Where Do I Lower the Bar to on an Incline Bench Press?

Torso of a man
Lower the bar to the top of the chest to effectively work your upper pecs. (Image: IT Stock/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

The incline bench press targets the upper chest -- the clavicular portion of the pectoralis major. Include the incline bench press in your chest routine to ensure balanced development of your pectoralis major. It is essential that you perform the exercise with correct technique and lower the bar to the appropriate part of your chest to effectively work your upper pecs.

Preparation

The angle of the bench is significant. Set the angle at approximately 30 degrees. A steeper angle shifts the emphasis onto your anterior deltoids. Grasp the bar using an overhand grip, with hands placed approximately shoulder-width apart so that your forearms are roughly parallel to each other.

Performance

To limit the stress on your shoulder joints, ensure your elbows are pointing downward and not angled backward as you lower the barbell. Keeping your wrists straight and your elbows under your wrists, lower the bar slowly to the top of your chest to the point where your clavicles meet. Writing for BodyBuilding.com, strength coach Curtis Shultz says lowering the bar any farther shifts the emphasis from your upper chest.

Target Muscle

Keep your feet firmly on the floor, your butt on the bench and your back pressed firmly against the backrest as you perform the incline bench press. Focus on your upper chest and don't raise your shoulders as you push the barbell upward. Raising your shoulders shifts the emphasis from your upper pecs onto your anterior deltoids. Keep your elbows slightly bent at the top of the movement to maintain the tension on your upper pecs.

Weights Used

Generally, you are able to use less weight with the incline bench press than with the flat bench press. Use a weight that enables you perform 10 to 12 repetitions with correct technique, keeping the emphasis on the target muscles. Gradually increase your weight as you get stronger. Always warm up with a light weight to reduce risk of injury to your shoulder joints.

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