Unlock Your Chest Gains: The Ultimate Incline Bench Press Guide for Newbies

The incline bench press is a compound exercise that targets the upper chest muscles, shoulders, and triceps.

It's a popular variation of the classic flat bench press, but with the added benefit of isolating the upper pectoral muscles more effectively. The Ultimate Incline Bench Press Guide for Newbies

This guide will walk you through the essential steps to master the incline bench press, making it a powerful addition to your workout routine.

Benefits of Incline Bench Press

Incorporating the incline bench press into your workouts can have several advantages:

  • Improved upper chest development: The incline angle places greater emphasis on the upper chest muscles, resulting in better overall development and aesthetics.
  • Balanced shoulder strength: The incline bench press engages the front deltoids more than the flat bench press, contributing to balanced shoulder development.
  • Enhanced functional strength: The movement pattern of the incline bench press simulates many real-world pushing activities, making it a practical exercise for improving everyday strength.

Setting Up for Incline Bench Press

Proper bench angle

Set the bench at an angle between 30 and 45 degrees. Higher angles will involve more shoulder activation, while lower angles emphasise the chest muscles.

Experiment to find the angle that works best for your goals and comfort.

Hand placement

Grip the barbell with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip.

Placing your hands too close together can strain your wrists and limit chest activation.

Foot positioning

Plant your feet firmly on the ground, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.

This stable base will help you maintain balance and generate power throughout the lift.

Executing the Incline Bench Press

Breathing techniques

Inhale deeply before lowering the bar, then hold your breath as you lower the weight.

Exhale as you press the bar back up. This technique, known as the Valsalva manoeuvre, helps to stabilise your core and protect your spine during heavy lifts.

Lowering the bar

Lower the bar to your upper chest, keeping your elbows tucked at a 45-degree angle.

Your forearms should remain vertical throughout the movement. Control the descent to prevent bouncing the bar off your chest.

Pressing the bar

Push the bar upwards in a straight line, fully extending your arms without locking your elbows.

Keep your shoulder blades retracted and maintain tension in your chest and triceps throughout the press. Inhale and prepare for the next rep.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

  • Flaring elbows: Keep your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body to protect your shoulders and maximise chest engagement.
  • Arching the lower back: Maintain a natural arch in your lower back without exaggerating it. Engage your core and glutes to stabilise your spine.
  • Bouncing the bar: Control the descent and gently touch the bar to your chest without bouncing. This helps maintain tension in the target muscles and prevents injury.

Incline Bench Press Variations

  • Incline dumbbell press: This variation allows for a greater range of motion and can help address strength imbalances between sides.
  • Reverse grip incline bench press: By using an underhand grip, you can emphasise the upper chest muscles even more.
  • Smith machine incline bench press: This machine-guided variation provides stability and can be helpful for beginners or those recovering from injury.

Complementary Exercises

Incorporate these exercises into your routine to further develop your upper body strength and balance:

  • Flat bench press: Target your middle and lower chest muscles with the classic bench press.
  • Overhead press: Strengthen your shoulders and upper back with this vertical pressing movement.
  • Push-ups: A versatile bodyweight exercise that targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps.

Structuring Your Workout Routine

Include the incline bench press as part of an upper body or chest-focused workout. 

Aim for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps, with a weight that challenges you while maintaining proper form.

Allow 48-72 hours of rest between workouts to ensure adequate recovery and muscle growth.

Safety Tips and Precautions

  • Warm up: Spend 5-10 minutes on dynamic stretches and lighter sets to prepare your muscles for the workout.
  • Use a spotter: A training partner can help you safely lift heavier weights and assist with forced reps.
  • Start light: Begin with a manageable weight and progressively increase as your strength and form improve.

Measuring Progress and Setting Goals

Track your strength gains by recording the weights, sets, and reps for each workout.

Set realistic goals and strive for consistent progress over time. Be patient and persistent, as muscle development takes time and dedication.

In Summary

The incline bench press is a powerful tool for unlocking your chest gains and enhancing upper body strength. 

By getting on top of the setup, execution, and variations, you'll be well on your way to a more muscular and balanced physique. 

Stay consistent, practise proper form, and challenge yourself to achieve your fitness goals.


How often should I perform the incline bench press?

Aim for 1-2 times per week, allowing adequate rest between sessions for recovery and growth.

Can I replace the flat bench press with incline bench press?

While the incline bench press is an excellent exercise, it's important to incorporate both variations for balanced chest development.

What muscles does the incline bench press target?

The incline bench press primarily targets the upper chest muscles (pectoralis major), front deltoids, and triceps.

How can I increase the weight I lift on the incline bench press?

Gradually increase the weight as you become stronger and more comfortable with the exercise. Focus on maintaining proper form and consider incorporating accessory exercises to support your progress.

Is the incline bench press suitable for beginners?

Yes, the incline bench press is an effective and safe exercise for beginners. Start with a light weight and focus on mastering the proper form before increasing the load. As you gain experience, you can explore different variations and complementary exercises to further enhance your upper body strength and muscle development.

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