Learn how the incline bench press can help gym-goers sculpt a wide, strong upper body with this step-by-step guide.
In this article:
- The Incline Bench Press
- How to Do an Incline Bench Press
- Incline Bench Press: Muscles Worked
- Maximizing Incline Bench Press Benefits
A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Do an Incline Bench Press
The Incline Bench Press
The incline bench press is a strength-training move that develops the upper chest and shoulder muscles. Gym-goers can perform this compound exercise whether they’re training for strength, size, or aesthetics.
What are compound exercises? Compound exercises are movements that engage two or more muscle groups at the same time.
Of course, one should know the proper incline bench press form if they want to maximize the results of this exercise. In fact, an incorrect incline bench press form won’t only fail to produce results, but it might also lead to serious injuries.
How to Do an Incline Bench Press
Here’s a step-by-step guide on the proper way to do an incline barbell bench press:
Step 1: Warm Up the Muscles
Some gym-goers skip this part and go straight to the exercise because they feel it’s a waste of time. While it may take a few minutes, following a good warm-up routine is crucial to improve athletic performance and prevent muscular injuries.
For this exercise, some good dynamic warm-up exercises to perform are burpees and push-ups. Do two to three sets of 10 reps each exercise before setting up for the incline barbell press.
Step 2: Set the Bench and Bar
Setting the bench and bar is important to ensure one engages the proper muscles. In fact, improper bench positioning is another cause of injuries when it comes to this exercise.
For example, if the bench is too low, it misses the upper pectorals and focuses on the mid-chest area. On the other hand, setting the bench too high will put too much focus on the shoulders rather than the pecs.
To hit the upper pecs and shoulders properly, fitness buffs should ensure their bench inclines at about 15 to 30 degrees from the rack. Also, the bar should be parallel to the area just below the chin.
Step 3: Position the Body
After setting the bench at the right angle, it’s time to prop oneself on the seat. Sit down, keep the back flat on the bench, and plant the feet wider than hip-width apart on the ground.
Afterward, lift the arms up and grab the bar slightly wider than the shoulders’ width. Keep in mind that setting the hands too far or near from each other might make the elbows curve out during the exercise.
One good trick to know the hands are positioned just right is if the forearms are both perpendicular to the ground. Meanwhile, the triceps should be near parallel to the floor as well.
Step 4: Unrack the Barbell
Once comfortable with the position of his/her arms and body, it’s time to unrack the barbell from the incline bench press. Tightly grab the bar, take a deep breath, drive the feet through the ground, and then push the bar off the rack.
Step 5: Lower the Bar
After unracking the bar, take a moment to maintain proper balance. Once that’s done, bend the elbows to lower the bar down toward the chest.
As the bar descends, make sure to keep the back flat on the bench and to direct the bar toward the area just above the nipples. Also, stretch the pecs wide while lowering the bar.
Step 6: Contract the Chest Muscles
For maximum muscle gains, contract the pecs once the bar is just above the chest. So before pushing the weight up, hold the bar for one count while contracting the pecs.
Step 7: Push the Weight Up
After holding the weight for one count, push the bar up while keeping the back flat against the bench and driving the feet through the ground for maximum force. Remember to keep the forearms perpendicular to the ground throughout this exercise.
Step 8: Repeat
An up-and-down movement counts as a single rep. For maximum muscle gains, do 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps of heavy incline bench press.
One can increase or decrease the weight and volume depending on their fitness goals. For example, gym-goers training for endurance can do multiple reps of light weights.
Incline Bench Press: Muscles Worked
The incline bench press targets these three muscle groups:
1. Upper Pectorals
Just like any other bench press variation, the incline barbell press primarily engages the pectoral muscle group. Keep in mind, though, that the incline barbell press focuses on the upper rather than middle and lower pecs.
2. Anterior Deltoids
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Since the bench bends at 15 to 30 degrees, this exercise also hits the anterior deltoids. If gym-goers were to incline it even higher, then all the weight would shift to the shoulders.
As such, it’s important to incline the bench at the right angle to hit the proper muscle groups.
Almost all exercises that include upper body push movements engage the triceps — the incline bench press is no exception. The triceps usually activate once one is pushing the weight off of their chest.
Tip: If gym-goers want to increase the weight they press, then they need to work on their triceps as well since the triceps play a key role in bench press movements.
Maximizing Incline Bench Press Benefits
To maximize the benefits of the incline bench press, lifters should combine it with other solid chest exercises, a healthy diet plan, and effective bodybuilding supplements. Fitness buffs should know that this is just one exercise and that they need to continue exploring other intense workout routines.
In this video, learn the proper form for barbell incline bench press from ScottHermanFitness:
Overall, the incline bench press is a simple yet effective compound exercise for both strength training and bodybuilding. The key here is to create a slow, controlled movement while contracting the pecs and shoulders all throughout the exercise.
Of course, this exercise alone is not enough to help one build large shoulders and pecs. For maximum gains, fitness buffs should create a good upper body workout routine that alternates between the different muscle groups.
How often do you hit the incline bench press? Share your routine in the comments section down below!