Who doesn’t want bigger chest, by the show of hands? Anyone? Anyone at all? Exactly. There is not a single bro who lifts that skips chest days. Gyms are packed on Mondays (the international chest day), and every gym veteran has a special advice on how to make your pecs grow the fastest. Today we are going over one of the often debated exercises – the decline bench press. It gets a lot of love and it gets bashed on, but today we are putting it all on a scale in order to see if its benefits surpass the downsides.
Decline bench press is an exercise that allows you to target the lower part of your pecs, due to the angle of your arms in relation of your body. Fibers of the lower back do run that way, which means that that part of the equation is true. Another fact is that you are able to lift more weight when doing the decline bench rather than its flat counterpart. When you put it head to head like that (decline bench press vs flat), it seems that they are equals, right? Well, not really, but keep reading.
Right from the get go – the decline bench does work your lower chest. The positioning does allow you to hit that portion of your pecs, so I do have to say that that part is not a hoax.
As I already mentioned, there is no doubt that you can lift more weight in this exercise compared to the other kinds of presses due to the mechanical advantages of the exercise itself (the bar path is shorter, which means shortened range of movement).
Also, the most difficult portion of the movement is the lockout, which doesn’t pose a problem for most of the novice or intermediate lifters as the weight is just not challenging enough (if your chest can the bar from the bottom position, the lockout is child’s play for the triceps).
Additionally, your feet are usually anchored, which takes them out of the exercise, and that means more work done by your chest, and less work done by your abs.
Having said that, a question arises: Do we want all of those things? Yes, we can press more weight, but I don’t think that numbers themselves matter that much. This exercise might let you press more weight, but that is mostly due to the shortened distance the barbell has to travel. It can be good for your ego, but not so much for your muscles. What I mean by that as well is – in decline position, your front delts are taken out of the equation, and that can put stress on the pec that it isn’t ready to handle. This can lead to strains, and even pec tears, in some drastic cases.
As far as legs go, I am not a big fan of excluding them from pressing. Leg drive is really important even when lying down on a bench because it helps you stay tight, generate the force from ground up, and plugs the energy leaks along the kinetic chain. If you want to make the exercise harder, simply do more reps, if adding weight is not an option.
Another thing that I don’t particularly like with decline bench press is the blood that rushes to your head in this position (thanks a lot, gravity). It’s not really a fundamental or profound difference, but I do like to pull all the stops and compare the exercises in every aspect so you can make an informed decision once you’ve gotten all the facts.
As you could see, I am not the biggest fan of decline bench press. However, I am not going to throw any dirt on it either. It is certainly not the best exercise for the lower chest in my opinion, but if you enjoy doing it, and if you reaped gains from it – more power to you! If you are a powerlifter trying to improve your lockout, who am I to stop you? However, I do think that there are better ways to use your time and efforts in order to kill your chest.
One of the best chest exercises (especially the lower fibers) is dips. It’s not only a great way to fend off the sagginess of chest we all so fear, and develop the chest overall, but also a fantastic way to build your entire upper body strength and explosiveness. If we add the versatility of a dip to the table, it’s clear that you might not even need an exercise bench to hit your chest.
Another one that I really like may come as a bit of a shock for you. It’s incline pushup. Yes, it seems easy, but hear me out. We mostly rely on adding the weight to the bar when it comes to pressing. Yes, we do pause reps, forced reps, partials and whatnot, but those are all parts of progressive overload method for muscle growth. If we do slow negatives, that is another way to grow bigger muscles. But with both of these, we eventually hit the wall.
With an incline pushup, the stimulus for growth is metabolic stress. To put it simply – it means chasing the pump. We can do these for higher reps (even more than regular pushups), and force our cell to produce more metabolites. More metabolites mean more growth. Just try this one, and include it in your routine, if possible, as a burnout set or a finisher (don’t stop when you feel the burn, keep at it until you can’t do another rep). You can thank me latter.
There is no exercise loved more than the bench press (maybe the curl?). Its decline counterpart doesn’t quite hold the fort, but that doesn’t mean that it should be skipped or avoided. Yes, we can do flat bench press, dips, pushups and cable crossovers as well, but that doesn’t mean that decline bench press doesn’t have its place under the Sun.
Whatever variation you decide to go with, do it right (for the love of toast, don’t use the suicide grip, it’s called that for a reason), and go strong!
Hey! My name is Paul Sheldon. I live in Nashville, TN and I love all things related to sports. Naturally I love workking out and I do it every day. If you want to talk feel freee to hit me a message or if you happen to be in Nashville we can get a coffee, I know a great place. Peace!