For some people a chest workout begins and ends with the flat bench press. The exercise has been touted for years as the King of the Upper Body movements. But, what if the incline bench press was actually a better movement? Is that sacrilege to say?
Perhaps it is sacrilege, or perhaps there are good reasons to consider using the incline bench press as your primary chest mass builder instead of the more commonly used flat bench press.
Let’s face it; the flat bench press is a starting point for almost all men when they hit the gym. “How much can you bench?” is never implying on the incline. Rightly so the flat bench is a good starting point because it is basic and easy to understand. The motion is similar to a push-up so very natural to grasp.
But…the movement also has some negatives.
The 3 Negative Aspects of the Flat Bench
- Shoulder Pain – Heavy weight pressing on the joint in the normal flat range of motion can be a problem for some people. The flat bench restricts the movement of the shoulder blades which can then lead to strain in the joint. Also an odd motion can occur when the movement is restricted which adds pressure to the rotator cuff.
- Cheating – People typically start with good form but as the weight gets heavier they will either bounce the bar off the chest or start lifting the hips. Both actions don’t help with chest development. While more reps with heavier weight might aid in strength, doing them in bad form does not.
- Ego – The bench press because a vehicle of the ego and not muscle development. Guys become fixated on benching more than other people in a way that is generally unhealthy. This fixation causes a stunting in overall growth because of the over concern of weight totals rather than proper training.
Why Inclines are Better
The primary reason the incline bench press is a better exercise is because of the range of motion you use which creates a great stretch. Ideally you should be using dumbbells and not a barbell for more freedom of movement. That, added with the incline position really allows you to stress so much more of the pectoral muscle at once.
Also the deltoids are less involved at a 30 degree angle than a flat angle so the pectorals are actually doing more work on their own. On an incline it is much more difficult to cheat and for most people the ego is taken out of the equation. Then you can focus on good movement more than anything else.
As for shoulder pain, the same issues with the rotator cuff and shoulder blades can occur but are less likely especially when using dumbbells. In the incline position more of weight from your body is supported by your hips and lower back. While your back does press against the bench, the angle lessens the compression and the shoulder blades can usually obtain more freedom of movement.
Now flat motions are still very useful. In fact, when using machines you often can avoid shoulder pain and even some of the ego issues. But, when comparing the level of effectiveness for free weights the incline bench press has more benefits and less negatives compared to flat which makes it superior.