Boost Chest Definition with Incline Bench Press Workouts
If you're looking to get that chiselled, well-defined chest, one of the most effective exercises you can incorporate into your workout routine is the incline bench press.
This compound exercise primarily targets the upper chest but also works the shoulders and triceps.
In this article, we will discuss the benefits of incline bench press, the correct form, various techniques, and common mistakes to avoid.
Let's dive right in!
Benefits of Incline Bench Press
The incline bench press has numerous benefits, such as:
- Targeting the upper chest (pectoralis major) muscles more effectively than the flat bench press.
- Developing strong, well-rounded shoulders and triceps.
- Improving overall pressing strength and upper body stability.
- Enhancing the aesthetics of the chest by building the upper portion of the muscle.
Correct Form for Incline Bench Press
Before we discuss the techniques, it is crucial to understand the correct form for performing the incline bench press:
- Set the bench at an angle between 30 and 45 degrees.
- Lie down on the bench, ensuring your head, shoulders, and buttocks are in contact with the bench.
- Plant your feet flat on the floor, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Grip the barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Lower the barbell to your upper chest, then press the weight back up to the starting position.
Types of Incline Bench Press
Barbell Incline Bench Press
This is the most conventional form of incline bench press and is often incorporated in upper-body strength training. It involves an inclined bench and a barbell.
The angle of incline is typically set between 45 and 60 degrees, though it can vary depending on personal preferences and the specific muscle groups being targeted.
The exerciser lies on the inclined bench, with their feet flat on the ground for stability.
The barbell is then gripped with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and lifted off the rack.
It is then lowered to the upper chest before being pushed back up until the arms are fully extended.
This type of incline bench press mainly targets the upper portion of the pectoralis major, as well as the deltoids and triceps.
Dumbbell Incline Bench Press
The technique is similar to the barbell incline bench press, but the use of dumbbells allows for a greater range of motion and can also help in identifying and correcting muscle imbalances as both sides of the body must work independently.
It provides more freedom for the wrists to move in a more natural path.
It also enables individuals to tweak the motion path slightly, which could potentially increase the stimulation of the pectoral muscles.
Smith Machine Incline Bench Press
In this variation, the incline bench is placed within a Smith machine, which is a piece of equipment with a barbell fixed within steel rails.
This type of incline bench press provides a more controlled movement pattern, which can be beneficial for beginners or those recovering from injuries.
It allows the exerciser to focus more on the muscles being worked and less on stabilising the weight. However, it's worth noting that this type of bench press can limit the natural arc movement that comes with free-weight presses.
It is an excellent option for those with limited shoulder mobility or those looking to isolate and focus more on their chest muscles.
Incline Bench Press Techniques
The way you grip the barbell can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of your lift.
Your hands should be placed slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
This position allows you to fully engage your chest muscles and generate maximum power during the lift.
It also helps to reduce the stress placed on the shoulders during the press.
For optimal control and stability, wrap your thumbs around the bar and make sure the barbell is resting on the heel of your hand, not the centre of your palm.
Proper elbow alignment is critical to prevent injury and maximise the benefits of the incline bench press.
Your elbows should be kept at approximately a 45-degree angle to your torso throughout the movement.
This angle helps to maintain proper shoulder alignment and prevents undue stress on the shoulder joints.
Keeping your elbows too flared out can increase the risk of shoulder injuries, while tucking your elbows too close to your body may shift the emphasis away from the chest muscles and onto the triceps.
Scapular retraction refers to the action of pulling your shoulder blades together and downward like you are trying to hold a pencil between them.
This technique helps to create a stable platform for pressing and can significantly reduce the risk of shoulder injuries.
It also assists in maintaining a neutral spine position and allows for optimal chest muscle activation during the press.
Leg drive is a technique used by powerlifters to generate more force during the press.
It involves pushing your feet firmly into the floor, which engages your lower body and transfers more power to your upper body.
This technique not only increases the amount of weight you can lift but also provides additional stability, helping to maintain balance and control during the lift.
Proper breathing is essential for safety and performance during the incline bench press.
As you lower the barbell to your chest, inhale deeply into your diaphragm (not just your chest) to create internal pressure that will help stabilise your core.
This pattern of breathing helps to maintain core stability, maximise power output, and can even help protect against injury by keeping the spine in a safer position.
Always remember never to hold your breath during the lift as it can cause dangerous increases in blood pressure.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
- Flaring the elbows out excessively puts the shoulders in a vulnerable position.
- Bouncing the barbell off the chest reduces muscle activation and increases the risk of injury.
- Not engaging the shoulder blades leads to poor pressing mechanics and an increased risk of a shoulder injury.
- Lifting the buttocks off the bench compromises form and reduces the effectiveness of the exercise.
Incline Bench Press Variations
Incline Bench Press with Close Grip
This variation targets the triceps more while still working the chest and shoulders.
Grip the barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart or slightly closer.
Reverse Grip Incline Bench Press
By gripping the barbell with an underhand grip, this variation places more emphasis on the upper chest and shoulders while also engaging the biceps.
Incline Bench Press Alternatives
If the incline bench press is not suitable for you or you want to mix up your chest workouts, consider these alternatives:
- Incline push-ups: Place your hands on an elevated surface like a bench or step for an upper chest-focused push-up variation.
- Incline dumbbell flyes: Perform flyes on an incline bench to target the upper chest and stretch the pectoral muscles.
- Incline chest press machine: Use a chest press machine set at an incline angle for a more controlled and stable chest exercise.
Creating a Chest Workout Routine
To get the most out of your chest workouts, consider incorporating a variety of exercises targeting different parts of the chest, such as flat bench press, incline bench press, decline bench press, and chest flyes.
Aim for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps per exercise, and remember to adjust the weight to suit your strength level and fitness goals.
The incline bench press is a fantastic exercise for building a chiselled, well-defined chest.
By following the techniques and tips outlined in this article, you'll be on your way to achieving impressive upper body strength and aesthetics.
Remember to utilise proper form, avoid common mistakes, and experiment with variations and alternatives to keep your workouts fresh and engaging.
What angle should the bench be set at for an incline bench press?
Set the bench at an angle between 30 and 45 degrees for optimal chest activation and reduced shoulder strain.
Can I replace a flat bench press with an incline bench press in my workout routine?
Incline bench press is a great addition to your chest workout, but it's essential to include exercises targeting other areas of the chest as well. You can alternate between flat and incline bench presses in different sessions or include both exercises in the same workout.
How often should I perform an incline bench press?
Aim to train your chest 1-2 times per week, incorporating incline bench press along with other chest exercises for a well-rounded routine.
Which is better, the barbell or dumbbell incline bench press?
Both exercises are effective for developing the upper chest. The barbell incline bench press allows for heavier weights and can help improve overall pressing strength. The dumbbell incline bench press provides a greater range of motion and enables better muscle activation. Including both variations in your workout routine can yield the best results.
How can I progress in my incline bench press?
To progress in your incline bench press, consider increasing the weight, adding more sets or reps, or incorporating more advanced variations like pause reps or tempo training.