How To Do The Incline Bench Press

How To Do The Incline Bench Press

The incline bench press is a powerful exercise that targets the upper portion of the pectoral muscles, along with the shoulders and triceps. This variation of the traditional bench press is essential for developing a well-rounded chest and improving overall upper body strength. Whether you're a seasoned lifter or a beginner, incorporating the incline bench press into your workout routine can bring significant benefits. This guide will explore the incline bench press in detail, offering tips and techniques to help you perform it correctly and effectively.

What is the Incline Bench Press?

The incline bench press is a variation of the standard bench press performed on an incline bench, usually set at a 30-45 degree angle. This angle shifts the focus from the lower and middle parts of the chest to the upper chest, while still engaging the shoulders and triceps. The incline bench press can be performed with a barbell or dumbbells, each offering unique benefits.

Benefits of the Incline Bench Press

  1. Upper Chest Development: The incline bench press specifically targets the upper pectoral muscles, helping to build a fuller and more defined chest.
  2. Shoulder Strength: The incline angle also engages the anterior deltoids (front shoulder muscles), contributing to overall shoulder strength.
  3. Balanced Chest Development: Including incline presses in your routine ensures that you develop your chest evenly, avoiding an overemphasis on the middle and lower chest.
  4. Variety: Adding different bench angles to your routine prevents workout monotony and stimulates muscle growth by challenging your muscles in new ways.

How to Perform the Incline Bench Press

  1. Setup

    • Bench Angle: Adjust the bench to a 30-45 degree incline. A higher angle will engage the shoulders more, while a lower angle will focus more on the upper chest.
    • Positioning: Sit on the bench and lie back with your feet flat on the floor. Ensure your head, shoulders, and hips are in contact with the bench.
  2. Grip and Hand Placement

    • Barbell: Grip the barbell slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Your hands should be positioned so that your forearms are vertical at the bottom of the movement.
    • Dumbbells: Hold a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral or pronated grip (palms facing forward).
  3. Execution

    • Starting Position: Lift the barbell off the rack or hold the dumbbells above your chest with arms fully extended. Your wrists should be straight and aligned with your forearms.
    • Lowering Phase: Inhale and slowly lower the weight to your upper chest, just below your collarbone. Keep your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body.
    • Pressing Phase: Exhale and press the weight back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms but avoiding locking your elbows.
  4. Breathing

    • Inhale: Breathe in as you lower the weight to your chest.
    • Exhale: Breathe out as you press the weight back up.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

  1. Incorrect Bench Angle: Using too high an angle (above 45 degrees) can shift the focus to your shoulders and reduce the engagement of the upper chest. Stick to a 30-45 degree angle.
  2. Flared Elbows: Flaring your elbows out too much can increase the risk of shoulder injury. Keep your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body.
  3. Arching the Back: Maintain a slight arch in your lower back, but avoid excessive arching which can strain your spine. Keep your core engaged to stabilise your torso.
  4. Partial Range of Motion: Lowering the weight only halfway reduces the effectiveness of the exercise. Ensure you lower the barbell or dumbbells to your upper chest for a full range of motion.
  5. Rushed Reps: Performing the exercise too quickly can compromise form and reduce muscle engagement. Perform each rep in a controlled manner.

Tips for Maximising Your Incline Bench Press

  1. Warm Up: Begin with a proper warm-up to prepare your muscles and joints. Include dynamic stretches and light sets of incline presses to increase blood flow.
  2. Use Spotters or Safety Measures: If lifting heavy, use a spotter for assistance or ensure safety bars are in place to catch the weight if you fail to lift it.
  3. Incorporate Variations: Use both barbells and dumbbells to vary your training stimulus. Dumbbells allow for a greater range of motion and can help address muscle imbalances.
  4. Progressive Overload: Gradually increase the weight you lift over time. This principle is essential for continuous strength and muscle gains.
  5. Combine with Other Chest Exercises: Include flat and decline bench presses in your routine for overall chest development.

Incline Bench Press Variations

  1. Incline Barbell Bench Press: This standard variation uses a barbell and is ideal for lifting heavier weights and building overall upper chest strength.
  2. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press: Using dumbbells allows for a greater range of motion and engages stabiliser muscles, which can help improve muscle balance and coordination.
  3. Incline Smith Machine Bench Press: The Smith machine provides added stability and safety, making it a good option for beginners or those lifting without a spotter.
  4. Single-Arm Incline Dumbbell Press: This variation helps address muscle imbalances and engages the core more intensely for stabilisation.


The incline bench press is a valuable exercise for anyone looking to build a well-rounded and powerful chest. By focusing on proper form, gradually increasing the weight, and incorporating variations, you can maximise the benefits of this exercise. Whether you're new to lifting or an experienced athlete, the incline bench press can help you achieve your fitness goals and enhance your upper body strength.

Recommended Gym Accessories

When incorporating Bench Presses into your workout routine, having the right gym accessories can enhance your performance and comfort:

  • Lifting Gloves: Provide grip support and prevent the dumbbells from slipping during the exercise, ensuring a secure hold.
  • Elbow Sleeves: Offer compression and support to the elbows, reducing the risk of injury and providing stability during the bench press movement. SBD elbow sleeves offer a premium choice for this.
  • Wrist Wraps: Provide additional wrist support, particularly for individuals with wrist discomfort or mobility issues, helping maintain proper wrist alignment. Our wrist wraps come with a choice of flexible or stiff options.

FAQs About the Incline Bench Press

1. How often should I do the incline bench press?

  • Incorporate the incline bench press into your chest workout routine once or twice a week, depending on your overall training program.

2. Can the incline bench press replace the flat bench press?

  • While the incline bench press is excellent for targeting the upper chest, it shouldn't completely replace the flat bench press. Both exercises offer unique benefits and should be included in a balanced chest training program.

3. What is the ideal bench angle for the incline bench press?

  • A bench angle of 30-45 degrees is ideal for targeting the upper chest without placing excessive strain on the shoulders.

4. Should I use a barbell or dumbbells for the incline bench press?

  • Both barbells and dumbbells have their advantages. Barbells allow for heavier lifts and symmetrical strength gains, while dumbbells offer a greater range of motion and help address muscle imbalances.

5. How can I avoid shoulder pain during the incline bench press?

  • Ensure proper form by keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body and avoiding excessive flaring. Use a manageable weight and incorporate shoulder mobility exercises into your routine. If pain persists, consult a fitness professional or healthcare provider.

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