Incline Bench Press Tips

An incline makes a bench press tougher.
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The muscles in your chest get bored when you do the same ho-hum bench presses every workout. Give them something to get excited about. Try an incline bench press instead. The form is pretty much the same: Just lie back on the bench and press the weight upward. But the incline of the exercise makes it more challenging and helps keep your muscles guessing. If you're a beginner, ask a certified fitness instructor to help you get the form right.

Degree of Incline

An incline bench press is similar to a typical, flat bench press. The only difference is the weight bench underneath you, which is inclined somewhere between 30 and 60 degrees. A flat bench by comparison would be zero degrees, while a perpendicular angle would be 90 degrees. A steeper incline -- closer to 60 degrees -- means the bench press targets your upper pectorals in your chest and anterior deltoids in your shoulders. A shallower incline -- closer to 30 degrees -- keeps the focus on your chest muscles, much as a flat bench press would.


You can do an incline bench press with dumbbells if you prefer, but the advantage of using a barbell is that you can add much more weight. The choice is yours, but if you opt for the barbell, you’ll need an inclined weight bench with stanchions that can handle the heavy barbell.


Ask someone to spot you during an incline bench press for two reasons. If you get caught in bad situation -- for example, if you realize you don’t have the strength to safely return the barbell to the rack or the dumbbells to the floor -- a spotter can be a lifesaver. Also, when you exercise alone, you might not challenge yourself because you fear a mid-workout failure. But a spotter’s presence can give you the confidence to tackle heavier weights or more repetitions leading to greater fitness gains.

Don’t Arch

Don’t arch your back during the incline bench press as tempting as it may be. Arching your back flattens your chest allowing the more powerful lower chest muscles to take over, according to the book, “Optimal Muscle Training,” by Ken Kinakin. Failing to target the upper-chest muscles defeats the purpose of doing the inclined bench press in the first place.

Expert Insight

You might think that involving your shoulder muscles more will help you lift more weight. You’d be wrong. The steeper the incline, the less weight you’ll be able to lift, according to the book, “The Ultimate Guide to Weight Training for Cricket,” by Robert G. Price.

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