSN.