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The bench/dumbbell press is the primary movement for chest development. The incline and decline bench presses are used in the strength and conditioning world. There is a common confusion as to which is the best angle for incline bench press to use the chest muscles.

angle for incline bench press

Science is clear despite the many views. Let ‘s look at the studies.

  1. A study was published in the European Journal of Sports Science. During a free-weight barbell bench press performed at 0, 30, 45 and -15 bench angles, the muscular activation of the pectoralis major, deltoid and triceps brachi anteriori was compared. Fourteen resistance-trained males took part in the study. A maximum of six sets of six was performed for each bench press condition. The use of a horizontal bench position to achieve muscular activation of the upper and lower heads of the pectoralis major is supported by the results of this study. The results show that an incline bench angle of 30 is more beneficial than an incline bench angle of 45. There is no added benefit to including a bench press in conjunction with a horizontal bench.
  1. Chris Barnett and his team investigated the effects of varying bench inclination and hand spacing on the activity of five shoulder muscles. Six male weight trainers performed presses under four conditions of trunk inclination and two of hand spacing at 80 % of their max. The head of the pectoralis major was more active during the press from a horizontal bench than from a decline bench. The clavicular head of the pectoralis major was less active during the decline bench press than during the incline bench press. The clavicular head of the pectoralis major was more active. As trunk inclination increased, the anterior deltoid activity increased.
  2. A study was published in the Journal of Human Kinetics. Saeterbakken and his team compared the muscle activation of 6RM competition style bench press ( flat bench-wide grip ) with, 1 ) medium and narrow grip width on a flat bench and, 2 ) inclined and declined bench positions with a wide grip. The bench press athletes were part of the study. The pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, biceps brachii, triceps brachii, and latissimus dorsi were measured. There were no significant differences in activation between the three bench positions. The triceps brachii activation is lower. The inclined bench has more brachii activation than the flat and declined bench. Compared with an inclined and declined bench position and a medium and narrow grip width, the competition bench press style resulted in similar muscle activation in the chest and shoulder muscles. An inclined bench position had more strength than a flat and declined bench position. Compared with other variations of grip width and bench positions, the 6-RM loads were greater with a wide grip and a flat bench position.
  1. A 2010 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared the activation of the clavicular head and the sternocostal head of the pectoralis major and the anterior deltoid when performing the bench press at different angles. The healthy male subjects were part of the study. The subjects used 70 % of their 1 repetition maximum for each angle to perform the chest press exercise. The clavicular head of the pectoralis major was more activated at 44deg compared to 0deg, 56deg, and 28deg. The sternocostal head of the pectoralis major was more activated at 0deg compared to 28deg, at 0deg compared to 44deg, at 56deg, and at 56deg. The anterior deltoid was more activated at 28 degrees compared to 0 degrees, 44 degrees compared to 0 degrees, and 56 degrees compared to 0 degrees. It would seem that both the flat and incline chest press exercises are necessary to improve recruiting. To successfully train the muscles involved in chest press exercises ( sternocostal and clavicular heads of the pectoralis major along with the anterior deltoid ), more than 1 angle for incline bench press needs to be employed. It is necessary to perform the bench press exercise at a horizontal bench position and at an inclined position of approximately 44 degrees. The flat bench position preferentially targets the sternocostal head, whereas an inclined position of 44 degrees is required to effectively recruit the clavicular head.

The upper and lower heads of the pectoralis major were activated by a flat bench press during the eccentric phases of the lift. There is an angle for incline bench press. 30 is more beneficial than 45 as it results in the same upper and lower pectoralis activation. The entire chest musculature needs to be activated by performing the bench press on an incline. The best angle for incline bench press is between 30 and 45 degrees.

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