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Incline Bench Vs. Flat Bench

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
Incline Bench Vs. Flat Bench
Someone is bench pressing on a flat bench. Photo Credit Serghei Starus/iStock/Getty Images

Working the body from multiple angles ensures balanced muscular development. The padded workout bench is a tool used for multiple exercises and can be used in a flat position or at a 30-, 45- or 60-degree incline. Incorporate all angles of the bench to round out your workout and vary your routine.

Function of the Flat Bench

The flat bench can be used for a variety of exercises while lying down, seated or standing. While lying on your back, use it for a chest press, triceps extensions, chest flies or pullovers for the back. Sitting on the bench allows you to support your lower-body weight while performing shoulder exercises like the military press or lateral raises, bicep curls and overhead triceps presses. Stand next to the bench and place your right knee and hand on it and a weight in your left hand to execute rows for the back. Switch sides after a set to balance both sides. You can also sit or lie on the bench to perform various abdominal exercises.

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Function of an Incline Bench

The incline bench also offers multiple opportunities to improve strength. Change the emphasis of your flat chest presses and flies to focus more on the upper chest and shoulders by performing them at a 30-degree incline. Straddle the bench and sit face down at a 45-degree angle to execute rear deltoid flies or Cuban snatches. Shoulder presses can also be performed at 45- or 60-degree inclines to target more of the front of the deltoid muscle. Do bicep curls while lying on a 45- or 60-degree incline to isolate both heads of the muscle more by increasing the range of motion they must follow to complete one repetition.


Changing the incline allows you to vary the emphasis of muscles in particular exercises. Muscles are designed to work together in various directions, and training in all those directions creates a more balanced-looking body. In addition, you will experience better function when faced with real-life situations; your body is asked to move in all sorts of directions on a daily basis. For example, with the chest press, a flat position accentuates the pectorals and triceps. When performed on an incline, the anterior and medial deltoids (shoulders) play a larger synergistic role in the exercise.


Most exercises performed on an incline will require you to use lighter weights than when you perform them on the flat bench due to the instability and angle of the position. For the incline chest press, consider using a Smith press to help you guide the bar properly and stop it at the correct place on your chest.


If using an incline bench is new to you, start with eight to 10 repetitions of an exercise with light weights that only feel heavy in the last two or three repetitions. Smaller muscle groups experience greater activation during incline exercises and can easily be overstressed. Performing some of the bench exercises with heavy weights requires the assistance of a spotter. Arching your back during any exercise is not recommended and usually indicates that the weight you have chosen is too heavy.

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