Incline Bench Press Exercise with Barbell or Dumbbells

Build Perfect Upper Chest with Incline Bench Press

The biggest missing peace to the chest puzzle is a fuller looking upper chest and balanced chest development. Most bodybuilders have a chest that looks like breast.

Build a masculine, share looking upper chest with Incline Bench Press Exercise.

Incline bench press is my second best recommended exercise after flat bench press as you have seen in the 8 most effective chest exercises article.


Inside This Article:


3 Big Reasons to perform Incline Bench Press

There are 3 Big reasons for performing incline bench press regularly:

  1. It is the best upper chest muscle building exercise: Incline press targets your clavicular pectoralis head and helps you fill the hollow below your collarbone. Electromyography and neurophysiology research confirms this.

  2. They are very safe on the shoulders: Flat bench press can cause repetitive stress injuries {pattern overload syndrome}.

  3. Conventional flat bench press stresses the sternal head: The under-tained clavicular head can be trained properly with incline bench press only.

Upper Pecs: Upper pecs are not a different muscle group. Upper pecs are the clavicular portion of pectoralis major muscle. 


How to Perform Incline Bench Press with Perfect Form

The 4-Contact Points Incline Bench Press technique

Pick the Right Tool: Perform incline bench press with free weights like barbells and dumbbells.

Stay away from: Smith Machines are NOT ideal for bench pressing as they create a fixed-bar pathway that do not allow the muscles to move in the natural pathway and predisposes your shoulder joint to injury. 

Want to train for life? Then ditch the machine and go for free weights.

The Get, Set and Go Technique  

Set the bench to an angle at least 30 - 45 degrees for optimal gains

Get - An incline of at least 30 degrees is required to target the upper chest muscles. Try 2 angles - 30 and 45 degrees. Anything more will target the anterior deltoids more.

Set Grip: A medium grip with forearms perpendicular to the floor at the bottom of the movement is optimal grip as it reduces stress on wrists and works the chest more.

Set posture: Use the 4 point contact method as shown below for best lift.

Go: Grab the bar tightly, brace your abs, tighten your glutes, take a deep breathe in and lift the bar off the rack in one smooth move.

Step One: Lower the bar under control to bring it to the top of your chest above the nipple area. 

Too high chest contact causes risk of injury to shoulder capsule and acromio-clavicular joint.

Step Two:  Pull the bar to your chest and Get a stretch at the bottom

The stretch helps target your chest muscles even more.

Keep elbows in line with your shoulders in the bottom position. it is the perfect end position that both targets the upper chest and keeps shoulders safe. Win-win situation.

Step Three: Press up as fast as you can under control. No bouncing off the bottom or lifting too slowly that takes the focus off the fast twitch fibers which are built for speed.

Do not lockout as it relaxes the muscles. Instead stop just short of locking out while squeezing the chest. The first repetition is complete.

Take a deep breathe in and start the next rep.


3 Common Incline Bench Press Mistakes

For best results, avoid the 3 common mistakes while performing incline bench press.

  1. Too wide grip: It places more stress on your wrists and can cause premature fatigue.
  2. Too high chest contact point: Stresses the shoulder capsule
  3. Avoid over-arching the back: Arching flattens your chest muscle and shifts focus from the clavicular head {the head we want to train} to the sternal head.

Exercise Modifications:

If you have shoulder pain, then lower the bar to your lower chest area and elbows need not be in line with shoulders.

Also Read: 5 Keys to Super Bench press


Dumbbell Incline Bench Press

Dumbbells are a great variation for performing incline bench press for 2 reasons:

  1. Dumbbells help pre-stretch your muscles
    Pre stretching is an excellent way to recuruit more muscle fibers. A pre-stretched muscle contracts harder and makes the next rep recruit more muscle fibers.
  2. Dumbbells allow longer range of motion and hence are perfect addition to barbell training.

My cool tip: I perform incline presses for 4-6 weeks before switching to barbells. You have to use a lot less poundage in dumbbell exercise but you get a longer range of motion.


2 Incline Bench Press variations for even greater gains

I have learnt these 2 techniques from the Best Chest Exercises you never Heard off program.

1. High repetition incline bench press : Nick Nilsson says that these are great for building shoulder girdle strength and upper pecs mass.

2. Incline Bench press flyes: Flyes help align your chest muscles more accurately and help recruit more fibers.

3. One more tip: Reset the bar

Incline bench press are notorious for forcing your muscles to relax and your chest to flatten. Nick recommends to rack/unrack the bar between reps to maintain tension.

I have found that if I pinch my upper back {scapulae} helps maintain constant tension


Best Muscle Building Program

Why just build bigger chest when you can build a bigger body with bigger arms, shoulders and legs? Check out the video below for more.


Summary and Action Points

Your goal should be to build a perfect chest in balance with your shoulder and back muscles. 

Incline bench press with barbell and dumbbells offer the optimal way to train your upper pecs {clavicular head of pectoralis major muscle} and build a perfect square chest.

Replace incline press for flat bench press for 6 weeks and see the results. Be sure to measure your chest before/after 6 weeks.


› Incline Bench Press Exercise

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