Benefits of the Decline Bench Press | STACK

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Benefits of the Decline Bench Press

March 28, 2013 | Joe Giandonato

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Tucked away in the corner of your gym is the decline bench. This piece of equipment is rarely used for its intended purpose, often serving as a glorified coat rack. For those of you who ignore the Decline Bench, it's time to change your attitude towards this chest-building tool. (See 3 Reasons Your Bench is Weak.)

Decline Bench Press Benefits

There's a gym myth that doing the Decline Bench Press actually flattens your chest. In actuality, the Decline Bench may be more beneficial than the standard Bench Press for building chest strength and size. (Learn other ways to build a bigger chest.) Here's why:

Less Stress on the Shoulders

The traditional Bench Press involves a lot of rotation at the shoulders, potentially causing impingement. This limits range of motion and puts your shoulders in a compromised position that can lead to injury.

Less Stress on the Lower Back

Arching the back during a Bench puts immense stress on the lower back. Doing this frequently can cause back pain, especially in the lumbar spine.

Increased Pec Activation

Benching at a decline minimizes rotation at the shoulder, shifting stress from the anterior deltoids to the pectoralis major. EMG analysis revealed that the Decline Bench activates the fibers of the sternal head of the pectoralis major.[1]

Multi-Purpose Movement

Simple adjustments such as altering hand placement or varying the degree of decline can significantly change the focus of the exercise.

Decline Bench Press How To

Muscles Targeted: Sternal head of the pectoralis major, clavicular head of the pectoralis major, anterior deltoid and triceps brachii

  • Lie on a decline bench and grasp the bar with a shoulder-width grip
  • Let your shoulders depress into the bench as you let the bar settle
  • Inhale and tighten yours lats, upper back and core
  • Lower the bar down to the bottom of your chest, keeping your elbows and wrists directly beneath the bar
  • Briefly pause the bar on your chest
  • Exhale and drive the bar back up to starting position

Sets/Reps: 3-5x8-15 with 1-3 minutes rest between sets

Note: If you don't have access to a decline bench, elevate one end of a bench with two or three plates. Make sure your feet can still touch the ground.


[1] Glass SC, Armstrong T. "Electromyographical activity of the pectoralis major during incline and decline bench presses." J Strength Cond Res. 1997.

Joe Giandonato
- Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS, is the head strength and conditioning coach at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa. He has authored numerous articles on a...
Joe Giandonato
- Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS, is the head strength and conditioning coach at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa. He has authored numerous articles on a...
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