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

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

  1. Docd187123

    Docd187123 Member

    No it's not since you don't understand the limitations to it. Once again for illustrative purposes, I will get higher EMG readings with a maximal isometric/static hold than a sub maximal bench press in any angle. Does that mean holding a bar with the max weight I can and elbows locked is more effective than even a decline press??? I mean bc that's the basic logic you're using here. Higher EMG activation means more effectiveness is your basic tenet at this point lol. Besides, you posted one single study done on 14 people that you can't even see the data for. You based your stance off not the study itself, but off the author who wrote it at ergolog.

    Since you know nothing of the study itself besides the few pictures put up in ergolog, would it surprise you to know that you'll get different EMG readings for incline press at different angles? Do you know the optimal incline for the greatest EMG activation? What if they tested the least optimal angle of incline? I'll give you a hint since I read the full study, they didn't test the best incline angle...

    Let's also not forget the Barnett et al. '95 study that shows flat and decline press have better sternocostal muscle head activation with a narrow grip but when done with a relatively wider grip, flat alone is superior and no significant differences found between decline and incline angles. Or how about the same researchers finding that the 40deg angle incline press is superior to flat and decline (even other incline angles) at the clavicular head activation?

    Maybe the Trebbs et al. Study that found better clavicular head activation in 44 and 56deg inclines vs all other angles?

    Maybe the Lauver et al '15 study that found 30 and 45 deg angles better than 0 (flat) and -15deg angle at clavicular head activation?

    Or maybe the Glass and Armstrong '97 study that found no differences between incline and decline???

    Let's go back to your original statement where you said the decline does everything the incline does and more and see just how wrong that is as well as your statement about decline not being the less effective angle.

    The decline does work more sternocostal muscle head than incline but not more than the flat bench. So we know flat bench is better than incline in that aspect. We also know, the greater the incline the more the clavicular muscle head activation so decline is worse than both the flat and incline bench in that aspect. So decline doesn't do everything the incline does and better (clavicular) nor is it more effective than the flat for sternocostal activation. In other words you're batting 0 for 2 with 2 strikeouts.

    Ummmm, you suggested altering the ROM of the decline press to be closer to your throat so put your glasses on and re-read what you wrote.

    Have you ever been to a gym besides the one you go to? Do all gyms have power racks or safeties for bench press and all the various angles?????

    Well myself, the science, and the respectable coaches out there all do but if you only want to acknowledge me then I'm flattered buttercups.

    Maybe your not privy to some important information that others are but dips for example are also notorious for shoulder and elbow issues....

    More weight in the bar bc of a SIGNIFICANTLY SHORTER ROM AND TUT which basically reduces the point of more weight on the bar to nothing lol.

    Great. I never told you what to do. I only corrected you where you were wrong about the science and facts :)
    Ironlord and gr8whitetrukker like this.
  2. -vegeta-

    -vegeta- Member

    quick tally in my head from my experience on the boarda.. same as the... ive been working out for 3-5 years and hit my genetic potential story... at 22 years old.
  3. Perrin Aybara

    Perrin Aybara Member

    The only thing 225lbs is impressive on is strict overhead press.
  4. Arnold Strong

    Arnold Strong Member

    You seem to be heavily emotionally invested with the bench press. I feel odd discussing this with you as I couldn't care any less about it. I use the bench as an accessory lift when I feel like it. As I am better described as an athlete than as a bodybuilder and hardly any athletic program uses bench pressing to any significant degree. But what makes you think I didn't read the study? For a start n = 15 not 14.

    All subjects where performing movement (i.e. benching) so your argument about activation due to isometric hold is meaningless. And yes, I knew the impact of angle on activation because the author himself discusses it at length in the fourth page of the study. What you write is just paraphrasing his critique to his own study, without attribution.

    I'm surprised you didn't also bring up the location of the electrodes, since that's the other reason, besides the inclination angle, he uses to explain the discrepancy between his results and Barnett's. But that's how science works, if an study cannot replicate the results of an earlier study, or if the results seem to be dramatically affected by relatively minor changes in inclination (+30° vs +40°) then perhaps the conclusions of the first study are not as solid as one may assume.

    BTW, what angle does your bench have? I have no idea what mine uses.

    You are jumping to conclusions. Badly. You use an earlier study whose conclusions were shown to not hold water or at least to be highly sensitive to the specific angle of inclination, grip and electrode positioning to support your claim, and you contradict the primary find of the study being discussed, with no seconds thoughts given.

    And if the greater the incline the better, why not just forget about incline benching and do a standing press? (works for me, btw) What does incline benching achieve that flat + standing does not?

    So you are claiming benching higher up the chest increases its dangerousnes? Is that your claim? What about the incline? Should people avoid benching anything that is not directly above their nipples?

    Not my fault if you want to workout in a substandard gym. I've never claimed anyone should be doing decline bench on makeshift facilities.

    By the study there's a 14.5% difference between weight lifted on the incline and decline benches. Can you increase your incline 1-RM bench by 14.5% by cutting short the ROM by a couple of inches? Why don't you give it a try and let us know how it goes? (better use a spotter for this one).

    If you can't, doesn't that means you are recruiting more muscles / engaging the greatest amount of muscle while performing the decline bench press? That, and not EMG activation is ultimately what determines if an exercise is more or less effective than others.

    Thinking a bit about the difference in weight lifted between incline and decline I just came up with an hypothesis: In an incline bench press you start the movement from a stretched position, which limits the amount of weight being lifted as a stretched muscle is weaker (and more injury-prone) therefore forcing you to use less weight leading to less muscle engagement. When flat or decline benching the muscle is not initially stretched, allowing you to use the maximum amount of weight the muscle group can press. Thus incline should lead to worse overall results compared to flat or decline bench.

    I'm sorry if come across as argumentative, but I still haven't seen the case against the decline bench. The best evidence presented on this thread makes it equal or at worst second only to the flat bench. Whether bench pressing is altogether worth it is another matter.
  5. gr8whitetrukker

    gr8whitetrukker Member Supporter

    The only guys that say bench pressing isnt worth it are the ones who are
    A. Terribly weak at it
    B. Makes it near useless for their particular sport application(tennis player, marathon runner, etc)

    The bench press is THE ultimate determination of upper body strength and power and has been since the dawn of time. Not without reservation tho. Ive tried to come up with a better substitute for a REAL upper body strength demonstration. My preference is incline since its the hardest and a BIG incline lift is the most impressive over flat. The natural batter up would be a clean and press. But again thats a TOTAL body lift. Not a upper body lift. So thats out. Then you would have the military press which is a legitimate contender as a demonstration for total upper body strength output. But still...the bench press reigns supreme. When its done with a proper pause and lift it is an impressive feat to lower it, pause it and static press it back to the top.

    Then you got those neck beards that will try to down play its significance which is ridiculous. If you play tennis or golf or run marathons then so be it. Bench presses are worthless to you. But if you play football, basketball or any contact sport it will have its practical application. And is legitimate in its role.
    johntt44 and JC456 like this.
  6. Custom

    Custom Member

    Custom approves this post!
  7. Arnold Strong

    Arnold Strong Member

    The debate over whether decline or incline is better reminds me of the controversy over the back squat vs the front squat.

    In the back squat you can lift a heavier weight, although with a somewhat
    reduced ROM. You are weaker on the front squat, since some of the weight is
    shifted from the hams, glutes and lower back to the quads and abs, but a true
    a2g movement is easily achieved. You are clearly moving more weight / engaging more muscle performing the back squat, and as such, it's the superior exercise for strength and muscular development.

    Yet, you may be surprised to know I mostly do front squats and only on rare
    occasions perform a back squat. And the reason is simple, an exercise does
    not stand in its own but as par of a routine. Since I am already deadlifting,
    an exercise that greatly overlaps with the back squat I find it more
    beneficial to front squat. I get better progress in both lifts that way, and this is very noticeable if you do both exercises the same day, or consecutive days.

    As a bonus the front squat has more carryover to the clean and press. And I'm
    delighted you bring it up as it is my favorite lift. It's also the reason I
    also do standing presses (push presses).

    So should I add a bench variant? Incline overlaps quite a bit with the
    standing press so it seems logical to lower the inclination to flat, but by
    the same logic I might go further and do decline instead.

    But as mentioned before I do weighted dips and gymnastic ring push ups. These
    exercises already heavily tax the shoulders, triceps and chest. Benching seems
    like a somewhat useful accessory to them, but it fails miserably as a

    I might be useful to compare the bench to the dip, they use the same muscles
    yet you can move more weight in a dip (and with greater ROM). Even a
    body weight dip is already lifting practically your entire body weight. There might
    be evolutionary reasons why humans can move more weight this way, something to
    do with humans being apes and needing to climb and push their weight around.
    And it's worth noticing that the decline is the bench variant that resembles
    the body positioning of the dip the most, thus it's not surprising it's the
    variant that allows us to engage the greatest amount of muscle to move the
    heaviest weights.

    BTW, science has repeatedly shown the most demanding sports of them all are
    swimming, boxing and tennis. Benching is not part of the training of any of
    those sports. And you'll be laughed at for asking about bench numbers in any
    combat sports forum.

    Benching heavy does not make you a better athlete. I'm yet to hear a fighter
    say I could have won that fight if only my bench were 10 kg heavier. Benching
    makes you better at benching, and competitive benching is a sport just in the
    broad sense competitive hot dog eating is. Difference being competitive hot
    dog eaters look leaner and overall healthier. Talk about neckbeards!

    I don't know about you but I am far more impressed with a clean and press than
    with a bench. And, all things being equal, if I had to pick for my basketball
    or football team I'll take the guy who can clean and press x vs the one who
    can bench 2x without hesitating for even a fraction of a second.

    I'm also far more impressed by the kind of upper body strength
    displayed in gymnastic ring work than by a heavy bench. Weightlifters and
    gymnasts are just impressive in general. But I'm showing my biases there.
  8. gr8whitetrukker

    gr8whitetrukker Member Supporter

    Its a sport specific thing. Neither is better in and of itself. There specific for the intent. A gymnist would get folded in half by a man as strong as Brian Shaw. And a man as as strong as Brian Shaw could never be a gymnist. But both demonstrate strength in different ways. Brian Shaw demonstrating the absolute strength and the gymnist demonstrating the relative strength. As a marine ive never found the bench press to make me shoot better or knife fight better or run and drill better but it has its use for sure. Mostly in the full frontal choke position where the stronger man will be able to impose his will. And i dont care how much muhammed deadlifts or dips. Hes going lights out. Back against the wall. Against his will. Feet off the floor.
  9. johntt44

    johntt44 Member

    You forgot the dreaded bum shoulder. (I'm not talking about real shoulder injuries).
  10. johntt44

    johntt44 Member

    " I don't bench because I consider myself an athlete." Pffffft...
    There are athletes that do though just as there are athletes that don't/do dips and don't/do ring pushups.
    There's some very lean powerlifters too and there's probably even some hot dog eaters who are better than you at your sport.
    Guess what? People who powerlift like to bench press. I can bench press more than I can dip by the way. Ive never tried dips with 200lbs on my waist now that would be stupid. Instead of something tangible like benching more weight I guess I could do push ups for 100s of reps. Better yet I could grease the rings to make it harder.
  11. Docd187123

    Docd187123 Member

    I'm a powerlifter so it's one of the competitive lifts for me :p. And yes, I know that gives me an inherent bias against decline pressing.

    Many athletic programs do use bench press significantly. It just depends upon the sport in question. I gather a marathon runner might not be as interested in bench press as a football or rugby player for instance.

    Most people don't read studies or only glance through abstracts. You have shown you did read through it so I will eat my words and apologize to you for assuming things.

    All subjects did perform movement but that alone doesn't nullify the point I'm trying to make. You cannot base the superiority of a lift over another solely on EMG readings for the reasons I stated as well as a few others.

    Or the conclusions of the later study are not as solid. The point was, you're right, decline shows more muscle activation than incline in regards to the sternocostal muscle head but flat is either similar or slightly better than decline in that regard. Incline does fare better at the clavicular head than either flat or decline.

    I've never measured it but it looks dead center at halfway between 0 and 90 degrees so I would guess around 45deg.

    As did you in regards to the lift having the most EMG activity automatically being the best lift....

    That's a very good point and to be perfectly honest, if you're flat benching and overhead pressing, there's not much that you're not getting if you avoid the incline press. My training is mostly comprised of flat bench (and variants of that like floor presses, 1,2,3 sec paused bench, double paused bench, CG bench, etc) and various forms of overhead pressing. I do 1-2 incline bench sessions every 2weeks or so but I feel as if overhead pressing is an amazing lift.

    Yes that is my claim and I feel as where the bar touches the chest is dependent upon the lifter's anthropometry and shouldn't be changed just for shits and giggles.

    my old gym was great. Had everything I needed. My coach's gym which I've driven 2.5hrs to lift at is rated as one of the 20 best gyms in the country (OLY platforms, multiple monolifts, power racks, chains, bands, everything you need for a serious lifter). I unfortunately moved to a new area last year and the options of gyms I have are dismal at best. 3 gyms that have nothing but cardio machines, 2 other gyms with cardio and some nautilus machines, 2 planet fitnesses, and some other shit holes. The gym I settled on is good enough that I can improvise when I need even though it's still lacking in many areas. Not everyone has their dream gym as a realistic option.

    I have never maxed on incline bench bc it is an accessory movement for me. It is never a primary lift bc it's not a competitive lift (for me). But I do think I can increase my weight substantially by cutting a few inches off the ROM. It's not 100% equivalent but I can add more than 20% to my box squat with a few inches difference in box heights.

    How do you figure the incline starts in the stretched position? Do you start the lift with the bar on your chest? Bc I start it from an elbows locked position...

    It's cool. I was a bit of a dick myself. No hard feelings.
    Johnny442 and gr8whitetrukker like this.
  12. Arnold Strong

    Arnold Strong Member

    I do bench. Yes, decline bench counts. I'm not one of those who scoff at bench pressers, I wouldn't be in this thread otherwise.

    I am definitely a minority, though for each one of us who benches there are 20 who don't, and that's probably an overestimate of the bench presser, as I spend my time with people who practice sports where the upper body plays a crucial role, if I include runners, cyclists, skaters, football players, etc. It's probably more like 100 to 1.

    We've all seen the chicken legged gym rat who can bench more than he can squat, it doesn't mean he couldn't squat more than he can bench, as any human could, it just means his routine is unbalanced.

    100 push-ups from a planche on the gymnastic rings is a feat of athleticism I would pay cash to witness. The amount of strength required to do something like that is superhuman.
  13. Arnold Strong

    Arnold Strong Member

    Perform the following experiment: stand with with your right arm relaxed and put your left index on your right anterior deltoid, now raise your arm up until it is perpendicular to your torso, as it is when performing a flat bench, notice how the tension increases as you go higher and the shoulder stretches, keep raising your arm until you reach the inclined bench position, compare with the decline bench position.

    You can actually reduce the pressure on your shoulder by bending the elbow to a right angle, but this halves the ROM, in practice I see this done quite often, i.e. people half-repping the incline bench. This is completely unnecessary on the decline bench. Another reason to prefer it.

    Benching is not a core part of strength training for rugby, pushing the prowler is far more useful and common (and great fun!), and it's not even that great as pushing heavy weight does not develop the explosiveness required in the actual game.

    As is the case with basketball, boxing or martial arts, throwing medicine balls against a wall is far more helpful to develop an strong and explosive upper body.

    It's not even a particularly good choice as accessory work, as the kind of full-body movement used in rugby requires strength coming from the hip, thus squats and deadlifts are far more useful for it. Even as an upper body accessory lift it's an inferior alternative. The seated chest press is better, not only it trains the movement in the horizontal plane of motion where it has to take place, it also allows for full ROM and is inherently safer than benching.

    You are absolutely right, EMG readings have their limitations, but it's the best science we have. As limited as they are, it's what we got, and we have to make do. Should we just ignore them altogether? And if methodological flaws are found in one study its conclusions cannot be trusted. The newer study does not have these flaws hence its conclusions carry more weight, they are not equally valid. That's how science works.

    And I do not base the case for the decline bench solely on it, it's another piece of evidence showing it's a good, solid lift with a place in many people's routines.

    Even if the only advantage the decline bench could offer is reduced strain on the shoulder that would be enough to make it my variant of choice. Between clean & press, overhead press, cleans, pull-ups, push-ups, dips, deadlifts, ring work, bag work, mitt work, etc. my shoulders don't need any more attention. If I can reap most of the benefits of the bench, with reduced shoulder load that's good enough for me.

    And logic indicates, if we take the shoulder from the movement something else (chest? triceps?) has to be doing the work. You couldn't move the same weight otherwise (well, actually more weight...)
  14. Arnold Strong

    Arnold Strong Member

    What's stupid about it? Ross is seen doing with 5 plates at the start of this video (sorry for the crappy music). He's not a huge guy, but you still have to add his weight to that.

    How can someone be more impressed by bench pressing x weight than by pressing x weight overhead? The latter is vastly more difficult. And how can someone be more impressed by bench pressing x weight than by dipping the same? The dip is harder, since you are also lifting your body weight, which should be a good couple of plates more.

    I find nothing of what this guy does stupid.
  15. 14Red88

    14Red88 Member

    I don't ever do flat it kills my shoulder. Incline decline and Flys ,all I ever needed and my chest is well formed.
    Custom likes this.
  16. johntt44

    johntt44 Member

    I've been lifting 20+ yrs and have done heavy dips, heavy overhead press, high rep push-ups and chins, etc. I've never tried ring pushups though. I believe doing dips with 450-500lbs(including bodyweight) would be much more dangerous for me than benching it.
  17. Custom

    Custom Member

    Dips with that much weight would rip the shit out of my shoulders
  18. Mayne

    Mayne Member

    And there is a reason why the big 3 are part of PL and not weighted dip, weighted pull up and pistol squat. Even if I like weighted pull, chin up etc. it is not a 1 rm exercise nor is the dip doesn't matter if harder or not.
  19. Arnold Strong

    Arnold Strong Member

    The best measure of lower body pulling is the deadlift, since that's the lift where you can engage the most muscle to pull the heaviest weight.

    The best measure of lower body pushing is the squat, since that's the lift where you can engage the most muscle to push the heaviest weight.

    The best measure of upper body pulling is the pull up, since that's the lift where you can engage the most muscle to pull the heaviest weight.

    The best measure of upper body pushing is the dip, since that's the lift where you can engage the most muscle to push the heaviest weight.

    The bench press is more like the upper body equivalent of the leg press, only a fool would consider the leg press "the ultimate determination of lower body strength" just like only a fool would consider the bench press the ultimate determination of upper body strength.

    Being easy to test is the best argument I've heard in favor of using it as a benchmark, however when it comes to effectiveness to build upper body strength this is not an argument at all. Furthermore, it's only useful as a benchmark against yourself, as comparisons between people are rife with problems.

    Wikipedia tells me Brian Shaw is 203 cm (6 ft 8 in) tall. That means his ROM in the bench press is around twice as long as the ROM of the pudgy men with short arms who dominate benching competitions. So he would need to do twice the work (since work = force x displacement) than one of them to be considered equally strong in a benching contest, therefore the bench press fails miserably as a measure of absolute strength. If the world's strongest man would fail the bench press benchmark, then it's not a good benchmark at all.

    Moving a locomotive the longest distance on a given time, as they do in strongman competitions, is a fair benchmark of absolute strength. The 5'6" tall man is not awarded a victory over the 6'8" man by moving the locomotive half the distance.
    tenpoundsleft likes this.
  20. ErikR

    ErikR Member

    Since we are on the subject of dips, if one were to Measure strength on dips, should the total amount lifted + body weight count as a total? If one guy weighs 200lbs and another 150lbs and both have 90lbs for example , who would be considered stronger in that lift?