The decline bench press is an excellent exercise for developing the size and strength in your chest, shoulders and triceps. While many people often think of it as an exercise predominantly targeted at training the lower chest muscles, it actually hits the entire muscle. To perform a decline bench press, set your bench to between a 15- and 30-degree decline, grasp the bar with your hands about 18 inches apart, and utilize a full range of motion on every rep.
Decline bench presses mainly work your chest muscles, with some involvement of your shoulders and triceps. Your chest, or pectoral muscles, are responsible for two main actions -- flexion and adduction of your upper arm. When your pecs contract, they bring your arms toward the center of your body, with your elbows facing either out to the side or toward the floor. Your shoulder muscles also aid in flexion and adduction, and they help stabilize your shoulder joint. At the top part of the lift, your triceps -- the muscles on the back of your arms -- work to extend your arms.
The decline bench press is a commonly seen exercise in many bodybuilding routines. While many might consider it to be an exercise that targets mostly the fibers of the lower chest muscles, according to former Mr. Olympia bodybuilding champion Dorian Yates, decline bench presses hit your entire chest muscle. He used this exercise frequently during his bodybuilding career.
Decline bench presses can be used to effectively increase your upper body strength. When training for strength, most people tend to stick to regular flat bench presses, which is perfectly acceptable. You should, however, be able to lift slightly more when the bench is at a slight decline. Because handling heavier weights can help you to increase your strength, decline bench presses may be a better exercise choice for you if your primary goal is increasing strength.
Benefits Over Regular Bench Presses
Regular flat bench presses are great, as they help to build upper body strength and are one of the three lifts in a powerlifting competition. They can, however, be stressful on your joints, particularly your shoulders and elbows. Decline bench presses remove some of the shoulder joint involvement, reducing stress to it. Because they force you to keep your elbows tucked in more, they can help reduce the risk of injuries to these joints. It is also easier to rack and unrack a decline bench press, making it a slightly safer exercise.