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Incline Barbell Bench Press

This strength training exercise is a basic exercise that works the chest. The inclination of the bench places stress on the upper part of the pectorals but also on the anterior part of the deltoid (front of the shoulders). The more the bench is tilted, the more the shoulders will be stressed.

The use of dumbbells makes it possible to work in a greater amplitude than with the bar and requires more activity at the level of the stabilizing muscles. It is advisable to start your chest weight training session with inclined exercises if the clavicular part (upper chest) is a weak point.

Execution Of The Exercise

1- Starting position

Installation on the bench
  • Tilt the bench back between 30 and 45 degrees maximum.
  • Sit on the seat and glue your back against the backrest, making sure it is well centered.
  • Adjust the seat height (if possible) so that you can catch the bar easily, without pulling too much on the shoulders, and can move without touching the bar support.
  • Position the feet flat on the ground, a little more than the width of the shoulders. You can also place them on toe clips to help you not arch your back.

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Unhook the bar
  • Take the overhand bar (thumbs inward), with a hand gap slightly greater than the shoulder width.
  • Lift the bar up and out of its holder while exhaling.
  • Once the bar is off the hook, place it, arms outstretched, above the top of the pectoral muscles (be careful not to set the bar too low, or too high, to target the pectoral muscles and not the shoulders).
  • Be careful not to pull the shoulders too far, try to put them back and lower them as much as possible, to target the pectorals as much as possible.

2- Execution of the Movement

Lower and raise the bar
  • Once in position, arms outstretched, lower the bar slowly to touch the top of the pectoral muscles (above the nipples).
  • Ideally, the descent phase should last at least 2 seconds to be able to properly control the movement.
  • It is essential to come and land on the top of the chest for the exercise to be effective.
  • Once down, raise the bar vertically to return to the starting position, arms outstretched and bar still above the top of the pectorals.
Replace the bar on the support
  • Once the bar is raised to the starting position you can put it back on the support.
  • At the end of the series, be careful to finish the last repetition, come back to the starting position with arms outstretched and bar above the pecs. Do not raise the bar directly towards the support in a diagonal movement that mainly involves the shoulders.

Finish the movement before setting the bar, do not spoil the last repetition!

Targeted Muscles

The muscles of the shoulder girdle in general and the shoulder and elbow joints, in particular, are mainly used during the Incline Barbell Bench Press. For the shoulder girdle (it includes the scapulohumeral, acromioclavicular, scapulothoracic, and sternoclavicular articulation), the small pectoral and the big serrated are involved. For the shoulder joint proper (scapulohumeral), the main muscles used are the anterior deltoid and the upper part of the pectoralis major.

Why do Incline Barbell Bench Press?

The Incline Barbell Bench Press is the benchmark exercise for building your upper chest muscles. If like most bodybuilders you have the upper part of the chest less developed than the lower part, incorporate this movement at the start of the session to catch up.

Risks And Mistakes To Avoid

  • The inclination of the bench: to effectively target the pectoral muscles, do not tilt the bench more than 45 degrees, the larger the angle, the more you use your shoulders.
  • Loads too heavy: the Incline Barbell Bench Press is a more difficult exercise than the Decline Barbell Bench Press, do not put the same weights! Start with light weights and work out at your own pace. Do not hesitate to be insured when you exercise with heavier weights than usual.
  • Place the legs well so as not to dig the back and maintain good stability.
  • Force with the pecs: keep your shoulders back!
  • Do not bounce the bar on the chest: touch the pectorals for optimal work of the targeted muscles and not to jerk with the back.
  • Exercise to perform at the start of the session: the upper chest is generally less developed than the rest of the muscle, do the Incline Barbell Bench Press at the start of the session to be in possession of all your energy!

6 training tips

  1. If you want to focus on the upper chest and the anterior deltoid, keep a shoulder-width grip and tuck your elbows in. With this relatively narrow grip, the triceps will also be heavily used.
  2. If you want to use a wider grip and keep your elbows apart, the lower part of the pectorals will also work, as well as the correct-brachial and the large serrated.
  3. To prevent injury, never bounce on the chest: it is dangerous for the sternum and the first ribs and this prevents the maximum contraction of other muscles, the development of which requires full amplitude.
  4. If you are a beginner, you will probably have difficulty ensuring the trajectory of the bar. So use reasonable charges in order to learn. It won’t take much time and will allow you to get more obvious progress later.
  5. To change, do inclines with dumbbells for a deeper flexion and vary the grip. This for a more complete work of the pectorals, by reducing the action of the triceps.
  6. Finally, for your safety, remember to have one or two partners when you work hard.


Inhale when lowering the barbell or dumbbells and exhale when you return to the starting position with arms outstretched.
It is not advisable to block breathing during the difficult phase. However, this maneuver stabilizes the bust. Exhale after passing the critical point to lower the pressure caused by the blockage.

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Some practitioners end the movement by bringing the dumbbells together with wrist rotation. The goal is also to solicit the interior of the pectorals (sternal part).
The Barbell Bench Press has taken tight with the elbows apart from the body also seems to do more work on the inside of the pectorals (sternal groove) as well as on the triceps.
These two exercises can be interesting for people who complain about having outside of the pectorals too developed compared to the inside.
Incline Barbell Bench Press can be done using dumbbells or a barbell. There are also machines in weight rooms like the Smith machine.

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