Last updated on November 13th, 2022 at 12:11 pm
I’m sure you’ve often wondered, “Do You Really Need to Do Decline Bench Press?”
If there’s one thing we all want it’s a strong, muscular, pumped set of pecs (okay, and bulging biceps too).
So, pretty much at the beginning of every week, Monday is chest day.
And of course you head straight over to the flat bench press.
I’m sure you incorporate a few sets of incline bench, perhaps some dumbbell and cable flyes, and maybe even some dips.
However, the decline bench barely gets a second look.
It just doesn’t seem worth it, or is this really the case?
Allow me to reveal all.
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Do You Really Need to Do Decline Bench Press?
The decline bench press is a far better exercise than most people give it credit for. In fact, it could actually be considered a better overall chest exercise than the flat barbell bench press. The decline bench press places less stress on the front delts and lower back, plus it allows for a greater range of motion. Former pro-bodybuilder, Dorian Yates, actually stopped using the flat bench when his shoulder problems flared up. He turned to the incline and decline variations for overall chest development.
1. The Often Maligned & Ignored Decline Bench Press
I actually think the decline bench press gets a really hard time.
Practically everyone has something to say about the decline bench press, and it’s usually pretty negative.
In fact, if people aren’t talking trash about decline bench then they’re probably hurting its feelings by their use of it.
In my local gym, the one and only decline bench press is used as somewhere to sit while resting or to perform crunches.
Realistically, for most gym goers and “bros” it’s all about the flat bench.
Plus, everyone knows just how important it is to pump up your upper pecs with incline variations.
However, most people completely ignore the decline benches and would only ever use them if every single other bench in the gym was taken.
And even then, they’re actually more likely to switch body parts and train something else for the day.
For me, this is a massive mistake, and I’ll even go as far as to say that decline bench press is a far better exercise than the favoured flat variation.
2. Less Stress on the Shoulders
I guess the one thing that everyone agrees on is that decline bench places far less stress on the shoulders.
More specifically the front delts.
In fact, there are those who consider the flat bench press just as much a front delt exercise as a pec exercise.
With that being said, there are many gym-goers who see flat bench as a great mass builder, but a terrible overall pec exercise.
And I have to say that I agree.
Former pro-bodybuilder, Dorian Yates, had plenty to say about the flat bench in a revealing interview he gave a few years back.
In fact, Dorian stated that he eventually dumped the flat bench press in preference for the incline and decline variations.
His reasoning was that flat bench placed far too much stress on the front delts to be an effective pec builder.
He felt that the angle (or lack of) of the flat bench meant that the pec tendons were placed in a vulnerable position.
Dorian went on to add that many torn pecs in bodybuilding were simply due to heavy flat bench pressing.
How Shoulder Injuries Happen With Bench Press
3. Increased Range of Motion
Something that I love about the decline bench press is the increased range of motion you get.
You could also say the same for incline bench.
When it comes to flat benching you can only lower the bar so far until you start to feel it in the front delts.
However, most of us completely ignore this and touch the bar to the chest before pressing back up again.
But, in truth, this places shoulders, and even the elbows, in a very unnatural position.
When it comes to the decline bench, you can take the bar down just as far and you won’t feel anywhere near as much stress on the joints.
In fact, you can easily take your elbows below your body line, while bringing the bar towards your neck.
Okay, there may be certain safety issues with doing this, although the bench press to neck is a “real” exercise.
The legendary Vince Gironda had most of his bodybuilders perform bench presses to the neck.
Realistically, you’re getting a good few extra inches of range of motion, which can only be a good thing in terms of muscle growth.
4. Less Stress on Lower Back
The decline bench press definitely places far less stress on the lower back than any other bench variation.
There is a tendency to arch the back when performing flat or incline bench press.
And this can get extremely exaggerated as the weights get heavier.
Now, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with the back arch bench press.
Although, saying that, I personally don’t think you should be performing it unless you’re specifically training a powerlifting-type workout program.
By this I mean that there’s no real need to arch your back unless you’re hitting some extremely heavy weights close to your one-rep max.
But, that’s just a personal opinion.
Anyway, back to the point, decline bench takes the back arch out of the equation.
Basically, gravity takes over and you’ll typically find that your torso remains flat on the bench.
So, the decline bench press is actually a great alternative to flat bench if you’re currently working around a back injury.
Plus, it’s just a fantastic way to train the pec region for anyone without putting any undue pressure on the lower back.
5. Is it Really All About Your Lower Pecs?
The one thing you’ll hear time-and-time again about the decline bench press is that it’s great for your lower pecs.
Then again, there are those who hate decline bench so much that they’ll state that bar dips are a far better exercise for the lower chest.
You’ll even hear gym-goers stating that they don’t want to “overdevelop” the lower chest, as the upper pecs are far more important.
Finally, many people will state that the flat bench is more than enough work for the lower pecs.
I will admit that these may all valid points.
However, I will also say that they are all slightly misinformed.
Back to Dorian Yates again – Dorian stated that he didn’t want more lower chest development when questioned on his use of the decline bench press.
He went on to say that decline bench will have the whole pec area firing.
I have to say I agree.
Try a workout with decline bench press instead of flat bench and then tell me that you don’t feel it just as much in your entire chest area.
In fact, I’ll argue that you’ll feel it more, as well as a great tricep pump, but without the shoulder aggravation.
Dorian actually went on to quote Arthur Jones, the exercise philosopher and inventor of Nautilus exercise machines, who said that decline bench was the “most effective pec exercise”.
So, clearly decline is about far more than simply the lower chest.
The Lower Chest Solution
6. Lack of Leg Drive
I guess there had to be one negative about the decline bench press.
However, saying that, it isn’t all bad.
Using leg drive is a well-known technique when bench pressing.
In effect, your feet are close to being in line with your hips, and you really push through the feet in order to press the barbell up.
Once again, this is a specific technique that is used when you’re pressing heavier weights, much the same as arching your back.
However, when it comes to the decline bench press, this is taken away from you.
This is typically due to the forces of gravity again, plus your feet and torso are higher than your head.
Then again, your feet are typically wrapped around the apparatus in some way, which provides additional leverage.
With that being said, you should be able to bench more weight with decline than you do with flat or incline anyway.
And also, without being able to arch your back or use leg drive, the exercise is far more focused on the target muscles.
So, it’s probably not actually that terrible that you can’t use momentum to lift the barbell.
From a personal perspective, I would say that decline bench press is a far better exercise than the flat variation.
Therefore, I believe that you do need to do it, and as a replacement for flat bench.
Decline bench places far less stress of the shoulders and lower back.
Furthermore, it allows for greater range of motion, plus you can generally use more weight.
Additionally, decline bench press isn’t solely a lower pec exercise.
It will fire up the entire pec region just as well as, if not better than, the flat bench press.
So, that’s all about the decline bench press, now discover what I have to say about the best angle for incline bench press.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.