While the bench press may be commonplace in your gym routine, you may benefit from switching to incline bench presses instead. Under-training the upper pecs and relying on flat bench presses are both big mistakes when building muscle, notes trainer and bodybuilder Greg Merritt on the website Simply Shredded. Rather than starting each session with flat chest exercises, try an incline bench instead. Just make sure you get the angle right.
The Best of Chest
To hit your chest, a 15- to 30-degree angle is best, according to strength coach Jason Ferruggia. Keeping your bench below 30 degrees will effectively target your upper pecs and reduce the risk of injury. Personal trainer Mark McManus backs this up on his website, MuscleHack, noting that going up just one notch on the bench from a flat position is enough to target your upper chest.
The higher you set the angle of the bench, the more stress you transfer to your shoulders. Think about a flat barbell bench press and a standing overhead barbell press. The former works your chest and the latter works your shoulders. This demonstrates that the more upright you are, the more your shoulders work and the less your chest is involved. Therefore, if bigger shoulders is your goal, go for a high incline.
It's Kind of Personal
There is no right or wrong angle for incline pressing: Personal preference comes into it too. Weightlifting coach Dresdin Archibald notes that most benches come with pre-set pins at angles of 30, 45, 60 and 75 degrees, so experiment with all the different options to find what works best for you.
You don't have to throw away flat bench presses altogether, but if the upper chest is an area you're looking to develop, then give incline presses the priority in your sessions. You can forgo flat pressing for a month or two in favor of inclines, or just put incline presses first in every workout. Either stick with one incline in every session for a few weeks, then switch to another for your next training cycle, or alternate the angle in each workout, depending on what muscles you're looking to target.