The Differences in an Incline, Decline & a Flat Bench

The Differences in an Incline, Decline & a Flat Bench

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A chest press on an incline bench emphasizes the upper chest.

Depending on your fitness facility, it may offer a bench that can be set to an incline, decline or flat position. These types of benches are beneficial because they allow you to incorporate a greater array of exercises into your workouts. Changing the angle of the bench can also affect which muscle group you're working.

Keep it Flat

When the bench is set to flat, it means that it's positioned to be parallel to the floor. Most benches are made so when they're flat, they're a couple feet off the floor so that you can safely and easily mount it, whether you're lying on your back, lying face down or kneeling on it. If you lie on your back on a flat bench, you can perform a chest press and chest fly, which work the middle of the pectoralis major in the chest, your shoulders and triceps. You can also work your triceps with a lying triceps extension and a close-grip press. If you kneel on the flat bench, you can perform a one-handed dumbbell row, which works your back. Lie face down with your arms hanging down on either side to perform the row with both arms simultaneously.

Do it on an Incline

When the bench is set to an incline, it means that it's pointed upward slightly, normally to 45 to 60 degrees. You can perform similar movements with the bench set to an incline as when it's positioned flat. However, it changes how your muscles work. For example, a chest press and chest fly with the bench set to an incline places a greater emphasis on the upper section of the pectoralis major muscle in the chest and shoulders. While seated and reclined back on the incline bench, you can work your biceps with dumbbell curls. You can also work your biceps by standing and leaning forward on the bench. While lying on an incline bench, you can reach up and grab the end of the bench and then lift your knees to your chest to work your abs.

Try it Downhill

If you set the bench to a decline position, it's tilted toward the floor. When you perform a chest press on a decline bench, you emphasize the lower section of your chest. While lying back on a decline bench, you can also work your abs by performing decline bench situps.

Mix it Up

By changing the angle of the bench, you're also changing the position of your body. When you tweak your body position, the loads of the weights you're lifting subsequently pull on your muscles in a different way. There isn't one angle that's better than the others, but by incorporating exercises on a flat, incline and decline bench, you're able to add a greater element of variety in your workouts and prevent your muscles from hitting a plateau.


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