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No chest workout is complete without some versions of the bench press performed over the course of the day. The incline bench press is an advanced variation of the flat bench press that targets the entire chest with even more power and tension. Variations in the bench press allow you to target different sections of the chest, besides making it look more even structurally.

While you would see different variations of the bench press being performed regularly across gymnasiums, it wasn't such a popular exercise back in the day. The bench press at the beginning was done on the floor and evolved into what we see today. The dip would be the other alternative towards building chest muscles as well.

The introduction of the incline bench in the exercise industry brought in more variations and training methods. The incline press is also a superb compound exercise that targets multiple muscles in the body that also works on the shoulders as well as the triceps.

The incline bench press can be done with a pair of dumbbells or a barbell on an incline bench. The movement is quite easy to achieve and similar to that of the flat bench press.

  1. Types of Incline bench press
  2. Benefits of Incline bench press
  3. How to perform incline bench press
  4. Precautions of the incline bench press
  5. Alternative exercises
  6. Takeaway

Much like the bench press, push-ups or several other movements that involves 'pushing', the incline press has several different styles it can be performed. They are

  • Dumbbell incline bench press
  • Barbell incline bench press
  • Wide-grip incline bench press
  • Close-grip incline bench press
  • Smith machine incline bench press
  • Weight plate incline bench press

The inclined surface of the bench engages the muscles in the upper body while pressing. This workout enhances the size of the chest muscles, stimulates the shoulders, triceps and the core muscles, making it a core exercise as well. The incline bench press not only targets the upper body but also helps bring stability to the lower body.

The incline position on the bench press also helps increase your overall strength, helping you lift heavier in other exercises like squats, deadlifts, and leg press. The more vertical the bench gets, the more you work on your shoulder instead of the chest, which is why it is important to keep the angle consistent and comfortable at all times.

undeBefore performing any intense exercise, it is important to ensure the muscles are fully warmed-up as well as moving freely, allowing your movements to improve over time. One can do wwarm-up movements of the same exercise with no weights on the bar, chest expansions, arm stretches, shoulder rotation or a short treadmill run.

Muscles worked

  • Primary: Upper chest
  • Secondary: Shoulders and triceps

Equipment required

  • A pair of dumbbells/a barbell/Smith machine/weighted plates
  • An incline bench or an adjustable bench

Intensity

  • Intermediate (trainee)

Sets and reps

  • 3 sets of 10-15 reps each

Technique (with dumbbells)

  • Lie down over your back on an incline bench and hold a pair of dumbbells in each hand with an overhand grip.
  • Lift the dumbbells up directly above your shoulders and join them together at the top and pause for a second.
  • Slowly lower down the dumbbells to your chest. This is one rep.

Tip: If you can’t lift both the dumbbells at the same time then opt for the alternate dumbbell press.

Incline bench press with barbell (neutral, wide and close grip)
A barbell helps train both sides of the chest at the same time. Hold the barbell with palms facing away from you and perform a similar movement. Allow the bar to touch just below your chest while lowering down the weight.

You can also target your chest from multiple angles to target different sections of the chest. For a broader chest, hold the barbell wider than shoulder's width. However, if your goal is to train your inner portion of the chest then hold the barbell with a grip narrower than shoulder-width.

Training your chest with different angles helps in faster results and maximising the outcomes.

Smith machine incline bench press
This helps the beginners to easily add more weight to the exercise. It is an assistive variation of the basic barbell incline bench press. Put the adjustable bench under the smith machine and set the angle to 45 degrees. Also, set the bar according to your comfort level of lifting-up. Now follow the similar movement of barbell incline bench press.

Incline bench press with a weighted plate

  • Hold the weighted plate in both hands (palms facing each other) while lying on the incline bench.
  • Keep the plate directly on your inner chest and lift it up above your shoulder level.
  • Hold the weight at the top for a few seconds and slowly bring down the plate to the starting position. This is one rep.

Tip: In all the variations, people lower down the barbell to their stomach or near the neck, but not where it should naturally come down to. Keep the weight slightly under the collar bone while lowering it and directly above the shoulders while lifting.

The incline bench press is an advanced variation of the flat bench press. Thus, before starting this exercise consult with a doctor if you have had a shoulder or collar bone injury. Always seek a spotter's help to lift up the weight especially when you're lifting heavy. This variation of the bench press also requires more strength and stability of core muscles, if your body is not ready for an intense workout first try to gain core strength with some specific exercises.

If there’s no one you can ask for help then opt for Smith-machine variation. Make sure your body is well warm-up before starting the workout. This kind of exercise acquires a high amount of flexibility in the body.

While different modifications to the bench press have their own benefits, there are several other exercises that can also be performed to work the muscles in the chest with the help of the varied equipment available at most gyms. 

  • Flat bench press
  • Cable cross-over
  • Decline push-ups
  • Leverage incline chest press (machine chest press)

The incline bench press is an excellent exercise to train the chest muscles and is also a compound exercise for its benefits towards other muscle groups as well. It is a customary part of most workout programmes in the gym and helps you build strength for other exercises like shoulder presses as well.

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References

  1. Saeterbakken AH et al. The Effects of Bench Press Variations in Competitive Athletes on Muscle Activity and Performance. Journal of Human Kinetics. 2017 Jun; 57: 61–71. PMID: 28713459.
  2. Lauver JD et al. Influence of bench angle on upper extremity muscular activation during bench press exercise. European Journal of Sport Science. 2016; 16(3):309-16. PMID: 25799093.
  3. Barnett C et al. Effects of Variations of the Bench Press Exercise on the EMG Activity of Five Shoulder Muscles. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 1995 Nov; 9(4): 222-227.
  4. Glass SC and Armstrong TY. Electromyographical Activity of the Pectoralis Muscle During Incline and Decline Bench Presses Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 1997 Aug. 11(3):163-167.
  5. Lauver JD et al. Influence of bench angle on upper extremity muscular activation during bench press exercise. European Journal of Sport Science. 2016; 16(3) 309-316.
  6. Ji Z et al. Analysis of Muscle Activity Utilizing Bench Presses in the AnyBody Simulation Modelling System. Modelling and Simulation in Engineering. 2016 May; 2016: 3649478.
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