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Daniel Mesa

Incline Barbell Bench Press: How To & Benefits

The Incline Barbell Bench Press is a tried-and-true standard with a special place in the world of strength training. It will take your chest workout to a whole new level. The flat bench press gets most of the attention, but the incline version adds a clever twist by hitting your upper chest muscles and getting your shoulders to work. 

The incline bench press is your secret tool for a strong and sculpted chest, whether you’re a powerlifter, strongwoman, bodybuilder, or just someone who wants a well-rounded upper body. In this complete guide, we’ll go over all the details of the Incline Barbell Bench Press, giving you the information and motivation you need to make it a key part of your fitness journey.

How To Do The Incline Barbell Bench Press

Before diving into the incline barbell bench press, ensure you’re armed with the right technique. Here’s how:

Adjust the Bench

Set up an adjustable bench at a 45-degree angle to create the incline.

Position Yourself

Lie back on the bench with your feet flat on the floor. Grip the barbell slightly wider than shoulder-width.

Unrack the Barbell

Carefully unrack it from the rack and position it over your upper chest.

Lower the Barbell

Slowly lower the barbell towards your upper chest while keeping your elbows at around a 45-degree angle.

Press Up

Push the barbell back up to the starting position, exhaling as you lift.

Our Tips For Proper Incline Bench Form

Tip 1: Maintain Shoulder Stability

Keeping your shoulders drawn back and down is an important component of the incline bench form. As a result, you’ll put less stress on your shoulder joints and more on the muscles you want to work, making for a more productive and less risky workout.

Tip 2: Control the Descent

When lowering the barbell, focus on doing it slowly and deliberately. Your chest muscles will be more engaged throughout the entire range of motion as you slowly lower your body. Don’t let the weight fall too quickly, as doing so increases the danger of injury and decreases the exercise’s effectiveness.

Tip 3: Use Proper Gripping Technique

Choose a width for your grip that suits your comfort level and prevents strain on your shoulders. Your grasp should be loose enough to allow your wrists and shoulders to move freely without strain. Finding the optimal grip width for the incline bench press helps you keep a good form and lift more weight.

Common Barbell Incline Press Mistakes To Avoid

Mistake 1: Overarching the Lower Back

Make sure that your lower back stays touching the bench as you move. Don’t arch your back too much because it can hurt your spine and throw off your form. Your back will be safer, and your core will work better if your spine is in a normal position.

Mistake 2: Flaring Elbows

When doing the uphill barbell press, keep your elbows at a 45-degree angle. Avoid letting your elbows stick out too far, as this can put extra stress on your shoulder joints. Keeping your elbows tucked in helps your chest muscles work right and reduces the chance of shoulder pain.

Mistake 3: Bouncing the Barbell

Focus on controlled repeats instead of just going with the flow. If you bounce the barbell off your chest as you lower it and then use the return to lift it, your muscles won’t work either, and you might strain them. Focus on moving smoothly and deliberately to get the most out of the exercise and make sure it is safer and more effective.

Muscles Worked By Incline Barbell Press

barbell incline bench press

Upper Chest Muscles

The incline barbell press focuses on your pectoral muscles’ upper fibers. This helps to achieve a more complete and balanced chest development, giving you a full and sculpted appearance.

Anterior Deltoids (Shoulders)

Your shoulder muscles, particularly the anterior deltoids, play an important role in the incline press. Strengthening these muscles not only improves the appearance of your shoulders but also your capacity to do pressing activities.

Triceps (Back of Upper Arms)

Your triceps tighten to extend your elbows as you press the barbell upwards. The incline press benefits this secondary muscle group, which contributes to overall upper body strength.

Trapezius (Upper Back)

During movement, your traps work to stabilize your shoulder blades and maintain appropriate posture. While they are not the major emphasis, they help to maintain control and balance.

Serratus Anterior

This muscle helps in the stabilization of the scapulae (shoulder blades) and the support of overhead movements. It aids in the preservation of the integrity of your shoulder joint during the incline press.

Incline Bench Press Benefits

If you want a stronger, more contoured upper body, the Incline Bench Press is your ticket. This exercise helps you build a powerful, self-assured body by focusing on your upper chest, shoulders, and triceps.

Benefit 1: Enhanced Upper Chest Development

If you want defined upper chest muscles, the incline bench press is the exercise for you. This exercise is great for building a strong and shaped chest since it targets the upper portion of the pectoral muscles. As your upper chest muscles grow stronger, you’ll start seeing the coveted chest separation from consistently working out.

Benefit 2: Shoulder Strength and Aesthetics

A strong set of anterior deltoids not only contributes to your overall shoulder strength but also adds to your aesthetic appeal. The incline bench press actively engages your shoulder muscles, promoting functional strength and a broader, more powerful upper body profile.

Benefit 3: Functional Upper Body Power

Strong chest and shoulder muscles aren’t just for looks; they also make it easier for you to do everyday jobs and sports. The incline bench press will help you get stronger, which will help you in many areas of your life, from carrying groceries to playing tennis well.

Alternatives To The Incline Barbell Bench Press

Exercise Option 1:  Dumbbell Incline Press

The incline press with dumbbells is a great choice for the incline press with a barbell. By using dumbbells, you can move each arm separately, which can help you find muscle weaknesses and fix them. Like the dumbbell press, this move works the upper chest muscles and front deltoids well. Also, the larger range of motion lets the muscles stretch and tighten more deeply.

Exercise Option 2: Smith Machine Incline Press

The incline press on the Smith machine is a controlled and safe way to work on your upper chest and shoulders. It’s a great choice for people who are just starting out or want to work their muscles without balancing a free barbell. The Smith machine has a guided path that can help you keep your form steady. 

You can also change the angle of the bench for variety. But it’s important to keep in mind that the fixed pattern of movement might not give you the same range of motion as free weight workouts.

Exercise Option 3: Push-Up Variation (Feet Elevated)

When you do push-ups with your feet raised, the focus changes to your upper chest and shoulders. This bodyweight exercise tests your muscles in a different way and can be easily changed by changing the height of the surface you’re pushing from. 

By keeping your body straight and engaging your core, you can work on your upper chest and improve your general balance and coordination. This choice is great for people who prefer to work out with their own bodies or don’t have gym equipment access.

Bottom Line On Barbell Incline Press

The barbell incline press is good for upper chest and shoulder growth, but you should try other exercises to keep your training interesting. Dumbbell incline presses improve arm mobility and muscular balance. The Smith machine incline press is beginner-friendly because of its stability and control. Bodyweight elevated push-ups target the upper chest without apparatus. These options might help you customize your workout and develop a well-rounded upper body.


Is the incline barbell bench press suitable for beginners?

The incline barbell bench press can be challenging for beginners due to the angle and the involvement of multiple muscle groups. It’s recommended to start with lighter weights and focus on proper form before gradually increasing the load.

What angle should the bench be set at for the incline bench press?

The bench should typically be set at an angle of around 30 to 45 degrees. This angle targets the upper chest and anterior deltoids while minimizing stress on the shoulder joints.

Can I use the incline bench press to target specific muscle imbalances?

Yes, the incline bench press can help address muscle imbalances between the upper and lower chest. By focusing on the incline variation, you can place more emphasis on the upper chest muscles, contributing to a more balanced chest development.

Should I arch my back during the incline bench press?

While a slight natural arch in the lower back is acceptable for maintaining stability, excessive arching can put undue stress on the lower back. Focus on keeping your back in a neutral position and engaging your core muscles for support.

Can I incorporate the incline bench press into my strength training routine?

Absolutely! The incline bench press is a valuable addition to a comprehensive upper body workout routine. It complements exercises like flat bench presses and shoulder presses, enhancing overall chest and shoulder development.


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