This develops the mass and strength of the pectoral muscles (upper and middle regions) and front deltoids. The incline angle of this press hits the upper pecs really hard. The main benefit in doing incline presses is to develop the upper portion of the pectoral muscles.

Target Muscle Group

Upper chest (clavicular portion of the pectoralis major). Other muscles affected are the deltoids (shoulders) and the triceps (back of the arms).

Everyone wants a huge chest, plain and simple. It is all too common to see inexperienced lifters slaving away on endless sets of cable crossovers in search of full, thick pecs. If I had a dime for every time I've heard someone ask that question we've all heard a million times, "how much do you bench?" I'd be rich. Anyway, the point is that doing Incline bar presses is very important if you want to have chest thickness.

I have always used Incline presses as an auxiliary lift to my bench press program. But, back in college, while playing football, incline bench pressing was a main lift in our workout program.

As a bodybuilder, the incline should also be the first exercise in chest training. Utilizing incline bar, smith machine incline bar, and incline dumbbell presses should be used for bodybuilding prep. These exercises are key to upper pec thickness.

Incline presses are a very popular exercise in bodybuilding circles. My buddy Ron Harris does them instead of flat bar bench press for chest building, and so do many other bodybuilders. It is common to hear that bodybuilders are inclining 4 or 5 plates for reps. Seven time Mr. Olympia Ron Coleman, Chris Comier, and many top bodybuilders are doing reps with 500 pounds on the incline and their chest development shows their efforts.

The possession of a deep, thickly muscled chest is one of the hallmarks of a championship bodybuilding physique. Bodybuilders, in particular beginners, pay a great deal of attention to this region of the body not only because it responds rather quickly to regular training but also, when fully developed, imparts the look of power and muscular impressiveness to the whole physique. What I'd like to do is to point out how you can perform these moves more efficiently and suggest some alternatives.

First, watch individuals performing these exercises, it is one of the best ways to analyze technique. Now, while watching these individuals do incline presses with a bar or with dumbbells, do their elbows go back towards their head away from their bodies? Of course they do, and that's the wrong technique. That way of doing inclines putts undue stress on the entire shoulder area.

Keep doing that type of technique and you'll find yourself with serious shoulder problems. The trouble is many lifters extend the elbows way too far out to the sides performing inclines in an effective manner. Another flaw many lifters practice when they incline is they raise their butt off the bench, in essence, making the incline press a flat press.

This is an excerpt from an unknown CPT. "Keep elbows well out to the sides and back, and lower bar to the line of the nipples. If dumbbells are used, use the same elbow position but also lower them as much as you can manage in order to get the fullest extension of the arms" This is incorrect bar and Dumbbell positioning.

For proper arm movement and technique your arms should be in a 45-degree angle tucked to the sides. This technique places more emphasis on the pec and triceps muscles rather then the shoulder joint. Place your arms in the same manner when doing bar or dumbbell incline presses. At first, your strength will be a little down that's only because you changed your technique and you are not used to the proper movement yet. Keep working at this technique.


  • Lean back on an incline bench at about 30 to 45 degrees. Your feet need flat on the floor giving yourself a good sturdy base. Lower back is flat against the bench. Arch your back slightly during this lift. Take hold of the bar with a medium-wide grip. When you have the bar off the rack, do not start down immediately with it. Raise the bar off the rack and hold it right above your head arms locked. Like with the bench press, hold it at the top for just a second and get oriented.
  • Start down with the weight slowly, touch the muscles directly underneath the point that the clavicles meet; basically the upper chest or top of the chin. Pause for a brief moment so you don't bounce the weight off your chest, then press it back up to the top position, exhaling on the way up. Do not touch the nipple area, this is way too low.
  • Bar placement should be as stated, either touch your chin, or just below your clavical. Even going an inch too low takes the emphasis off the target area. Keep your wrists straight and your elbows beneath your wrists with your arms tucked at a 45-degree angle. Do not keep your elbows back this puts maximum stretch on the pecs and serious stress on the shoulder joint. STAY FOCUSED.

Basic Incline Bench Press Routine

Any routine can take up to 6 weeks or longer sometimes 12 to 14 weeks. Very Important, do not have your partner holing the bar on every rep you do screaming at you "It's all you dude!" Because if he takes his hands off that bar it's crashing onto your chest and then it's not all you dude! Got it?! Do it on your own each and every rep.

Let's say you can incline bench 225 on your own for a 1 rep max. Try this out. OK, when beginning any routine, No matter what your 1 RM, always do the bar first for 1 set of 12-15 reps then do the following warm up: 135 for 10 reps; 175 for 5 reps, 185 for 5 reps, then do 205 for three sets of 6 reps.

When you can do 225 for three sets of 6 - ALL on our own then:

Use the same warm up but then do 225 for 3, and three sets of 235 for 6 reps. Keep doing this routine until you've done your 250 + for a 1RM.

Here are some sample chest routines that are highly effective: All sets should stay within the 4-6 rep range and be taken to complete muscular failure. The trick for getting the most out of Incline presses is keeping your rep rang fewer than 8 and above 3.

Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip
4 sets, 6-12 reps
+ 9 more exercises


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Incline Bench Press Variations

This exercise has a few variations. Smith machine incline bar, close grip incline bar (more for triceps), Incline dumbbell flies, and incline dumbbell presses. I get a lot out of dumbbell incline presses rather then bar but that's preference. I do them every other week working my way up to a heavy set of 5.

I substitute heavy incline bar sometimes on my heavy bench press day, and also do incline close grip bar every other heavy bench press day. Smith machine incline works well too, try them like Markus Ruhl does, very wide grip. So does the Hammer Strength incline chest machine.

General Tips

To keep the deltoids (shoulders) from doing too much work, don't allow the rear deltoids to come off the bench, especially the last few inches when pushing the weight up. They should remain in the same position flat on the bench throughout the movement. If you are having trouble balancing the weight make sure that your arms remain relatively vertical throughout the left.

The more vertical your arms are, the better your balance will be. The more narrow the grip, the more you involve your triceps. The wider the grip the more the outer area of the chest is worked.


With this guide your weights will go through the ceiling, and your chest thickness will rival that of Ronnie Coleman. So, incline into 30-45-degrees and give me one more rep!

About the Author

Curtis Schultz

Curtis Schultz

I was a high school 2 time all-county offensive lineman and linebacker. After high school I attended a Junior College in California there I was a 2 year letter winner and made All-conference...

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