Incline Barbell Bench Press


Incline Barbell Bench Press

The incline barbell bench press exercise will help build mass and strength in primarily the upper pectorals and front deltoids. It will also develop the triceps to a lesser degree. You will be able to lift less at an incline than flat because the smaller muscles of your shoulders come into play.

Barbell Press On An Incline Bench – Exercise Instructions

STARTING (INITIAL) POSITION: Set the incline bench (the one that allows your head to rest higher than your hips) with a rack at about 35-45 degrees. Your feet should be flat on the floor giving you a good, sturdy base. Arch your back slightly during this lift. Take hold of the bar with a medium-wide overhand grip (more than shoulder width apart). When you have the bar off the rack, do not start down immediately with it. Raise the bar off the rack and hold it right above your upper chest or chin, arms locked, for just a second or two and get oriented.

Incline Barbell Bench Press

Incline Barbell Bench Press

MOVEMENT (ACTION): Start down with the weight slowly; touch the muscles directly underneath the point that the clavicles meet (basically the upper chest). Pause for a brief moment so you don’t bounce the weight off your chest, then press it back up to the top position, exhaling on the way up. Do not touch the nipple area, this is way too low. Bar placement should be as stated, even going an inch too low takes the emphasis off the target area. Keep your wrists straight and your elbows beneath your wrists with your arms tucked at a 45-degree angle.

Incline Barbell Bench Press Additional Tips & Tricks

  • The upper chest is best targeted when the backrest is inclined at 30-45 degrees to the floor. Steeper inclines of 60 degrees or more switch focus to the anterior deltoid.
  • For safety reasons, use the spotter’s assistance to lift the bar off the racks and move it into a position over your neck and face with your elbows fully extended.
  • Lower the barbell until it lightly touches your upper chest, just below your collarbone.


  1. Your rib cage to remain open and rise during the descent phase;
  2. Your shoulders to remain retracted and away from your ears during the ascent;
  3. Your forearm to be nearly vertical under the bar (they should move perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other);
  4. Your elbows to flare out wide as the barbell is lowered;
  5. Keep your head, torso, and hips & buttocks pressed to the bench and your feet flat on the floor.


  1. Dropping the weight quickly;
  2. Bouncing the bar off your chest;
  3. Changing your spinal position (either arching or flattening your back) during the movement. This risks lower-back strain;
  4. Picking your feet up off the floor;

Muscles Engaged in Incline Barbell Bench Press

This great compound bodybuilding exercise helps build the upper and outer pectoralis (chest) muscles and shoulders. It also works the serratus anterior (located around the upper and outer rib cage) muscles.

  • Main muscles: pectoralis major (clavicular area), triceps, deltoids (anterior)
  • Secondary muscles: deltoids (medial), coracobrachialis, serratus anterior, subscapularis
  • Antagonists: latissimus dorsi, biceps, deltoids (posterior)

Incline Barbell Bench Press Substitutes (Replacement Exercises)

Incline 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.

Visit our upper chest exercise database to find those exercises.

Closing Thoughts

The incline barbell bench press is identical to bench press, described earlier, except that you lie on an incline bench instead of a flat one. Incline press is a tremendous exercise for upper chest development, but you probably won’t be able to handle as much weight with the incline press as you can with a flat or decline press because the effort is more localized in the upper chest area rather than in the overall pectoral. Use light weight at first until you’re sure you can lift and lower the weight smoothly and under control. It’s a good idea to have a spotter at first.

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