Exercise Profile
  • Target Muscle Group
  • Exercise TypeStrength
  • Equipment RequiredBarbell
  • MechanicsCompound
  • Force TypePush (Bilateral)
  • Experience LevelBeginner
  • Secondary Muscles
    Shoulders, Triceps
Target Muscle Group

Chest

Chest Muscle Anatomy Diagram

Decline Bench Press Overview

The decline bench press is a variation of the bench press and an exercise used to target the muscles of the chest. It will also indirectly target the muscles of the shoulders and triceps.

The decline bench press is commonly used to target the lower portion of the pecs. However, some argue that it is the most effective bench press variation for targeting the entire chest.

Bench press variations can be included in your chest workouts, push workouts, upper body workouts, and full body workouts.

Decline Bench Press Instructions

  1. Lie flat on an decline bench, set your hands just outside of shoulder width, and hook your feet underneath the pad.
  2. Set your shoulder blades by pinching them together and driving them into the bench.
  3. Take a deep breath and allow your spotter to help you with the lift off in order to maintain tightness through your upper back.
  4. Let the weight settle and ensure your upper back remains tight after lift off.
  5. Inhale and allow the bar to descend slowly by unlocking the elbows.
  6. Lower the bar in a straight line to just below your sternum (breastbone) and touch the chest.
  7. Push the bar back up in a straight line by pressing yourself into the bench and extending the elbows.
  8. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Decline Bench Press Tips

  1. Technique first, weight second - no one cares how much you bench if you get injured.
  2. Keep the bar in line with your wrist and elbows and ensure it travels in a straight line. In order to keep the wrist straight, try to position the bar as low in the palm as possible while still being able to wrap the thumb.
  3. If you want to keep more tension through the triceps and chest, stop each repetition just short of lockout at the top.
  4. Don’t worry about tucking the elbows excessively, much of this advice is from geared lifters using suits. A slight tuck on the way down may be advisable for some lifters but other lifters can use an excellent cue from Greg Nuckols that will accomplish the same thing: “Flare and push”.
  5. Arching may be advisable depending upon your goals but ensure that most of the arch comes from the mid to upper back and not your lower back. If your lower back is cramping as you set up for the lift, you’re out of position and putting yourself at risk for potential injury.
  6. The bar should touch your chest with every single repetition. If you want to overload specific ranges of motion, look into board presses or accommodating resistance with chains or bands.
  7. As the bar descends, aim for your sternum (breastbone) or slightly below depending upon the length of your upper arm in order to promote a linear bar path.
  8. Intermediate and advanced lifters may use a thumbless or “suicide” grip but for the majority of lifters, it would be wiser to learn how to bench with the thumb wrapped around the bar at first.
  9. Fight the urge to allow the wrists to roll back into extension, think about rolling your knuckles toward the ceiling.
  10. Experiment with grip width - if your have longer arms you may need to use a slightly wider grip. However, if you’re feeling pressure in the front of the shoulder during the exercise, you may need to widen your grip, improve scapular retraction, or slightly lessen the range of motion via exercises such as floor or board presses.
  11. Squeeze the bar as tightly as possible to help enhance shoulder stability.
  12. Ensure the shoulder blades remain retracted and don’t allow them to change position as you press.
  13. The bar should descend under control and touch the lifter’s chest - no bouncing or excess momentum.
  14. Think about trying to push yourself away from the bar instead of pushing the bar off of you.
  15. Tightness through the upper back should be one of your main priorities throughout the course of the lift.
  16. Ideally, use a spotter to help assist with the lift off in order to maintain tension through the upper back.
  17. Focus on pulling the bar apart or trying to “bend the bar” in order to activate some of the intrinsic stabilizers in the shoulder.
  18. The glutes and shoulder blades should maintain contact with the bench throughout the entirety of the movement.
12 Comments
Ben
Posted on: Mon, 07/18/2016 - 00:17

Don't use a crappy ab bench to to this (eg in your home gym) because you will go over the max weight capacity, and there aren't many more dangerous exercises than this to collapse your bench on!

Austin
Posted on: Tue, 07/14/2015 - 12:15

This exercise is great but watch out for hurting the area between shoulder blades. Is it meant to work that area or am I doing something wrong?

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MikeWines
Posted on: Wed, 07/15/2015 - 09:39

Austin,
This movement is primarily designed to work your pecs (chest) and triceps mainly. You should be trying to actively keep your shoulder blades pinched together throughout the motion and this may cause the upper back to begin to feel fatigued. .

NICK
Posted on: Mon, 02/02/2015 - 10:19

I'm doing this excercise on a smith machine so you can lift a much higher amount of weight. But i prefer the dumbells though. :-)

ladiesy
Posted on: Sun, 06/01/2014 - 21:04

is there another way to do this without a bench

Kiko
Posted on: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 10:52

I know it's the chest the you work out if you this but does it target anything like upper, mid, or lower chest?

Nate
Posted on: Tue, 11/26/2013 - 12:12

Lower pecs

Kiko
Posted on: Mon, 08/05/2013 - 10:51

I know it's the chest the you work out if you this but does it target anything like upper, mid, or lower chest?

brad
Posted on: Tue, 01/08/2013 - 12:52

Love the workout it gets u ripped up

Damian Delao
Posted on: Thu, 12/27/2012 - 14:49

If you haven't already found the information, or for those that are looking for this information, you can always move a sit-up bench to the squat rack, adjust the seat so that it isn't too decline, and smash out your sets there.

Alternatively you can do dips at a dip machine along with flat bench dumbell flys.

bjerkan
Posted on: Wed, 09/19/2012 - 09:29

Is there any other exercise i could do instead, when my gym dont have any bench or posibility to make me lay down like this? Dumbbell or barbell;-)

Mitch
Posted on: Sat, 09/08/2012 - 23:52

Is there an alternative to this one as a back-up, my gym doesn't really have the proper equipment to do this safely

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