Comparing the Different Bench Press Angles- Flat vs Decline vs Incline

Discussion in 'Training Forum' started by Custom, Jul 25, 2017.

  1. Custom

    Custom Member

    Bench press has a number of variations that can increase the intensity level and target specific muscle groups, but how do you know which variation is the best choice for you? In order to determine this you will need to compare the varying angles that can be used while you are performing this form of training. This will help you decide whether to stick with one version or change it up and use each of the variations regularly. You can choose to perform your bench presses flat, at an incline, or at a decline.

    When you compare the different bench press angles you will need to look at all of the possible benefits that each one offers, and also make a note of any drawbacks that may be included. If you have any injuries or weakened muscle groups then one or more versions of the bench press may not be right until these complications are resolved. For most weight lifters and bodybuilders each variation can help change up the muscles that are worked out though, and help you get improved results and better gains. Some of the bench press versions may target certain muscles that are not fully utilized with other variations.

    Reasons Some Prefer a Flat Bench Press
    A flat bench press is a common preference, and there are reasons for this choice. The angle chosen for your bench presses will determine which part of the chest muscles you workout, and the flat version offers an effective workout for the entire chest area. Your pectoralis major has two different heads, the sternocostal head and the clavicular head. When you perform bench presses from a flat position this works out both of the muscle heads at the same time, but neither one is targeted more than the other. That makes the flat bench press an excellent choice for overall chest development and growth. When your position is changed to an incline or a decline then this may be more effective with one of the two muscle heads but less effective with the other. A recent study performed by Barnett et al in 1995 showed that the flat bench press actually works out the lower pecs more effectively than any other variation, even though many weightlifters do not realize this.

    The Inclined Bench Press is a Popular Favorite
    The upper and lower pecs both need to be worked out completely if you want to get the best possible gains and see a larger increase in size without appearing uneven. The inclined bench press tends to target the upper pecs or clavicular head of the pectoralis major muscle group. In the study the electrical charge generated showed that the inclined bench is slightly more effective than the flat bench press when it comes to working out your upper pecs. While the increase may be small and many consider it insignificant if you are trying to gain in this area then the inclined press may make a big difference in the outcome.

    Decline Bench Presses Also Offer Certain Benefits
    Performing your bench press at a decline may also offer certain benefits, and change the focus and targeted muscles of your workout. The decline bench press is believed to be more effective at working on the sternocostal head of the pectoralis major, and this routine is used by many weightlifters and bodybuilders who want to see better growth and strength in the lower pecs. Is the decline really more effective though, or is this just a mistaken belief that has been passed around the gym for so long that it is now believed to be fact? The 1995 Barnett et al study showed that the electrical activity in the lower pecs was not highest during the decline bench press. In fact the flat bench press produced the highest electrical charge in the lower pectorals. When you use the decline bench press the focus is mainly placed on the pecs and the triceps, but the strain that you place on the joints that are affected can be increased. This can place you at more risk of a joint injury. The decline bench press also allows you to lift maximum weight, but your body can only be effective as long as the weakest joints and tissues hold up.

    What About the Grip Used?
    Another consideration with any form of bench press is the grip that you are using to perform the routine. Proper grip placement can have a big impact on the results that you get, and the muscle growth and size that you see from your fitness efforts and lifting routines. Studies performed with EMG tests have shown that a wide grip is usually the most beneficial but this may not be true in every case. A narrow grip lessens the intensity and does not workout the maximum muscles possible. Carefully examine your grip the next time you are in the gym and determine if it is wide, narrow, or in between. The use of a wide grip during a flat bench press can target both the upper and lower pecs very effectively, and it also offers benefits for other muscle groups as well. One concern is the risk of shoulder injury though. If a wide grip is used this places more weight and an increased intensity on the shoulders and chest. If your grip is to wide then this will affect the stability of your shoulder joints and could increase the stress these tissues are under during your weight training.

    Which Bench Press Angle Should You Use?
    Choosing the right bench press angle is a personal decision, one that should be based on facts and scientific studies and not just on gym myths or advice that you received from a friend. Look at the objectives that you have for your training sessions, and consider which muscle groups and body areas that you are trying to target and focus on. Then decide whether you want to bench flat, on an incline, or on a decline. You may decide to stick with just one variation or you may include two or more versions in your weekly training sessions
  2. Custom

    Custom Member

    Good read for some.....old news for others
    franchise24 and Ray9 like this.
  3. Xlgx

    Xlgx Member

    I would stay away from flat barbell benching...
    Oldman. and rutman like this.
  4. franchise24

    franchise24 Member Supporter

    Why would you stay away from it? Do you have a body building type training style of Powerlifting?
  5. SauceBoss

    SauceBoss Member

    My bread and butter is inclined barbell that's it
  6. SteroidsBro

    SteroidsBro Member

    Why? You lift for mostly aesthetics?
  7. LordSamuilo

    LordSamuilo Member

    I prefer incline over flat as well . I use to be WEAK on incline , so I just started hammering incline instead of flat mostly just to get stronger on the lift . But, in the process ended up getting crazy chest development I never saw before when I focused mainly on flat bench . Ended up getting great muscle separation between my upper and lower chest , and can actually push some respectable weight now too ..

    Oldman., Skull, KillaBig and 5 others like this.
  8. ErikR

    ErikR Member

    A lot of guys say stay away from flat barbell presses because it puts too much strain on the shoulders and can lead to injury if you bench like a bodybuilder. The fact is not everybody's body mechanics are the same. Some guys are able to activate their pecs on flat barbell and some can't. I can activate my pecs well on flat barbell, but barbell incline destroys my rotator cuffs. To answer the question at least for me, flat barbell ,incline dumbell.
    Big_paul, optimus04 and MindlessWork like this.
  9. MindlessWork

    MindlessWork Member Supporter

    Flat dumbbell bench works well for me so I switch up flat barbell and dumbbell bench every other week.

    Recently been doing more incline barbell bench and it has helped a lot so will be doing more of it.
    EazyE and LordSamuilo like this.
  10. Xlgx

    Xlgx Member

    Bodybuilding. I subscribe to Dante from D.C. Has to say. It's not a matter of if but when a pec is torn. Too risky imo
    franchise24 likes this.
  11. optimus04

    optimus04 Member

    Incline For The Win....Gotta Build That Top Shelf!
    MindlessWork and LordSamuilo like this.
  12. MindlessWork

    MindlessWork Member Supporter

    My flat barbell bench working set is 275x2 while incline barbell incline is at 225 for 2 max now. Still pushing for better numbers there.
    EazyE and Custom like this.
  13. franchise24

    franchise24 Member Supporter

    Got ya. I am a firm believer of, the more we think about injuries or potential injuries the more likely we are able to encounter them. When I played football my mom used say your going to get hurt. I had to tell her to stop telling me this. She eventually stopped.

    I am also from the school of thought, that strength should be the foundation of any routine. I believe the stronger you are the more weight you will be able to push in higher rep ranges and build bigger muscles. Instead of messing with tempos to increase time under tension. Also I see most body builders that use the barbell bench put them selves in a compromised position while performing the movement. And putting them selves at more risk for injury, like a pec tear and or shoulder tear. Many Body builders bench with their elbows flared at a 90 degree angle putting tremendous stress on your shoulders. And creating a big stretch on the pecs when performing the movement.
  14. Leancuisine

    Leancuisine Member

    Everything is risky.
    Injecting foreign oils into your body is risky. Shit, the act of buying and possessing steroids is risky as fuck.

    When I do flat Bench Press I don't feel it at all in my shoulders. If you feel it in your shoulders, its because your shoulders are shrugged up. You need to pull your shoulders down towards your hips. Takes all the pressure off your front delt.

    Presses are probably my least favorite chest exercise. Low DB crossovers and Pec Deck Fly are my favorite.
  15. johntt44

    johntt44 Member

    I worked out a powerlifting gym for 10yrs and never knew anyone with a pec tear. They do happen though. Saying it's not a matter of if but when is BS though.
    Marcus and franchise24 like this.
  16. Xlgx

    Xlgx Member

    When I tore mine I, even through form was good. Never thought about an injury. Like that.

    Even a slight incline or decline changes the movement pattern and mechanics. That's all I am saying. You can still build a strong and well developed chest with out flat barbell.
    franchise24 likes this.
  17. Xlgx

    Xlgx Member

    Good for you...
  18. gr8whitetrukker

    gr8whitetrukker Member Supporter

    When i was fresh faced in the gym early on i couldnt get an effective chest contraction on flat. Even tho i was very strong and even when i started competing later in my teen years. I learned to press for maximal weight all the while not working my chest properly. When i started to get a taste for bodybuilding i learned at least for me the incline barbell or dumbbell was vastly superior for my body type. Just the basic form of the exercise forced me to contract my pecs first then finish with the triceps. Some thing flat never did for me despite my best efforts.

    I dont really have that problem any more. As they say the more muscle you build the easier it is to contract them properly. The connections become much deeper and far more painful now than they ever were. I can guillotine press at near 90° angles and the polar opposite, pressing for power. Each has their place in a training cycle. Dont press maximal weight with elbows flared and dont press like a PL if you aim for the largest chest possible. Simple rules i have found to be undeniable.

    Then you have the body type issue. As for me im tall and very broad shouldered with a "high" chest. Alot of surface area but its still "high". The opposite would be some one who is most always shorter with a "full" chest. Not to say you have to be short to possess this trait but more often than not, shorter guys have it. Arnold would be a perfect example of a tall guy with a "full" chest. I find guys with "full" chests seem to find any pressing movement acceptable especially flat pressing because of the cross dimensions of their pectorals. Guys like me require an inclined position for maximal contraction of the pectorals. If you have a hard time understanding this look at one of my favorite BB/wrestlers ever, The Ultimate Warrior. A tall guy with a "high" chest. We are very similar in basic construction. There are a ton of other mechanics at play including but not limited to length of clavicle, shape and width of shoulders, length of upper and lower arms, tendon attachments etc etc. That will dictate HOW MUCH and WHAT you press for maximum benefit.
  19. johntt44

    johntt44 Member

    No need to get catty with me. I'm sorry that you had a tear, that sucks. I just don't like blanket statements is all. Even if I ever do get one that doesn't mean eventually everyone will get one.Dante is wrong...
    Marcus and franchise24 like this.
  20. Xlgx

    Xlgx Member

    Lol. That's your opinion.... meow!