T Nation

The Final Word on Incline Bench


I have read a variety of opinions here at T-Nation regarding whether incline BB or DB presses are really an effective movement for adding mass to the upper portion of the pecs. I have yet to see anyone give the final word and explain it. If this has already been answered somewhere that I missed, I would appreciate someone pointing me to the link.

Otherwise, I would invite comments from anyone, especially the "professionals" among us, who thinks they have the answer. A related question is what movements are truly best for building the upper chest, if not incline presses.


Bump. I've been wondering the same thing in terms of best means by which to add some mass/density to the upper chest.



Sweet and short...they make the "A" list in my book. The pec minor, having a different origin/insertion tangent (obviously) than does the pec major, is stimulated via inclines. I see a noticable difference in my upper thickness with inclines and a discernable "flattening" without them. There is anatomical as well as much anecdotal "evidence" for the above. I"ve all but eliminated flats and especially declines from my programs and really like the difference. I'll go from as low as 20 degrees up to as high as 60 degrees.

And that is short and sweet..



Thanks, DH. Inclines will stay in my routine.

Anyone have any thoughts on whether 'elbows out' or 'to the neck' versions have any merit vs. standard bench press form on the incline?


why not just use them all? they all target different muscles, and they help improve the overall physique/strength. i can't see why you wouldn't use incline, decline, flat bench press in a variety of grips and widths!


Not only will incline presses build up your chest but incline fly's and "under" crossovers will give you that full look. Works for me.


When I added LOW incline DB presses, it definitely added mass to the pec, shoulder attachment point.


A quick thought.

modern coventional wisdom says you cant isolate muscle groups, such as upper pec, lower abs,etc. I agree with this in principle, but you can certainly emphasize certain parts of a muscle via concentration, hand, foot and elbow positioning and visual focus.


The "upper chest" is in fact a different muscle with a different attachment point, so you can specifically isolate it by doing inclines. Obviously, the rest of the chest doesn't just chill out and drink beer, it get's some stimulation too, but the brunt will be on the pec minor.


I agree with you here. I find a lower incline hits my pecs more than the higher incline that most fixed incline benches are set at. The fixed benches seem to hit my delts harder than anything else.


Since when is a bench of any sort a chest exercise??!?!? Sure it hits the chest and the chest is involved to a certain degree, but there are FAR BETTER exercises that use the pecs the way they're supposed to. Flys are the way to go if you want to really build mass on your chest. Horizontal, inclned, low to high cable, etc will build the chest mass not a bench press. The chest isnt designed to "press" its designed to lift and adduct the arm. If you dont think so, press a wall and feel the contraction of the pecs then do a fly pressing against the wall and tell me which activates the pecs more.

P.S. Dumbell presses hit the pecs well also but its because you adduct the arms not because of the pressing so much. At the top when you bring the bells together which causes a greater contraction on the pecs.


I think you're talking about the clavicular head of the pectoralis major when you're talking about the "upper chest." The pec major has two heads (sternal and clavicular) that have the same insertion point on the humerus.

It would be quite difficult for the pec minor to bear the brunt of the work during a bench press since its origin is on the ribs and the insertion is on the scapula. In other words, you can't move you arm with your pec minor.


I love doing the incline, especially with dumbbells. I found it to add more mass, but more than that, more power in general. I am a short guy, so any pushing movement I do, like pushing a pallet or something, is always on an incline. If you think about it, very rarely do you push something with a flat back, which is what the regular bench is.


You cannot isolate any part of the pec with any exercise. You may emphasize different areas, but no isolation.


Agreed, at the 24 hour, I go to now all the benches can only be lowered to a certain point which is pretty high. High inclines always hit your delts more.

At my old gym they had more adjustable benches and I would only put the incline a few clicks above being flat. I agree that this puts the emphasis more on your pec period and upper pec then the delts, again, with dumbells.


is'nt that exactly what I said in my earlier post?


If you've lifted like a powerlifter, you may get virtually no upper pec activation from inclines, or pec activation from benches at all.

I'm not joking, my pecs don't even tense benching with a powerlifting set-up.

I do have big pecs though. The size came from dumbell presses at different angles. Even here, I can't go too heavy. If I pound out reps with 115 pound DBs, I get little pec involvement. If I drop down to 70s and focus on FLEXING THE PECS, and just using the bells as tools to produce tension, then my pecs pump up like crazy.

See, I think you should almost be shrugging the pecs at the top, which is the exact opposite of what you want to do for powerlifting.

For inclines, I lower the dumbells NOT straight elbows out, but elbows somewhat out and arching down a little toward the feet and out, almost like a flye. This is with a slight incline. At the top, first the weight should not be straight over your shoulders, but a little in the inferior direction, then squeeze the pecs to bring them over the shoulders.

One interesting thing though. Military presses from the front DO get the upper pecs somewhat for me very independent of the lower head.


The upper pec head (clavicular) is not the pec minor.


HAHAHAHA. You're an idiot just like me! But you're one of those 24 hour fagness posers aren't you? You probably have a purple t-shirt that says bigger, faster, stronger, better too.

Man, you are one pathetic loser! [Jim Carrey D&Der voice]



Exactly. As I already said in an earlier post, the pec minor isn't even attached to the upper arm.