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Incline, Decline, Flat Bench Questions


When I workouit my chest, I do the flat bench, the decline bench, and the incline bench, among other excersizes, of course. I have always figured that it's smart to do the incline, decline, and flat bench, but have never had any reasoning to back it up. Recently, someone I know said the decline is retroactive for me, if my goal is to improve hypertrophy in my chest. (Get me chest looking bigger) He said it will just make it harder for my chest to get bigger and told me that it has minimal effects on strengthing my chest as well. Any comments on this? Thanks,



This "someone you know" is an idiot. "Retroactive"? What an odd term to use. Are you pushing weight in the decline position?. If yes, how could it possibly not make your chest bigger? Think about it.


Read that over to yourself 2 or 3 times, let it digest, and then maybe reconsider your workout strategy. :wink:

The more exercises you use in one workout, the less intense each one needs to be. I'd rather see you hitting 1 or 2 chest movements hard, and getting on with the rest of your program. Say, something like flat barbell bench and low-incline dumbbell presses for 2 or 3 weeks. Then incline barbell bench and flat DB benching for another 2 or 3.

P.S. -

It wouldn't be "retroactive", it would be "counterproductive". Sorry, had to mention that. But in either case, I can't say I agree.

Declines may emphasize more tri and shoulders, vs. pecs, but that doesn't mean they can't be worked into a routine which uses other exercises to target that muscle group.


For most intents and purposes, the decline and incline bench presses are considered "variations" of the flat bench. As with any exercise, switching things up is a good thing. Regularly varying the grips, angles, and parameters of your movements will keep you growing. So after a period of performing flat bench, switch to decline or incline, and vice versa. All three variations work the chest, however ancillary muscles used in the movements is different (Incline bench emphasizes your shoulders while decline uses more tricep).

My two cents is that you might be performing too many different chest exercises (you mention doing flat, incline, and decline, "among others"). My recommendation would be to focus on one or two movements for x amount of time and then switching to a "variation" for a period.

Oh yeah - that guy's "retroactive" comment makes no sense...



Minotaur is quickly becoming one of my favorite posters.

Pick one and do it.

That is all.

I choose flat bench because they're everywhere. Inclines vary from gym to gym and no one has ever asked me how much I decline.

Dan "I choose you, Pikachu!" McVicker


Decline is a great exercise. It works the chest and it's great for the shoulders too.


Actually to further knock this someone in this junk. CW I believe states that the decline bench, will use more of your chest than the others, Targeting the pecs more so than the opther varieties. Do them with a wide grip and you will feel it.


I think what he was trying to say is that the decline works the lower part of the chest, which is traditionally the stronger. Thus it would make sense to do more for the upper part.


You show me the "lower pecs" in any anatomy book, and I'll show you my pet Loch Ness Monster (His name is Winston.)

The lower pecs, lower abs, and biceps peaks are myths in the sense that they aren't actual bodyparts. You can't isolate a specific section of a muscle. The shape that it grows in is largely determined by your momma and poppa.


1. (adj) descriptive of any event or stimulus or process that has an effect on the effects of events or stimuli or process that occurred previously;
2. (adj) ex post facto, retroactive, retro (affecting things past) "retroactive tax increase"; "an ex-post-facto law"; "retro pay";


  1. Album by British hard rock band Def Leppard, released in 1993. The album contains outtakes and unused recording from the band's earlier albums.[/i]

I'll spare you the track listing on 3.

On a more serious note, Ivan, reading your questions on this and other threads, I recommend choosing a program by one of the contributors on this site (ABBH by CW would be a good choice) and following it exactly as it is laid out. Not only will you make better progress in the short term, but you will get an idea of what a balanced program looks like. Pay attention to the split, exercise selection, progression, recovery time, etc. Doing this for a reasonable amount of time, you will be able to successfully design your own programs and at the same time you will be less susceptible to miserable advice for "guys at the gym".


Declines emphasize tri and shoulders vs. pecs?

But in the 02.01.05 tip of the day, Christian Thibideau says that declines are easier on the front delts.

And is it true to think that low incline presses emphasize the upper portion of the chest while decline presses emphasize lower portion of the chest?

Thanks for all the feedback Minotaur.


Declines are not "great for the shoulders too".


The bench press will work the 99% of your pectoral fibers. The other variations you mentioned just put a little more emphasis on different parts of your pectorals, but not a very significant amount. As you should know, there are five different variables that effect muscle growth: Form (executing the lift 100% properly with full range of motion), Load (the amount of weight you lift), speed, direction or angle, and volume (the number of sets and reps). The form and the load are the most important, and direction and angle are one of the least. Based on the pictures you posted, you should be sticking with dumbbell bench press with 5 sets of 5 (executing with perfect form). You do not need to be doing any other variations at the moment. Make sure to pay attention to where your shoulder blades are, and also make sure your feet are wide apart flat on floor. Try to prevent your back from arching. As you take the dumbbells down, follow a line to your nipple line. The dumbbell should lightly touch the outside of your chest when you are down. You should be working out 3 days a week doing a maximum of 4 compound exercises. Don't do the same exercises all three days; rather, try to make all the exercises different for each work out throughout the week. Keep these exercises for 4 weeks. On the third week lift the heaviest weights you can for the given sets and reps (try not to fail on any sets). On the fourth week, make this your back off week, where you lift 60% your sets and reps with your week two weights. Don't get caught up in the hype, as I once did, that if you do more you will grow faster, because this will just hamper your progress, and you will get frustrated with the shit results (be patient!). Remember to work your back as well so you don't get a hunch back, and look like our friend quasi. You should also know, if you want to get bigger, there is about 10x more potential to grow your back than there is to build your front, so make sure to do plenty of rowing (cable rows, rope pulls to neck, dumbbell rows, and bent over rows), of course with 100% perfect form (I would recommend doing these before any chest work). If you follow my advice, you wont need any luck.


Somebody second me on that.


I was under the impression that declines work the anterior delts?


Most benching motions work the anterior delts, but the more forward pushing your motion, the better you work the anterior (front) deltoid. As your motion moves up into an incline (and even more for something like military press), the lateral (top) deltoid begins to take over.

Decline bench is an excellent way to work your chest, and depending on your hand placement, can also give the triceps a good workout.


I'm with whoever said flat bench will hit all the muscle fibers in your chest. I like inclines because they take your lats out of play and they make it harder to cheat. Declines generally hit my triceps pretty hard because I take the bar low on my chest and use a lot of weight. If I were you, I'd pick one and focus on it for a work out, then maybe throw in some dumbbell benchs and flies and call it a chest workout.