If you want to build greater thickness and strength in your upper pecs, then you should add an incline barbell bench press to your training regime.
This powerful lift allows you to target your upper chest muscles even more intensely than the standard flat bench press.
In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about the incline barbell bench press and how to perform the incline barbell bench press correctly.
You will also learn its benefits, how to avoid common mistakes, the best variations of incline barbell chest press, and how to do them.
- Know About Chest Muscles
- What Is The Incline Barbell Chest Press?
- Incline Barbell Chest Press Angle
- Incline Barbell Chest Press Muscles Worked.
- How To Do Incline Barbell Bench Press
- 1. Set Up The Bench
- 2. Starting Position
- 3. Grip And Elbow Position
- 4. Performing The Press
- Sets And Reps For Incline Barbell Press
- Barbell Incline Press Proper Form And Tips
- Best Variations Of Incline Barbell Chest Press
- 1. Close Grip Incline Barbell Press
- 2. Reverse Grip Incline barbell Bench Press
- 3. Wide Grip Incline Barbell Bench Press
- Incline Barbell Press Benefits
- Frequently Asked Question
- What is the best grip for an incline chest press?
- Incline barbell Press Vs. Flat barbell Press
- Is The Incline Bench 30 Or 45 Degrees?
Know About Chest Muscles
To train the upper chest effectively, we first need to examine its anatomy and how to train it.
The chest muscle is called the pectoralis (pecs), divided into upper and lower sections. The upper region of the chest is the hardest area of the chest to build.
The pectoralis major has two functional subdivisions –the upper and lower regions.
- The upper region is referred to as the sternoclavicular head because of its attachment to the clavicle.
- The lower regions are sometimes called the sternocostal head because of their attachment to the ribs.
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What Is The Incline Barbell Chest Press?
If you’re looking for straightforward barbell upper chest exercises to add to your routine, the Incline barbell press is a great staple exercise to get you started.
It’s a variation of the traditional flat barbell bench press, where the bench is set to an inclined position.
The angle of the adjustable bench in this variation puts more tension on your upper chest muscles than a flat bench press would.
Now the question is, how?
What angles should I use most during the incline barbell bench press to hit the upper chest? Or whether it’s better to do High Incline and Low Incline barbell chest presses.
Incline Barbell Chest Press Angle
When you do the incline barbell bench press, it’s important to get the angle of the bench correct.
No Doubt it is one of the best upper chest exercises, but there’s one major problem: the front deltoid likes to dominate the movement, preventing us from getting the maximum benefit.
The anterior deltoid and the upper chest are very close to each other, which means that one of the two can start dominating the other if we don’t do the exercise correctly.
Research shows that doing the Incline bench press at a 30-degree angle is the best way to work on the upper part of your chest.
Even though 30 degrees may seem like a small angle, it is the proper angle to train your upper pecs and minimize the effect on the anterior deltoid muscles.
If you set the incline bench press angle to 60 degrees, people will use it for an incline bench press, then you will shift the focus from the upper chest to the anterior deltoid.
An upright position will give the front delts more attention because the arms will move in a straight line up against gravity in an overhead pressing motion.
Incline Barbell Chest Press Muscles Worked.
The incline barbell bench press primarily works the upper pectoralis major muscles and targets the main pec muscle.
The incline chest press involves several synergist muscles,
A handful of other muscles worked or play the role of stabilizer muscles, including your
How To Do Incline Barbell Bench Press
The Incline barbell chest press works mostly on the upper pecs, It is a great exercise for complete chest development.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to perform this exercise with proper form:
1. Set Up The Bench
- Position an adjustable bench at an incline angle between 30 and 45 degrees.
- Place the barbell on the rack above the bench.
- Load the barbell with the appropriate weight.
2. Starting Position
- Lie back on the bench with your feet flat on the floor for stability.
- Your head, shoulders, and buttocks should rest on the bench, and your spine should maintain a natural arch.
3. Grip And Elbow Position
- Grip the barbell slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Ensure your wrists are straight and your grip is firm.
- Your elbows should be angled slightly toward your torso (about 45 degrees from your body) rather than flare them out.
4. Performing The Press
- To perform the lift, you must retract your shoulder blades (scapula retraction) and create a slight arch in the back.
- Inhale and lower the barbell slowly and controlled. Let your elbows drop until the barbell touches roughly at chest level.
- Exhale and press the barbell back up to the starting position.
- Repeat the desired number of reps and sets.
- After completing a set, safely rack the barbell.
Sets And Reps For Incline Barbell Press
Training volume refers to the total amount of work you perform during a chest workout, including the number of sets, reps, and weights used.
Here’s a good starting point for how many sets and reps you should do.
According to the latest scientific evidence, 12–20 weekly sets per muscle group may optimize muscle growth.
- Beginners (with a year or less of training) should aim for about 10-12 weekly sets for chest workouts.
- An Intermediate trainee (with two to four years of training) can increase the volume to 16 sets per week.
- An advanced trainee (four or more years of training) may be able to get in up to 20 weekly sets.
When a certain amount of volume stops working and your progress stops, you can add sets to increase the volume and use that to make progress again.
The best rep ranges and loads to work with.
- For muscle endurance: Aim for 15-20+ reps with moderate resistance.
- For muscle strength: 6–10 reps, with more resistance.
- For muscle hypertrophy (increased muscle size): Aim for 3–4 sets of 8–12 reps, with a moderate to heavy amount of resistance.
It’s best to start with fewer reps and sets first, then increase them as you get stronger.
Barbell Incline Press Proper Form And Tips
Proper exercise technique is essential to ensure the safety and effectiveness of an exercise program.
- Bench Angle: Set the bench to an incline of about 30 to 45 degrees. This angle targets the upper chest without putting too much stress on the shoulders.
- Body Positioning: Lie on the bench with your feet flat on the floor. Your back should have a natural arch, and your shoulders, head, and buttocks should remain in contact with the bench throughout the exercise.
- Grip: Grasp the barbell with a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width. Your wrists should be straight and aligned with your forearms.
- Lifting Off: Unrack the barbell with your arms fully extended above your chest. Keep the tension in your chest as you press the weight up.
- Lowering the Bar: Inhale as you slowly lower the barbell around the level of your collarbones. Keep your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your torso.
- Breathing: Exhale while pushing barbells upwards, and do so in a controlled manner.
- Controlled Movement: Maintain a controlled tempo throughout the exercise. Avoid any jerky or rapid movements.
- ROM: Always use the longest range of motion possible and control the barbells throughout the set.
- Rest and Recovery: Ultimately, your results will depend on your ability to recover from your workouts adequately. You should allow at least 36 to 48 hours of rest before training the same muscle groups again to allow for sufficient recovery.
- Avoid lifting Your Hips: Lifting your hips off the bench reduces the effectiveness of the exercise and can strain your lower back.
- Grips: Test out different grip widths to find what works best for you. People with longer arms may need a slightly wider grip. If you feel pressure in the front of your shoulder doing this exercise, try another one.
- Thumb positions: For beginners, wrap your thumbs around the bar when bench pressing. More experienced lifters may use a “suicide” grip with thumbs behind the bar, but this grip requires extra control and carries higher risk.
- Shoulder blades: Ensure that the shoulder blades remain retracted and that they do not change position as you press.
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Best Variations Of Incline Barbell Chest Press
The incline barbell bench press can be done differently to suit your fitness level.
If you are new to performing an incline barbell press, you may want to apply a few modifications to make the exercise easier. One way to counter this problem is to adjust the incline of the bench to 15 degrees. Another is to use a lighter weight.
If you are looking for a more advanced variation to stimulate different muscle fibers in the chest, then try close grip incline barbell bench press, wide grip incline barbell bench press, and reverse grip incline barbell bench press.
Increasing the bench inclination and using heavier weights can make it more difficult.
1. Close Grip Incline Barbell Press
The close grip incline barbell press targets the triceps, upper chest, and front shoulders. As it is a close grip exercise, it emphasizes the triceps and a little on the upper chest.
The close grip bench press is an excellent exercise for building mass in the triceps. However, the narrow hand spacing can cause shoulder and elbow pain for some people.
How To Do Close Grip Incline Barbell Press
- Grab the barbell with a grip that is narrower than shoulder-width apart.
- Your hands should be closer together than in a standard grip.
- Pull your shoulder blades together and slightly stick out your chest.
- Lift the barbell off the rack and hold it straight over your chest.
- Breathe in and lower the barbell to chest level in a controlled motion.
- Press the weight back up when the bar touches your chest while exhaling.
- Keep your elbows tucked in close to your sides as you lift. Don’t allow them to flare out.
- Technique first, weight second. No one cares how much you bench if you get hurt.
- Focus on squeezing your triceps at the top.
- Keep both feet firmly placed on the floor.
2. Reverse Grip Incline barbell Bench Press
Now, it’s an unconventional movement compared to the regular barbell press with an overhand grip, but it’s beneficial for emphasizing the upper chest muscles due to the reverse hand position.
A group of Canadian scientists found that the muscle activity of the upper pecs in weight-trained subjects performing reverse-grip bench presses was more than 30% greater than when they did standard-grip bench presses.
How To Do Reverse Grip Incline Barbell Bench Press
- Set the incline bench to an angle of 30–45 degrees.
- Lie on the bench and grab the barbell with an underhand grip, your palms facing you. Place your hands shoulder-width apart.
- Unrack the barbell from the rack and hold it with a controlled grip.
- Your elbows should be slightly bent and close to your body.
- Keep your elbows close to your body and lower the barbell to your upper chest.
- Press the barbell back up to the starting position.
- Perform 3-4 sets of 8–12 repetitions.
- Beginners should start light and practice good form before training heavily.
- Use a spotter when lifting heavy weights.
- Keep both feet firmly placed on the floor throughout the exercise.
3. Wide Grip Incline Barbell Bench Press
The wide-grip incline barbell bench press is another variation of the incline barbell press.
The wider grip used in the wide grip incline bench press shifts more focus onto the chest muscles than narrower grip variations.
When the hand placement is widened, the chest can contract more powerfully through the pressing motion.
How To Do Wide Grip Incline Barbell Press
- Grab the barbell with a grip that is wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Position the barbell over your upper chest with your arms fully extended.
- Lift the barbell off the rack and position it straight over your upper chest.
- Lower the barbell to touch your chest and then push the barbell back up.
- Avoid locking out your elbows fully at the top.
- Keep a slight bend in them to maintain tension on the chest muscles.
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
- Breathe out on the way up.
- Maintain more tension through the pecs by not locking out the elbows entirely.
Incline Barbell Press Benefits
Several reasons motivate you to do an incline barbell bench press; I’ve mentioned some below.
- The exercise specifically targets the upper pectoral muscles, resulting in a more balanced chest development.
- Barbell incline chest press exercises require more balance than machines, which can lead to greater muscle fiber recruitment.
- It contributes to overall upper body strength and is beneficial for athletic performance.
- It allows for greater joint safety and stabilization and allows the joints to move naturally within their range of motion.
- Barbell incline press variations put less stress on the shoulder joint than the flat bench press, making it a suitable exercise for those with shoulder issues or pain.
- It affords a greater variety, preventing physical and mental burnout.
- The incline barbell bench press is considered challenging, which can help develop mental toughness and resilience.
Frequently Asked Question
What is the best grip for an incline chest press?
The best grip for the incline barbell chest press is generally a medium-width grip that is slightly wider than your shoulder width.
- Beginners should stick to this medium, just-outside-shoulder-width grip for safety and joint comfort.
- Some advanced lifters use a super wide grip, sometimes twice shoulder width or more. While this increases tension in the chest muscles, it also increases shoulder rotation and strain. It’s best left for experienced bench pressers.
- Others occasionally use a closer, narrower-than-shoulder-width grip. This puts more focus on the triceps but can be uncomfortable on the wrists and elbows for some people.
Incline barbell Press Vs. Flat barbell Press
The main difference between the incline barbell chest press and the flat barbell press is that the incline barbell press emphasizes the clavicular (upper) head of the pecs more. Meanwhile, the flat barbell press emphasizes the clavicular (upper) and sternocostal (lower) heads.
It makes sense to include a mix of incline and flat pressing in your workout routine if you want well-developed, proportionate pecs.
Is The Incline Bench 30 Or 45 Degrees?
Research proves that the correct angle of the Incline Bench Press should be 30 degrees from flat to target the upper chest. So, setting the bench at about 30 degrees inclined is best. It is important not to go too upright because then the stress will shift to the shoulders rather than the chest.
The Incline Barbell Bench Press is a highly effective exercise for targeting the upper chest, shoulders, and triceps.
Just be sure not to use an incline angle that is too drastic or grip the bar too narrowly or widely. And avoid common mistakes like overarching the back or flaring elbows outwards.
Add incline barbell presses to any serious chest routine, and they are guaranteed to build upper pec thickness.
Give this exercise a try on the next chest day!
- Influence of bench angle on upper extremity muscular activation during bench press exercise. Lauver, J. D., Cayot, T. E., & Scheuermann, B. W. (2015). European Journal of Sport Science, 16(3), 309-316. doi:10.1080/17461391.2015.1022605. URL: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17461391.2015.1022605, accessed on 24.08.2020
- An Electromyography Analysis of 3 Muscles Surrounding the Shoulder Joint During the Performance of a Chest Press Exercise at Several Angles. Trebs, A. A., Brandenburg, J. P., & Pitney, W. A. (2010). Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(7), 1925-1930. doi:10.1519/jsc.0b013e3181ddfae7
Manish brings over 10 years of hands-on experience in weight lifting and fat loss to fitness coaching. He specializes in gym-based training and has a lot of knowledge about exercise, lifting technique, biomechanics, and more.
Through “Fit Life Regime,” he generously shares the insights he’s gained over a decade in the field. His goal is to equip others with the knowledge to start their own fitness journey.