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Decline Bench Press: How-To, Mistakes to Avoid, Pros and Cons

Discover everything (good or bad) that the decline bench press can provide you.

Whether you are looking to get fitter for aesthetics or to build up muscle, hitting all three muscle groups of your chest is crucial. The decline bench press is one of the most common and practical choices for targeting your lower chest.

Surely you have arrived at your gym only to find out all benches were taken. Utilising the bench could be a simple way to train different muscles in your body without much equipment. The decline bench press is no different.

The decline bench press is easy to do and will help you get a better definition of your chest region, but it is not only sunshine and rainbows, as there are some cons of doing this exercise.

In this article you will discover:

Without further ado, let’s dig into the decline bench press.

How To Do the Decline Bench Press

Needless to say, you will need a bench to be able to perform properly the decline bench press. It is possible to do this exercise utilising a barbell or dumbbells. We will be talking primarily about how to do it with a barbell.

  • Decline the bench at a 15-30 degree angle.
  • Lay on the bench with feet nicely fit on the support provided by the bench.
  • A rack with the intended barbell and weight plates should be positioned accordingly.
  • Apply a wider-than-shoulder grip on the barbell, with knuckles facing your head.
  • Unrack the barbell and straighten up your arms with the barbell positioned above your chest. This is the initial position.
  • In a controlled tempo, lower the barbell until it touches just below your nipple line.
  • Push the barbell up, straightening your arms above your body into the initial position.
  • That is one rep.

When the desired amount of repetitions is finished, put the barbell back on the rack.

Muscles Worked

The muscles worked while performing the decline bench press are:

  • Lower chest
  • Triceps
  • Biceps
  • Delts (front of your shoulder)

The exercise, however, focuses heavily on your lower pecs, making it one of the most common exercises to develop a strong lower chest.

decline bench pressSource: Deposit Photos / CrossFit Inc

Read More: 15 Chest Exercises Ranked Worst to Best

Mistakes to Avoid

There are three common mistakes you should aim to avoid.

  1. Bouncing barbell – some people utilise the chest to bounce the barbell and help them lift more weight. As you can imagine, that takes away the lower pec activation when you are pressing the barbell up, therefore making the exercise less effective.
  2. Improper breathing – breathing is also an important part of the exercise as it dictates how efficient the exercise can be. Inhale on the eccentric part (muscle contraction when pressing the weight upwards), and exhale deeply and faster when lowering the weight.
  3. Shorter range of motion – to get the best out of the decline bench press, you should also do the full range of motion. This will create proper tension across your pectoral muscle fibres and reduce injuries. If you are shortening your range of motion, chances are you are trying to lift too much weight. You may also use a spotter.

Pros of Decline Bench Press

As explained earlier, the decline bench press has an increased activation of your lower pecs, making it one of the most common exercises to target that muscle area. If you want to build a stronger lower chest, you do chest exercises on a decline bench, and with a barbell, you can overload the amount of weight you actually lift.

The decline bench press is the press variation on a bench that puts the least amount of stress on your lower back. This is very useful for people coming off a lower back injury or who have limitations on their lower back.

You have learned that your delts are activated during the decline bench press but to a much smaller extent. In fact, the decline bench press is the type of bench press exercise that puts the least amount of stress on your shoulders, which can be attractive to people with injury, mobility issues, or who are still weak on their shoulders but would like to work on their chest utilising a bench.

Cons of Decline Bench Press

Doing the decline bench press will not pop up your muscles unless you are already slim. If your body fat percentage is medium to high (above 14% for example), then focusing your workout on your lower pecs will be wasted time, as your results will not be visible.

If you focus solely on the decline bench press, you will miss the point of this exercise. Strengthening your lower chest without a developed middle and upper chest will make your chest look like it is sliding down your body. Overall, begin your chest workout with the movement that requires your maximum output of strength to activate the most muscles of the body part in a compound manner – a flat or inclined bench press does the trick. Move to the decline bench press as an extra workout, not the main part of it.

Variations of the Decline Bench Press

Here are a few variations of the decline bench press that you can add to vary your training routine.

Dumbbell decline bench press

It is exactly the same movement but do with a pair of dumbbells instead of the barbell and weight plates. Although you will not be able to lift as much weight as you are accustomed to, dumbbell decline bench press is a unilateral movement – it helps build muscle symmetry and correct strength imbalances.

Cable crossover

Set up the pulleys high in the cable machine and you will be emphasizing your pulling on your lower chest. It is the decline bench press alternative if you want to have muscle tension during the entire movement, but it also works the outer part of the chest.

Decline machine press

If you are new to the gym and doesn’t know how to set up properly the cable crossover machine, for example, you might find solace in the decline machine press. It mimics the decline bench press and you just need to sit down and start pressing the handles.

Incline push-up

If you do not have any gym equipment at your disposal, the incline push-up is a great exercise that will hit your lower chest in a similar manner as the decline bench press.

Use a box, a sofa or bench, or even stairs to put yourself in the right position for the incline push-up.

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