The incline bench press is a popular variation of the traditional bench press. This exercise targets the chest region, also known as the pectoralis major or “pecs” for short. This exercise traditionally uses a bench that’s elevated to a 45 degree angle and an Olympic barbell.
The pectoralis major is located on the front part of the torso between the clavicle and the rectus abdominus or “abs” for short. This muscle has two heads: the sternal head and the clavicular head. The incline bench press specifically targets the clavicular head of the pectoralis major, which is located by the clavicle.
There are several other muscles that play significant roles in the proper execution of the incline bench press. The anterior head of the deltoid and the triceps brachii assists the pectoralis major in executing the exercise movement. The biceps brachii helps to stabilize the elbow joint during this exercise.
The incline bench press is traditionally performed on an incline bench with an Olympic barbell which weighs 45 pounds and is roughly 7 feet long. The incline bench is typically placed at a 45 to 60 degree angle.
There are other pieces of equipment that can be used to provide a variety of challenges with the incline bench press. Pre-loaded bars, dumbbells, and cables can be used to replace the Olympic barbell. An incline press machine can be used instead of an incline bench.
Grips and Hand Placement
The incline bench press is performed with an overhand grip. This means the palms of the hands are facing away from the body and the thumbs are tightly wrapped around the barbell. The hands should be placed at roughly just outside shoulder width apart when first grabbing the barbell.
If the hands are too far apart, the range of motion will be compromised and numerous muscles will no longer participate in the exercise movement. If the hands are place to close to each other, then the exercise will no longer target the pectoralis major but will shift the primary focus to the triceps brachii.
- To begin, lay flat on an incline bench with feet flat on the ground.
- Grab the barbell with an overhand grip, roughly shoulder width apart.
- Lift the bar off the rack and slowly lower it to the upper region of the chest.
- Lower the bar until the elbows are even with the shoulders. This should form a 90 degree angle in the elbow joint.
- Push back upwards until the arms are fully extended without locking the elbows.
- Place the barbell on the rack when finished.
- Repeat movement for the desired volume of sets and repetitions.
There are numerous areas of caution for the incline bench press:
- Never lift the head off the bench as this can lead to neck strains.
- Always keep feet on the ground as this could lead to a loss of balance.
- Keep the back flat on the bench unless properly trained otherwise. This can lead to back injuries.
- Do not lower the barbell to the chest unless that’s the point where the elbows are even with the shoulders.
- Maintain control of the weight at all times.
- Do not lock out the elbows as this could lead to joint damage.
- Do not bend or curl the wrists as this could lead to joint damage and loss of control.
- Use a spotter if lifting heavy or a beginner to this exercise.
- Make sure to breathe during the incline bench press to prevent any black outs.
- This exercise is not recommended for those who have joint problems in the shoulders or elbows.