Incline Bench Press: How to, Pro Tips, Variations & More!

The incline bench press is one of the most common and staple compound movements for gaining muscles, strength & size in the upper and middle chest. It’s super-rare to find a gym-goer who doesn’t perform this exercise in the chest days but even if it’s a very popular and one of the best exercises for chest, many people especially beginners perform it with poor form that is prone to unnecessary injuries. So, in this detailed guide, we are going to discuss about the step-by-step guide to perform incline bench press with perfect form along with its benefits, variations and professional tips for maximising your chest gains. Without further ado, let’s take a detailed look into this.

Benefits of the Incline Bench Press

Before diving into the form and technique, let’s first understand why the incline bench press is such a valuable exercise for your chest muscles.

Upper & Middle Chest Development

The incline bench press primarily targets the upper portion of the pectoral muscles, also known as the clavicular head. On top of that, it also targets the middle chest reasonably well. This leads to greater muscle growth in upper and middle chest muscles creating a balanced and symmetrical chest appearance.

Strength Gains

By challenging the upper chest muscles with heavy resistance, the incline bench press being a compound movement, helps to build overall upper body strength, which can translate to improved performance in other pushing movements and functional activities such as incline dumbbell fly or any type of shoulder press.

Shoulder Stability

Being a compound exercise, incline bench press targets multiple muscle groups secondarily. Front deltoids are one of them. That’s why, performing this exercise on an incline bench promotes proper shoulder alignment and stability, reducing the risk of shoulder injuries commonly associated with flat bench pressing.

Aesthetic Benefits

A well-developed upper chest not only contributes to a balanced physique but also enhances the appearance of the entire chest area, creating a more sculpted and defined look with or without a shirt. Moreover, the upper chest will be very much visible even after wearing t-shirts and that will provide you an attractive look.

Step-by-step Guide to Perform Incline Bench Press with Proper Form

Proper technique is crucial for maximizing the effectiveness of the incline bench press for optimum results and minimizing the risk of injury. Here’s a step-by-step guide to performing the exercise with correct form.

Set Up the Bench

Adjust an incline bench to a 30-degree angle. Ensure that the bench is stable and secure on the ground. Position it so that when you lie back on the bench, your head is higher than your hips.

Position Yourself on the Bench

Sit on the incline bench with your feet flat on the floor. Your back should be firmly pressed against the bench, maintaining a natural arch in your lower back. Ensure that your shoulder blades are retracted and pulled down towards your back pockets to provide a stable base for the exercise.

Grip the Barbell

Reach for the barbell on the rack above you with a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Your palms should be facing away from you (overhand grip). Make sure your wrists stay straight and aligned with your forearms.

Unrack the Barbell

Lift the barbell off the rack by extending your arms straight. Hold the barbell directly above your upper chest with your arms fully extended. Your elbows should be slightly bent without locked out.

Lower the Barbell

Inhale and slowly lower the barbell towards your upper chest in a controlled manner. Keep your elbows tucked close to your body at an angle of around 45 degrees. Lower the barbell until it lightly touches your chest, just below your collarbone.

Press the Barbell

Exhale and press the barbell back up to the starting position by extending your arms and pushing the weight upwards. Keep your movements smooth and controlled, avoiding any jerking or bouncing of the barbell.

Focus on Muscle Contraction

At the top of the movement, fully extend your arms and squeeze your chest muscles to maximize muscle contraction. Imagine pushing the barbell away from you using your chest muscles.

Repeat the Movement

Lower the barbell back down towards your upper chest in a controlled manner, following the same path as during the descent. Continue performing repetitions while maintaining proper form and technique that we just have discussed above.

Rack the Barbell

Once you’ve completed your set, carefully rack the barbell back onto the rack by fully extending your arms. Ensure that the barbell is securely in place before sitting up and getting off the bench.

Pro Tips to Perfect Your Form & Avoid Common Mistakes!

While performing the incline bench press, it’s important to be aware of common mistakes that can compromise your form and effectiveness. Here are some common mistakes that need to be avoided to master the form of the exercise.

Don’t Arch the Lower Back Excessively

Avoid excessive arching of the lower back, as this can put unnecessary strain on the lumbar spine and increase the risk of injury. Maintain a slight arch in your lower back and keep your shoulder blades retracted throughout the movement to stabilize your spine and shoulders.

Avoid Flaring the Elbows

Keep your elbows tucked in at approximately a 45-degree angle to your torso throughout the movement. Flaring the elbows too wide can place excessive stress on the shoulder joints and increase the risk of injury.

Don’t Bounce the Barbell

Avoid bouncing the barbell off your chest at the bottom of the movement, as this can lead to loss of control and potential injury. Lower the barbell under control until it lightly touches your chest, then press it back up smoothly.

Breathe Properly

Inhale as you lower the barbell towards your chest and exhale as you press the weight back up. Focus on breathing rhythmically to maintain proper oxygen flow and muscle engagement.

Don’t Overuse Momentum

Focus on using controlled, deliberate movements throughout the exercise, rather than relying on momentum to lift the weight. Focus on a slow and controlled eccentric (lowering) phase and a powerful concentric (lifting) phase to maximize muscle activation and hypertrophy. This will help to activate the muscles best way possible while minimizing the risk of injury.

Avoid Lifting Too Heavy

Choose a weight that allows you to perform the exercise with proper form and technique for minimum 8 to maximum 12 repetitions per set. Lifting too heavy can compromise your form and increase the risk of injury, so prioritize safety and proper technique over ego lifting.

Use a Spotter

If possible, have a spotter assist you during heavy sets to ensure safety and provide assistance if needed. This will ensure that you won’t get injured while pushing yourself to the absolute limit!

Incorporate Progressive Overload

Progressive overload is the key to make sure your muscles don’t hit a workout plateau and they will gain more muscularity, strength and size in a continuous process. So, incorporate progressive overload by gradually increasing the weight, sets, or repetitions over time to continue challenging your muscles and promoting growth.

Keep in mind that, along with incline bench press, you need to add some other effective chest exercises in your chest day for massive chest gains. Some of them are: Flat bench press, incline dumbbell press, machine fly, standing cable fly etc.

Variations of Incline Bench Press

To add variety to your chest workout routine and target different areas of the chest, consider incorporating the following variations of the incline bench press.

Dumbbell Incline Bench Press/Incline Dumbbell Press

Dumbbell incline bench press aka incline dumbbell press is one of the best exercises for upper chest. It can be even better than incline barbell bench press as you can perform the exercise with dumbbells to increase stabilization and isolate each side of the chest independently.

Reverse-Grip Incline Bench Press

You can perform the incline bench press with a reverse grip (palms facing towards you) to target the upper chest and inner pecs more effectively. However, with the reverse grip, you may not be able to push the same amount of weight so keep this in mind.

Smith Machine Incline Bench Press

If you are a beginner, you can use a Smith machine to perform the incline bench press, which provides added stability and control over the movement. You can also perform Smith machine flat bench press if you have stability and balance issues with traditional ones.

Close-Grip Incline Bench Press

Position your hands closer together on the barbell to emphasize the triceps and inner chest muscles. However, if your only aim is to target the triceps with the close-grip then close-grip bench press in a flat bench is a better option to emphasize the triceps.


For targeting upper and middle chest muscles and building strength, size and definition, very few exercises are as effective as incline bench press. By following proper technique and form, avoiding common mistakes and incorporating pro tips,  you can maximize the benefits of this exercise and achieve a big, strong and defined chest. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced lifter, the incline bench press is a must to any chest workout routine, helping you to develop a well-rounded and symmetrical chest. Remember to prioritize safety, proper technique, and progressive overload to ensure continued progress and success in your fitness journey. Hopefully, you found this article helpful enough. If you really did then let us know your valuable thoughts in the comment section. Thanks for visiting and appreciating our work.

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