The Bench Press is an essential weight training exercise for building mass, strength and power. The most common form is the Flat Bench Press, which also happens to be the most stable version, allowing you to lift the heaviest loads. (See Breaking Down The Bench Press.)
But if your goal is to build the biggest and the strongest set of pectoral muscles that your genetic capacity allows, you should use an adjustable bench to supplement the Flat Bench Press by performing incline and decline variations of the movement. (See also Want a Bigger Chest? Don’t Focus on the Flat Bench.)
Flat Bench Press
The Flat Bench Press primarily works the sternocostal head of the pectoralis major, more commonly referred to as the middle pec. The zero-degree angle of the bench puts the sternocostal head in a prime position to contract, engaging it more than the other pectoral regions.
Incline Bench Press
By setting the adjustable bench press to an incline angle between 45 and 60 degrees, you target the clavicular head (i.e., upper pecs) as well as your shoulders.
Decline Bench Press
By setting the bench to a decline of 30 degrees, you shift the emphasis to the abdominal head (i.e., lower pecs).
Bench Press Execution
Regardless which version you perform, execution is relatively similar.
- Lie back in a face-up position with your feet on the floor.
- Hold the barbell with both hands using a slightly-wider-than-shoulder-width grip—or hold a dumbbell in each hand—and position the weight over your chest with your arms straight.
- Rotate your shoulders and arms so your elbows are at a 45-degree angle to your body. This is the beginning position.
- Lower the weight to your chest; stop when your elbows are in line with your torso.
- Raise the weight back up to the beginning position by extending your elbows and horizontally flexing your shoulders.
For maximum results, use a variety of repetition ranges. If you want big size and strength gains, try the following formula:
- Start the first set using lighter weight and perform between 15 and 25 reps.
- Follow this up by doing one or two sets of 10 to 12 reps using weight heavy enough so that the last couple of reps are extremely difficult.
- Finish with one or two sets of 6 to 8 reps using heavy resistance.
(See also 5 Tips to Increase Your Bench Press Max.)