Decline bench press for chest development?

written by Philip Stefanov  |  MARCH 9, 2021

The decline bench press is a popular exercise for chest growth. The question is, should we do it? In my experience, this is one of these exercises that divides people into two groups:

One group of people loves the exercise and does it often, where the other group doesn’t find value and avoids it. I tend to be in the latter group, but I get where people are coming from.

According to some data, decline pressing causes a weaker muscle activation when compared to the flat bench. But is this everything? No, and here is why:

The decline bench press can work because of the torso angle. Your arms aren’t directly perpendicular to your torso but are instead angled down a bit. In theory, this should help target the fibers of the lower chest a bit better. Some folks find this to be the case; others (like myself) don’t.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the decline press can quickly turn into an ego lift for some people. You see, the angle of your torso reduces the range of motion the bar can travel. Meaning, most people can typically handle a bit more weight when compared to flat or incline bench pressing. As you can imagine, a shorter range of motion and a better capacity to handle loads are a recipe for overreaching.

The good news is that the reduced range of motion makes the decline bench press a great exercise for people with shoulder problems. By limiting the distance your shoulders can travel, the movement naturally prevents them from getting into a compromised position that can lead to aches and injuries.

So, where does this leave the decline bench?

Well, I typically don’t recommend it for most people. Instead, I believe the bodyweight dip is a much better movement for the lower portion of the chest. The range of motion is better, you can still overload the movement with a weight belt, and you can even use it as a finisher at the end of your chest workout.

With that said, nothing is stopping you from giving the decline press a go. If you enjoy doing the decline bench press, it doesn’t bother your shoulders, and you feel great chest activation, by all means, keep doing it. Just be mindful of the potential drawbacks, and you’ll be okay.

Thank you for your time! Until next week,


P.S. For more of my thoughts on practical chest training, click here to read.


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