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Incline Bench Press vs. Flat Bench Press: Rethink Your Go-To Chest Press

For those who hit up your native business gymnasium on any given Monday night, you’ll see that chest coaching is likely one of the hottest exercises for a lot of lifters. Two traditional lifts usually used on this high-priority session are the time-tested flat bench press and its shut cousin the incline bench press.

Whether or not it’s proper or improper, when most individuals take into consideration “chest muscle” or “higher physique coaching”, they consider the bench press. And after they’re prepared for some selection, overlook about dumbbell benching. They’ll typically stick to an enormous barbell raise and hit up its companion — the incline bench press.

muscular person in gym performing incline barbell bench press
Credit score: Benoit Daoust / Shutterstock

Even supposing these lifts could also be susceptible to being overhyped or oversaturated, they’re nonetheless each nice and extremely efficient coaching choices with regards to including power and muscle to your higher physique. Relying in your targets and your start line, they’re truly price a spot in the proper program.

Each workouts make it straightforward to gauge progress and see constant outcomes. However in case you actually wish to get essentially the most from them, you want a radical understanding of what makes these two primary chest-builders completely different, what distinctive advantages they every provide, and also you’ve bought to know tips on how to carry out them successfully.

Incline Bench Press and Flat Bench Press

Variations Between the Incline Bench Press and Flat Bench Press

To be thorough, it’s essential to know that the variations transcend simply utilizing a slight angle. Every train is its personal muscle-building monster and requires an understanding of what it may, or can not, provide.

Muscle Recruitment 

The flat bench press and incline bench press are each higher physique presses that bear load for the shoulder joint and connected muscular tissues. Being on an incline and urgent comparatively nearer to an overhead place will recruit a bit extra of the clavicular pectoralis muscular tissues (“higher chest”). (1) As compared, the flat bench press will contain a bit extra of the sternal pectoralis (mid or “decrease” chest).

Person in gym doing bench press
Credit score: Hryshchyshen Serhii / Shutterstock

Incline urgent will recruit extra of the deltoids (shoulders) — particularly the entrance deltoids — in comparison with a flat bench press. Once more, that is because of the arm angle relative to the physique. This shoulder recruitment will be larger or lesser relying on the angle of the incline. The next incline bench press will probably be extra deltoid-dominant in comparison with a decrease incline bench press. (2)

Joint Stress 

Each of those lifts are bench press variations, and each will typically contain a lot of the identical efforts. Nevertheless, the incline bench press will probably be a bit extra biased towards the shoulder joint and extra contingent upon general shoulder well being. 

Not solely does the incline bench press convey your shoulder right into a larger diploma of extension on the backside of every rep, but it surely additionally finishes every rep in additional of an overhead place. For a lot of lifters, this will probably be extra taxing on the rotator cuff and shoulder joint, which is already a comparatively restricted in its stability in comparison with different joints. 

Bench Angle and Arm Place 

The flat bench press — the extra fashionable and glamorized of the 2 lifts — is carried out whereas mendacity horizontally on a flat bench. A lifter will doubtless have the aptitude to maneuver a bit extra weight because of the physique’s orientation relative to the barbell and its path.

The incline bench press is carried out on a bench that’s usually inclined to 45-degrees. This angle is mounted for incline bench stations, nevertheless it may be greater or decrease in case you’re utilizing an adjustable bench positioned in a squat cage, a Smith machine, or one other customizable setup.

Since your torso is, as anticipated, extra inclined through the incline bench press, your arm and shoulder place will probably be extra flexed (nearer to an overhead place) through the motion. As compared, the flat bench press will ask extra of a wholesome shoulder capsule to raise the load by way of a full vary of movement.

Hand Place and Grip Width

Many discover that utilizing a barely narrower grip on the flat bench press in comparison with the incline bench press shouldn’t be solely extra comfy, but in addition friendlier to their shoulder joints. The nearer your higher arms stay to your torso, the simpler it’s to guard the comparatively delicate shoulder joint whereas shifting deep into extension by way of bottom-end ranges.

Muscular person in gym doing incline barbell bench press
Credit score: evgeny varlamov / Shutterstock

As a result of these bottom-end ranges are extra exaggerated on the incline, as your elbows can transfer far under your physique, utilizing a barely wider grip with the incline press might help forestall the elbow from touring too far under the physique’s line. That may typically imply stopping a few inches shy of an “perfect” bar-to-chest vary of movement.

Seat Place and Footing

The incline bench press can have a a lot deeper seated place. This will probably be vital and noticeable, particularly for taller lifters or these with comparatively longer legs.

This will have an effect on issues like foot placement relative to your physique and flooring drive. It will not be fairly as straightforward to attain a “tucked” place when incline bench urgent. As a result of leg drive is lowered, the incline bench press is barely extra depending on the pressure produced from the higher physique alone. In distinction, the flat bench press can profit from elevated total-body pressure created by a robust leg drive.

Level of Contact on the Physique

Because of the variations in torso angle, although the vertical line of the bar stays constant, the purpose of contact in your physique will certainly be completely different. In each lifts, the objective ought to be to take care of a vertical forearm so your elbow all the time stays underneath the bar on the backside of the rep and your straight arm is underneath the bar on the high.

Doing this whereas altering the torso angle from one raise to a different means the bar will most probably make contact someplace across the mid-chest line through the flat bench press (relying in your arm size) and someplace round your collarbones with the incline bench press. The incline urgent place might also lead to barely extra outwardly flared elbows because of the greater level of contact.

Similarities Between the Incline Bench Press and Flat Bench Press

As founding members of the barbell bench press household, each the incline and flat bench press share a number of main similarities.

Horizontal Push Sample

By classification, each the flat and incline bench press belong to the identical motion sample referred to as “horizontal pushing.” Each workouts focus in your higher physique and each use your shoulder capsule as the first load-bearing joint.

short-haired person in gym doing barbell bench press
Credit score: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

To some extent, your chest, shoulders, and triceps will probably be key gamers from a muscular perspective, although the bench angle will decide the diploma to which every muscle is recruited — as defined earlier.

Complete Physique Involvement 

From a way standpoint, the incline bench press and flat bench press each require focus to maintain the bar path comparatively vertical and perpendicular to the ground.

That includes setting a “goal” in the identical place on the ceiling for each repetition. It additionally includes inserting pressure all through your complete physique, together with your higher again, glutes, and quads. One cue that proves invaluable for each lifts is “Aiming to “driving your toes into the ground,” particularly as weight turns into heavier.

Obtainable Variations

In each the incline bench press and the flat bench press, the chance exists to make use of sorts of barbells, like a neutral-grip soccer bar or cambered bar. Each actions may also be carried out with completely different equipment resembling dumbbells or kettlebells to go well with a lifter’s preferences or wants.

Moreover, even when utilizing a standard barbell, there are alternatives so as to add bands or chains to the bar. This can change the resistance profile to favor sure parts of the raise with out altering primary setup or method. 

How one can Incline Bench Press

The vast majority of cues for every sort of bench press are nearly transferable. Probably the most vital distinction with the incline bench press is a change within the level of contact between the bar and your physique.

In any other case, you’ll discover a comparable guidelines between the 2 actions. Regardless, remember to deal with the incline bench press as its personal train and don’t attempt to merely copy “flat bench press method utilizing an incline bench.” Carry out an incline bench press correctly and intentionally.

  • Arrange the bench pad and rack so your eyes begin underneath the bar.
  • Assume 4 factors of contact — toes on the ground, glutes on the bench, higher again on the bench, and head on the bench.
  • Create a “tucked” place — pulling your toes towards your glutes and planting your toes into the bottom.
  • Seize the bar at a cushty width that retains your forearm vertical through the motion.
  • Drag the bar out, reasonably than “lifting” it, right into a beginning place over your eyes. Bear in mind, it’s an incline so the bar ought to begin and end over your eyes reasonably than over your shoulders.
  • Decrease to a full vary of movement, towards your collarbones, with out bouncing within the backside place.
  • Stay tight and drive your toes into the bottom as you exhale and press the load up.

How one can Flat Bench Press 

Some lifters take the bench press with no consideration, assuming that “they know the way it’s completed” or that it may’t be too difficult as a result of everybody does it. Sadly, that method typically results in unhealthy shoulders, poor power positive aspects, and restricted muscle progress.

Precisely as a result of it’s fashionable, and since it has so many potential bodily advantages, is why the flat bench press ought to be carried out correctly.

When to Do the the Incline Bench Press vs. Flat Bench Press

Although these lifts are probably bordering on overuse within the traditional gymnasium neighborhood, they nonetheless have utility in a coaching program for each common lifters and athletes. Coaching the horizontal pushing sample with both the incline bench press or flat bench press will be extremely efficient, particularly in case you make use of loading selection like dumbbells, neutral-grip barbells, chains, or bands.

When urgent power and muscular growth is the objective, and a novice or intermediate lifter has no main historical past of shoulder trauma, the bench press and incline bench press will be positioned into the routine.

Since coaching this sample (notably for power) is a higher-output, CNS-based motion, program them earlier in a exercise session reasonably than later, to allow them to be educated earlier than fatigue units in. Alternatively, if the lifts are being carried out for comparatively greater rep ranges (10 to 12 reps or extra), both motion can effectively be programmed later in any given exercise.

long-haired person performing incline barbell press in gym
Credit score: Vladimir Sukhachev / Shutterstock

Nevertheless, as a result of the incline bench press is inherently extra strenuous on the shoulder joint, it’s a poor alternative for very heavy, low-rep programming. In case your final objective is higher physique urgent power, the flat bench press is be the popular alternative.

Whereas each actions will be perfect for freshmen and intermediate lifters, neither may truly be your best option for very skilled lifters. The additional alongside a lifting journey a you get, the extra you may notice the incline bench press and flat bench press, carried out with a typical barbell, aren’t distinctive for constructing muscle past a sure level.

Different workouts could create comparatively much less stress on the shoulder joint, whereas doing a extra environment friendly job of isolating the chest, based mostly on the precise biomechanical perform of the shoulder and muscle motion of the pectoralis. Dips are a high contender in that regard.

If superior chest growth is the secret, some selection exterior these two bench press variations will ultimately grow to be vital, and that’s essential to know. Using that sort of selection can even doubtless have your shoulders thanking you over time.

Choose Your Press

Whether or not you’re trying to enhance your urgent energy or construct a critical set of pecs, both bench press variation can play a task in your coaching plan. Don’t rely solely on engrained habits or some long-running “custom” of emphasizing the flat barbell bench press if it isn’t the simplest instrument on your private targets within the gymnasium. Take an goal take a look at which barbell chest train actually fits your wants, after which begin discovering higher outcomes.


  1. Rodríguez-Ridao, D., Antequera-Vique, J. A., Martín-Fuentes, I., & Muyor, J. M. (2020). Impact of 5 Bench Inclinations on the Electromyographic Exercise of the Pectoralis Main, Anterior Deltoid, and Triceps Brachii through the Bench Press Train. Worldwide journal of environmental analysis and public well being17(19), 7339. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17197339
  2. Campos, Y. A. C., Vianna, J. M., Guimarães, M. P., Oliveira, J. L. D., Hernández-Mosqueira, C., da Silva, S. F., & Marchetti, P. H. (2020). Completely different Shoulder Workouts Have an effect on the Activation of Deltoid Parts in Resistance-Educated People. Journal of human kinetics75, 5–14. https://doi.org/10.2478/hukin-2020-0033

Featured Picture: Hryshchyshen Serhii / Shutterstock

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