Basically everyone who trains with barbells does the Flat Benchpress. Its the single most popular exercise in weight training of all time. The Flat Benchpress close cousin, the Incline Press, doesn't get much attention though. Why? Because is rare someone uses proper weights on it. In history there are some great examples of how focusing on the Incline Benchpress leads to outstanding development of strength, power and hypertrophy in the Upper Body. Such as IFBB Pro Bodybuilder Dennis James who has some of the best Chest, Shoulder and Triceps development of all time and was known to Incline Press 260kg for 3 reps and uses 220kg for reps for multiple sets days away from major competitions. Or the 20o4 Olympic Champion in Shot Put Adam Nelson who did a 236kg Incline Press with an 2″ fatbar and chains.
The Incline Press is a great exercise. That is underused. Trainees will benefit from doing more pressing on an Incline Bench primarily because of these two things I know for sure about the Incline Press:
1. The Incline Press involves much more Upper Back Muscles than the Flat Benchpress - One of the mechanical benefits of the Flat Benchpress is that the bench allows you to pin your scapula into the bench for additional fixation and therefore stability. On the Incline Press this isn't possible due to the upward angle of the bench which forces the scapula fixator and stabilizer muscles to work more and that way expose a weak upper. Which can be hidden on a Flat Benchpress by adjusting the technique and fixing the scapula in the bench. Since there is no such thing as an upper back thats too strong focusing more on the Incline Press will train the prime movers of pressing – the pecs, delts and triceps – as well as the prime stabilizers – such as the lats, rhomboids and mid/ lower traps. For a greater overall training effect and more muscular balance in the upper body.
2. The more you train the Incline Press the greater and safer the Flat Benchpress – At the YPSI we rotate the angles of pressing movement from phase to phase. We use the Incline Press in all its variations more than 75% of the time compared to the Flat Benchpress. One reason is to balance out the muscles actively and passively involved in pressing. Another reason is to expose the shoulder joint to pressing at multiple angles to avoid overuse of a single angle. With overuse being a major factor in injuries. There are many angles – 65°, 45°, 30°, 15°, flat and decline – the more you rotate them the greater the progress. Want a bigger Flat Benchpress, do more Incline Presses, the reverse isn't necessarily true though.
The Incline Press is one of the most underused exercises of upper body training. Ever seen someone with a big Incline Press and a weak upper body? I haven't. Focus on the Incline Press for the majority of the training phases will improve almost all upper body lifts. And create more muscular balance. For more sustainable progress. Less injuries. And a bigger, stronger upper body. Which is the end goal.
All the Best with improving your Incline Press!
More articles from the "2 Things I know for sure about..." series:
2 Things I Know For Sure About the Periodization
2 Things I Know For Sure About Squats
2 Things I Know For Sure About Training
2 Things I Know For Sure About Nutrition
2 Things I Know For Sure About Conditioning
Picture: UFC Fighter Peter Sobotta at the YPSI 4 months out from his next fight during a full body workout which included a paused Barbell Incline Press with a shoulder width grip at a 4210 Tempo where he used 90kg for reps.