How to Build a Huge Chest with the Barbell Incline Bench Press

Time to build a stronger, better upper body.

This extensive guide to the Barbell Incline Bench Press will help you to build strength and muscle mass for your chest.

What is the Barbell Incline Bench Press?

This compound barbell exercise is a variation of the traditional flat Bench Press, with the lifter’s body is fixed in an incline position.

This changes the angle of the pressing motion and alters the stimulus on the body.

What Muscles Does the Incline Bench Press Work?

The Incline Bench Press primarily works three main muscle groups, the pecs, triceps and front deltoids.

Chest (Pectorals)

The angle of the bench re-aligns the tension to the fibres of the upper chest.

If you want to build muscle mass for the pecs then add the Incline Bench Press into your training program.


During the movement, the triceps must work hard to lock out the barbell at the top of the press.

Slightly changing the angle from the flat bench press will force the triceps to work slightly differently. This new challenge will strengthen them in a new way and enhance your upper arms in general.

You can diversify your training to maximise the overall results.

Front (Anterior) Deltoids

In a similar way to the flat version, the exercise will ensure that the front delts are strengthened and improved.

They must work even harder than in the flat Bench Press.

The more vertical that you position the angle of the bench, the greater the stress on the anterior deltoids.

This is easy to understand as the Seated Strict Press is primarily a shoulder exercise. The Incline Bench Press sits between this and the Flat Bench Press.

By angling the bench differently, you can bring the stimulus of the exercise closer to either of these two other pressing movements.


The exercise will also strengthen the wrists and make them more resistant to injury if you slowly bring up the weights over time.

Benefits of the Incline Bench Press

There are many excellent reasons why you should include this exercise in your training.

Build Upper Body Strength

Enhance Upper Body Pressing Power

The movement provides a great new way to augment upper body pressing strength for any athlete.

You can use it to work on sticking points or switch things up in your training.  

Grow More Muscle Mass

You can effectively use heavy weights for high volumes with this exercise, making it perfect for hypertrophy.

It is an effective, multi joint compound movement and is a perfect tool for building muscle mass.

Chest-muscles-james-newbury Best Way to train the Chest for Hypertrophy-Incline Bench PressSource: CrossFit Games / Depositphotos

Better Isolation for the Chest

The primary muscle group that are worked are the pecs, however the Incline Bench Press provides better isolation for the chest itself than the flat variation.

The incline position stimulates the upper chest fibres to a greater extent and makes the weight harder to lift. In turn this leads to great gains for the chest.

How to Do the Incline Bench Press

Set the bench up at a 45-degree angle. Load the barbell.

  • Lie back on the bench. Foot the feet strongly into the ground, wide enough apart to establish a solid base
  • Grip the barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart
  • Inhale and brace your core, grip and glutes
  • Unrack the bar and stabilise the weight
  • Retract the shoulder blades and slowly lower the bar downwards
  • Bring the barbell down in a controlled and focused manner. Stop once you touch the chest
  • Pause
  • Explode the barbell upwards. Keep your back flush with the bench
  • Keep the elbows pulling inwards towards the body as you press the barbell upwards. Keep the shoulders on the bench and don’t let the elbows flare out
  • Extend the arms back to the starting position
  • Exhale
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps

Training Tips

Keep your feet rooted into the ground. Try to twist them outwards without moving the soles of your shoes. This will help to activate the legs and glutes.

Experiment with the right grip width for your body. The forearms should be perpendicular to the floor once you reach the bottom of the range of motion.

Use the knurl marks (the smooth rings on the barbell) as markers to establish the same grip every time.

Never let the barbell crash down to your chest. Think about pulling the barbell towards you and control the descent and bar path.

Incline Bench Press Variations

If you want to add variety to your upper body days, chest or pressing sessions then consider adding these effective exercises into your training.

Incline Bench Press with Tempo

This is the easiest variation to make any lifter control the barbell properly and maximise hypertrophy.

Slowing down the movement maximises time under tension, protects the joints and enhances motor recruitment.

It will make you think more about the positions of the hands and elbows, as well as make you understanding how you need to activate certain muscle groups in order to successfully complete every rep.

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

This exercise is very similar; however, it is (surprisingly) performed with dumbbells instead.

This can be a great way to get acclimatised with pressing in the incline position.

If the Barbell Incline Bench Press causes you pain or discomfort then try switching to the dumbbell variation.

It can also be very useful for developing the necessary wrist and elbow resilience.

As a unilateral exercise, the Incline Dumbbell Bench Press can also be a great tool for addressing and fixing strength imbalances which might also have a negative effect on your barbell lift.

Single-Arm Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

Another unilateral exercise, this movement will develop your ability to support, stabilise and move a load through space.

You must resist rotational forces and the exercise is also an effective way to establish strong mind muscle connections.

Incline Bench Press Alternatives

These alternatives can be used to replace the movement if you cannot perform it for any reason.

Seated Shoulder Press

This is a compound shoulder exercise but it shares similarities with the movement that it is replacing.

It can be altered to incorporate more of the chest simply by decreasing the angle of the bench by a single notch.

Flat Bench Press

The traditional version is probably the most popular exercise for the upper body.

It will also strengthen and improve the chest, triceps and shoulders.

biggest bench press mistakesSource: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

Incline Close Grip Dumbbell Bench Press

This places the vast majority of the stimulus on the triceps.

Grip two dumbbells and hold them together (with your palms facing each other). Keep the elbows close to the body as this will limit the amount of shoulder stress

This movement will increase upper pectoral and triceps muscle hypertrophy and general pressing strength.

Flat Bench Press vs Incline Bench Press – Which is Better?

The Flat Bench Press and Incline Bench Press both work very similar muscle groups, however they accentuate them in different ways.

MuscleIncline chest pressFlat bench chest press
Pectoralis majoryesyes
Anterior deltoidyesyes
Triceps brachiiyesyes

The Incline Bench Press places more emphasis on the upper pecs.

The Flat Bench Press more equally distributes the stress across the entire pec area.

Multiple times Mr. Olympia winner Dorian Yates, said: “I don’t even include flat benching in my pec routine because I think it stresses the front deltoids far too much to be an effective exercise for building the chest. Also, the angle of the flat bench press puts the pec tendons in a vulnerable position. Most shoulder injuries and overuse injuries can be stemmed from flat benching. Many torn pecs in bodybuilding have been the result of heavy flat bench presses.”


Got more questions? Scroll through to find the answers.

Can I do the Incline Bench Press as my main Chest Exercise?

Yes, you can. If the movement helps you get the results that you want then keep going. The added shoulder activation may be good for you and your goals as well.

Why is Incline Bench Press Harder?

It is harder because the incline reduces the ability of the body to recruit and use all the fibres of the pec muscles.

This puts your body at a disadvantage, which is good news for your hypertrophy gains.

Should I Touch my Chest on Incline Bench Press?

Yes, you should. This will ensure a full range of motion for every rep.

Is Incline Bench enough for Shoulders?

The movement will target your shoulders as well as your pecs and triceps, however it is not directly a shoulder exercise.

Strict Press will build the most strength and is the most raw and effective exercise for overhead pressing strength.

Learn More

Add these Nordic Curls or Oblique Exercises into your training.

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