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

For those who hit up your native industrial fitness center on any given Monday night, you’ll see that chest training is among the hottest exercises for a lot of lifters. Two basic lifts recurrently 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 once they’re prepared for some selection, overlook about dumbbell benching. They’ll usually stick to a giant barbell carry and hit up its companion — the incline bench press.

Credit score: Benoit Daoust / Shutterstock

Even though these lifts could also be liable to being overhyped or oversaturated, they’re nonetheless each nice and extremely efficient coaching choices on the subject of including energy and muscle to your higher physique. Relying in your objectives and your start line, they’re really value a spot in the correct 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 an intensive understanding of what makes these two fundamental chest-builders completely different, what distinctive advantages they every provide, and also you’ve bought to know how one can 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 necessary to grasp 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 hooked up muscle mass. Being on an incline and urgent comparatively nearer to an overhead place will recruit a bit extra of the clavicular pectoralis muscle mass (“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 as a result of arm angle relative to the physique. This shoulder recruitment will be larger or lesser relying on the angle of the incline. A better incline bench press can 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 usually contain a lot of the identical efforts. Nonetheless, the incline bench press can be a bit extra biased towards the shoulder joint and extra contingent upon general shoulder well being. 

Not solely does the incline bench press carry your shoulder right into a larger diploma of extension on the backside of every rep, nevertheless it additionally finishes every rep in additional of an overhead place. For a lot of lifters, this can 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 widespread and glamorized of the 2 lifts — is carried out whereas mendacity horizontally on a flat bench. A lifter will probably have the aptitude to maneuver a bit extra weight as a result of 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 fastened for incline bench stations, nevertheless it may be larger 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 throughout the incline bench press, your arm and shoulder place can be extra flexed (nearer to an overhead place) throughout the motion. As compared, the flat bench press will ask extra of a wholesome shoulder capsule to carry the burden by means 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 additionally 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 means 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 beneath your physique, utilizing a barely wider grip with the incline press may help forestall the elbow from touring too far beneath the physique’s line. That may typically imply stopping a few inches shy of an “very best” bar-to-chest vary of movement.

Seat Place and Footing

The incline bench press could have a a lot deeper seated place. This can be important 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 is probably not fairly as straightforward to attain a “tucked” place when incline bench urgent. As a result of leg drive is decreased, the incline bench press is barely extra depending on the drive produced from the higher physique alone. In distinction, the flat bench press can profit from elevated total-body stress created by a robust leg drive.

Level of Contact on the Physique

As a result of variations in torso angle, though 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 beneath the bar on the backside of the rep and your straight arm is beneath the bar on the prime.

Doing this whereas altering the torso angle from one carry to a different means the bar will almost definitely make contact someplace across the mid-chest line throughout the flat bench press (relying in your arm size) and someplace round your collarbones with the incline bench press. The incline urgent place can also end in barely extra outwardly flared elbows as a result of larger 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 often called “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 a point, your chest, shoulders, and triceps can be key gamers from a muscular perspective, though the bench angle will decide the diploma to which every muscle is recruited — as defined earlier.

Whole Physique Involvement 

From a method 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 entails setting a “goal” in the identical place on the ceiling for each repetition. It additionally entails putting stress all through your total 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.

Accessible 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 will also be carried out with completely different equipment akin to dumbbells or kettlebells to swimsuit a lifter’s preferences or wants.

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

Incline Bench Press

Nearly all of cues for every kind of bench press are nearly transferable. Essentially the most important 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, you should definitely 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 beneath 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 throughout the motion.
  • Drag the bar out, moderately 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 moderately 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 burden up.

Flat Bench Press 

Some lifters take the bench press without any consideration, assuming that “they know the way it’s accomplished” or that it may’t be too difficult as a result of everybody does it. Sadly, that strategy usually results in dangerous shoulders, poor energy positive aspects, and restricted muscle development.

Precisely as a result of it’s widespread, 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 basic fitness center neighborhood, they nonetheless have utility in a coaching program for each basic 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 strength 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 (significantly for energy) is a higher-output, CNS-based motion, program them earlier in a exercise session moderately than later, to allow them to be skilled earlier than fatigue units in. Alternatively, if the lifts are being carried out for comparatively larger 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

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

Whereas each actions will be very best for rookies and intermediate lifters, neither may really be the only option for very skilled lifters. The additional alongside a lifting journey a you get, the extra you may understand 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 operate of the shoulder and muscle motion of the pectoralis. Dips are a prime contender in that regard.

If superior chest growth is the secret, some selection outdoors these two bench press variations will ultimately turn out to be crucial, and that’s necessary to know. Using that sort of selection can even probably have your shoulders thanking you over time.

Choose Your Press

Whether or not you’re trying to increase your urgent energy or construct a severe set of pecs, both bench press variation can play a job 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 in your private objectives within the fitness center. Take an goal have 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 throughout the Bench Press Train. Worldwide journal of environmental analysis and public well being17(19), 7339.
  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). Totally different Shoulder Workouts Have an effect on the Activation of Deltoid Parts in Resistance-Skilled People. Journal of human kinetics75, 5–14.

Featured Picture: Hryshchyshen Serhii / Shutterstock

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