Decline Barbell Bench Press Exercise
The decline barbell bench press is a good exercise to help target the lower part of your chest (pectoral) muscles. As the bench is on a decline, you will often find that this exercise is easier to perform than a standard flat bench chest press (in large part because the range of motion is smaller in a decline press), so you can use a heavier weight than normal and use a spotter if you can. Perform the reps in the same manner as flat and incline bench presses, bringing the bar to your lower chest.
How To Do The Decline Barbell Bench Press
Many gyms have decline benches with bar supports welded to the back of the bench. If the bench’s angle is adjustable, vary the angle to get the maximum feel in your pectoral muscles.
STARTING POSITION: Lie faceup on a decline bench (you can also use the Roman chair) set to about a 20–35 degree decline and grab the barbell with an overhand grip that’s slightly wider than shoulder-width grip. Lift the bar off the supports and hold it over (above) your lower chest with your arms straight (extended). Secure your feet underneath the ankle pads.
ACTION: Bend your elbows to slowly lower the bar to your lower chest. The bar should nearly touch your lower chest. Pause, and then push the bar back to the starting position without locking out your elbows at the top. Raise the bar vertically. Your forearms should move perpendicular to the ground, and you should keep your elbows away from your trunk. Hold one second and repeat.
- Main muscles: pectoralis major (lower part), triceps, deltoids (anterior)
- Secondary muscles: pectoralis minor, coracobrachialis, serratus anterior, subscapularis
- Antagonists: latissimus dorsi, biceps, deltoids (posterior)
The decline barbell bench press targets your triceps more so than other variations. Your pectoralis major (lower chest) is heavily involved in the movement. In contrast to the flat barbell bench press, your pectoralis minor is minimally involved if at all. Your latissimus dorsi is more heavily recruited on this variation than flat or incline bench presses. Your anterior deltoids are heavily involved in this press too.
Decline Barbell Bench Press Additional Tips & Tricks
- Slowly lower the resistance to your collarbone, making a conscious effort to keep your elbows wide. To stretch the chest muscles at the bottom of the movement and work your pectoralis muscle harder, spread your elbows as far from your body as possible and use a pronated grip (thumbs facing each other).
- The weights should travel perpendicular to the floor.
- To keep your body stable during the exercise, your knees should be at the end of the bench with your lower legs hanging over the end. There should be a support bar to press your feet against for further stability and to keep you from sliding down.
- Do not lift your head up and do not bridge or arch.
- The lower pectoral is best targeted at a decline of 20 to 40 degrees to the floor. Steeper declines shift the focus from the chest to the triceps.
- The greater the decline angle, the more weight you’ll be able to use (to a point) due to the decreasing range of motion.
- Have your partner assist by giving you two forced repetitions or two negative repetitions.
Substitutes (Replacement Exercises)
Decline press can be done with a bar, dumbbells, a machine, or a Smith machine. You need to analyze the advantages and disadvantages of each version to choose the version (or versions) that will work best for you. Ideally, the modification or alternative exercise will still work the same type of motion or movement pattern (pressing movement) but in a slightly different manner. This will ensure that your body still gains strength in a certain move, but the exercise is different enough to spur huge gains.
- Smith-machine decline press – you can also do this exercise using the bar on the Smith machine. Performing the decline press on a machine, such as the Smith machine, affords better stability and safety.
- Decline dumbbell bench press
- Dips – wide grip
- Bench should never be set at a decline of more than about 35 degree.
- You should always seek help when doing this exercise.
- It is not advisable to work out intensely for prolonged periods with the head below the level of the heart (this is because the human body is not designed for effort in an inverted posture).
You will need a decline bench of some sort to perform this exercise properly. This is identical to the incline press with barbell, except that you lie on a decline bench, where your legs are higher than your head. By having the bench at this angle, you shift the focus to your lower pectorals (see other lower chest exercises). Just as it takes a few sets to get used to an incline bench, it requires time to get the feel of a decline bench. A decline barbell bench press is extremely valuable, however, since it lets you develop your lower pecs far better than you can with a flat or incline bench. You will be slightly stronger in a decline press than in a regular bench press, in large part because the range of motion is smaller in a decline press. You will be the weakest during an incline press because the angle of attack for the chest is not as favorable, and the triceps are recruited less. Decline presses are similar to dips in that they work the lower, outer chest region. They are a good substitute if you find your front delts doing most of the work during flat bench presses.