The Incline Bench Press Evolution: How This Powerhouse Move Has Transformed Over Time

The incline bench press, a classic upper-body exercise, has been around for a very long time, first being introduced in the early 20th century by strongmen who wanted to improve their overhead pressing strength. The Incline Bench Press Evolution

Over the years, the incline bench press has evolved and become a staple exercise for bodybuilders and powerlifters alike.

Understanding the Incline Bench Press

Muscles worked

The incline bench press targets the upper chest (pectoralis major), shoulders (anterior deltoids), and triceps.

The inclined angle allows for a greater emphasis on the upper chest and shoulders compared to the traditional flat bench press.


Some key benefits of the incline bench press include:

  • Improved upper-body strength.
  • Increased upper-chest and shoulder development.
  • Balanced muscle growth for a well-rounded physique.
  • Better support for overhead pressing movements.

Technique Transformation

Original technique

In its early days, the incline bench press was performed using a steep incline and a narrow grip.

This technique placed a greater emphasis on the shoulders and triceps, but limited chest activation.

Modern technique

Nowadays, the incline bench press is performed at a more moderate incline (around 30-45 degrees) with a grip that's slightly wider than shoulder-width.

This adjustment allows for greater chest activation while still targeting the shoulders and triceps effectively.

Variations and Their Impact

Barbell incline bench press

The most common variation is the barbell incline bench press. It's an excellent choice for building strength and muscle mass since it allows for greater weight progression and stabilisation.

Dumbbell incline bench press

The dumbbell incline bench press offers more freedom of movement and can help correct muscle imbalances.

It's also ideal for those with shoulder or wrist limitations, as the dumbbells can be positioned to suit individual comfort.

Smith machine incline bench press

The Smith machine incline bench press provides a more controlled, stable environment for beginners or those recovering from an injury.

It can also help isolate the targeted muscles due to the fixed bar path.

Incorporating Incline Bench Press into Your Routine

The incline bench press can be easily integrated into any upper-body or chest-focused workout routine.

Perform 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps, depending on your training goals.

For strength gains, opt for heavier weights and lower reps, while for muscle growth, choose moderate weights and higher reps.

Ensure you're using proper form and progressively increasing the weight over time for optimal results.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

  • Excessive incline angle: A higher incline can shift the focus away from the chest and onto the shoulders. Stick to a 30-45-degree incline for optimal chest activation.
  • Bouncing the bar off the chest: This can lead to injury and reduces the effectiveness of the exercise. Maintain control during the entire movement and pause briefly at the bottom.
  • Flaring the elbows: This puts unnecessary strain on the shoulders. Keep your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your torso to protect the shoulder joint.

Accessory Exercises to Enhance Performance

To improve your incline bench press performance, incorporate these accessory exercises into your routine:

Incline dumbbell fly: This exercise targets the upper chest and helps to develop a stronger mind-muscle connection.

Overhead press: Strengthening the shoulders will provide better stability and support during the incline bench press.

Tricep dips: Stronger triceps can lead to a more powerful press and help to prevent sticking points during the lift.

The Future of the Incline Bench Press

The incline bench press will continue to be a staple exercise in strength training programs and bodybuilding routines.

As new research emerges, we can expect further refinements in technique, variations, and programming to maximise its benefits.

Wrapping Up: 

The incline bench press has come a long way since its introduction in the early 20th century.

Its evolution in technique and variations has made it a versatile and effective exercise for upper-body development.

Incorporate the incline bench press into your workout routine and follow the tips provided to make the most of its benefits and avoid common mistakes.


Can I replace the flat bench press with the incline bench press in my routine?

While the incline bench press is a great exercise, it's not a complete replacement for the flat bench press. Both exercises target the chest, shoulders, and triceps, but emphasise different areas. It's best to include both in your routine for balanced development.

How often should I perform the incline bench press?

The ideal frequency depends on your training goals and individual recovery ability. Generally, it's recommended to train the incline bench press 1-2 times per week as part of an upper-body or chest-focused workout.

Is it better to do the incline bench press with dumbbells or a barbell?

Both options have their advantages. The barbell incline bench press allows for greater weight progression, while the dumbbell version offers more freedom of movement and helps correct muscle imbalances. Consider incorporating both into your routine for optimal results.

Can I use the incline bench press as my main chest exercise?

Yes, the incline bench press can be a primary chest exercise, especially for those who want to prioritise upper chest development. However, it's still important to include other chest exercises in your routine for a well-rounded physique.

What should I do if I'm experiencing shoulder pain during the incline bench press?

If you experience shoulder pain, stop the exercise and evaluate your technique. Make sure your elbows are at a 45-degree angle to your torso and avoid excessively high inclines. If the pain persists, consult with a medical professional before resuming the exercise.

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