15 Benefits of the Incline / Decline Bench
updated October 5, 2018
What does a decline bench press do? What is the difference between incline and decline bench? People have been asking these questions for as long as this type of equipment has existed. The bottom line is this: the difference between the incline and decline bench is in the muscle groups they target. If you want a big, bulky upper body profile do incline presses. If you want the sharp line of demarcation undercutting your pecs ala bodybuilders, do decline presses. If you want a balanced appearance it’s not a matter of incline vs decline bench: do both.
15 Benefits of Inclining and Declining Benches
Both types of bench deliver their own benefits. If you want a balanced appearance you won’t be doing one without doing the other and you’ll mix in some weight bench leg exercises too. So here, in no particular order, are 15 benefits delivered by decline and incline benches.
Benefits of a Decline Bench
1. Increase activation of the pecs
Pressing on a decline bench shifts stress from the shoulder to the pecs which promotes their development and contributes to better definition.
2. Lift more weight
Lifting at a declining angle stimulates muscle fiber to a greater degree than flat presses allowing you to build additional bulk and lift larger amounts.
3. Muscle Beach here we come
The declining bench press activates the lower pecs and helps create size and definition across the base of the chest mass ala classic Charles Atlas pics.
4. Reduce lower back stress
Arching the back during a standard bench press can create incredible and unnatural stresses on the lower back. One of the benefits of a decline bench is that much of this stress is alleviated.
5. Reduce shoulder pain
The other half of activating your pecs as mentioned above is reducing stress on your shoulders. A decline bench will remove most of the shoulder motion that causes pain on a flat bench and redirect the force to the pecs where it can do some good.
6. Increase versatility
Moving your hands just a bit will shift the focus to other muscle groups and allow you to broaden the impact of your workout with minimal effort.
7. Take your shoulders out of the mix
Shoulder mobility can interfere with weighted dips but is a non-issue when working off a declining bench.
8. Get the most out of your effort
Muscle activation has been shown to increase significantly with the decline vs flat bench press. So if you want to get the most bang for your exercise buck, tip the bench down.
Benefits of Incline Bench Press
9. Mass, mass, mass
When deciding between the incline bench press or flat bench press remember the inclined will activate your upper pecs better. If what you’re after is a classic Arnie-type upper body you’ll want to hit the incline bench hard and keep at it.
10. The other way to relieve stress on the back
As with the decline, one of the main benefits of the incline bench is that it will remove stress from your lower back; the kind produced when doing presses on a flat surface.
11. It’s a nice break
It’s important not to burn out mentally during a routine. Your mind plays such an enormous role in your ability to exercise effectively that you need to respect that and give it a break from the monotony of the flat bench every once in a while.
12. Build extra muscle
The extra muscle mass you add on either an incline or decline bench can be put to use when you hit the flat bench again.
13. Develop greater focus
Heightened awareness of particular groups of muscles involved in bench press is an important benefit of working on an incline bench. Better understanding your body and how it works will help you in many ways going forward.
14. Work otherwise underutilized muscles
The incline bench press not only works the upper clavicular pecs but gives plenty of work to the delts as well.
15. Balance, balance, balance
Who wants a bottom heavy chest? Make sure you balance any work you do on the decline bench with work on the incline bench in order to achieve a more natural shape to your upper body.
The Correct Angle for Incline vs Decline Bench Press
The higher the incline press angle the more you’ll be engaging your shoulders in the lifting process which can lead to shoulder strain/pain if you overdo it. Likewise the flatter you go the more you engage your lower back which can lead to strains in that area. To start, many advise a middle of the road angle of about 30 degrees to balance the muscles used when bench pressing on an angled bench. Once you acclimate you can vary things a few degrees this way or that depending on the versatility of your equipment.
With your decline bench press form it’s largely the same. You don’t need to set your bench to an extreme angle in order to enjoy the benefit of the decline bench press. Common settings are anywhere from 15 to 45 degrees with 45 being somewhat on the extreme side. Remember the more extreme the angle the busier your brain will be trying to keep everything in balance. You want a quiet mind while lifting so stay away from the extreme angles and enjoy yourself.
If you're interested in getting a weight bench for your personal home gym check out our massive guide here. If you want to learn more about the differences between the different types of benches you can learn about ab sit up benches here. For our review on the Fitness Gear Utility bench click here. All information in the mentioned articles is up to date for 2016.