EstimatedEst. Read Time: 8 minutes
incline bench press avoid mistakes for upper chest

THE PROBLEM WITH THE INCLINE BENCH PRESS

The Incline Bench Press is one of the best upper chest exercises there is, but there’s one major problem preventing us from getting the maximum benefit out of it.

The front delt likes to dominate the movement, taking away from the action of the upper chest!

You see, these two muscles – the anterior deltoids and the upper chest fibers of the pectoralis major – are really close to each other, which means that one of the two can really start dominating the other if we don’t do the exercise correctly.

The front deltoid gets a great deal of work from not just shoulder workouts and exercises, but as an assistant on many chest and pushing exercises as well as any every day activities that we do in the front of our body. This causes the front delt to become almost too active, especially during exercises that we are trying to stress the upper chest like the Incline Bench Press.

The front delt and the upper chest fibers of the pec major are really close to each other, which means that one of the two can really start dominating the other if we don’t do the exercise correctly.

There are two big mistakes that most people make with the Incline Bench Press that are making this situation worse!

If you’re making either of these two errors, it’s preventing you from maximizing your upper body workout.

I’m going to show you the two worst Incline Bench Press mistakes…and I’m going to be breaking out the Muscle Markers to help you get more out of this exercise!

First, so we have a better understanding of the exercise, let’s take a look at what muscles the incline bench press works.

INCLINE BENCH PRESS MUSCLES WORKED
  1. Front Delt
  2. Clavicular Head (Pectoralis Major)

upper chest muscles anatomy including front deltoid and pec major clavicular head

MISTAKE #1: USING THE WRONG BENCH ANGLE

In order to get the front shoulder to do less of the work and allow the pecs to do more, you have to first get the angle of the incline bench press correct when you do the exercise.

So, what is the angle that you want to use on the incline dumbbell bench press exercise in order to hit the upper chest the most? An Upright Shoulder Press is going to maximize the attention that front delts get because the arms move in a straight line up against gravity in an overhead pressing motion.

You can see this muscle is working and shortening up against the force of gravity, right through here.
Upright Shoulder Press Position

If I were to back off the angle of the Upright Shoulder Press and set the incline bench press angle to 60 degrees – which is one of the most common angles that people will do an Incline Bench Press  – then you’re going to position your body to shift the focus down a little bit.

But you can see this is a pretty large muscle and it’s not enough to put the focus down through the mid-belly of the upper chest.

So 60 degrees is not low enough and you might want to go a bit lower.

Incline Bench Press at 60 Degrees

Here we’re setting our adjustable benches down to a 45degree angle, and that’s somewhat better for this dumbbell press.

Anytime you start going lower, you’re shifting that focus down, but at 45 degrees you’re still not really there.

Incline Bench Press at 45 Degrees

CORRECT INCLINE BENCH PRESS ANGLE

What is the best incline bench press angle for hitting the upper chest?

Research shows that the correct angle of the Incline DB Bench Press should be 30 degrees from flat to target the upper chest.

30 degrees may seem like a very small angle, but it is proper incline bench press form for placing the strain on your upper pecs and minimizing the effect on the anterior deltoid muscles.

Research shows that the correct angle of the Incline Bench Press should be 30 degrees from flat to target the upper chest.

Many people will stay much too upright in the starting position when performing this chest exercise, and effectively wind up hitting their shoulders too much.

If you realize that a completely vertical bench position (90 degrees elevated) would hit your shoulders primarily, and that a completely flat benching position at 0 degrees would hit your middle chest, you understand that you’ll need to lower the bench quite a bit before it hits the upper pecs.

Incline Bench Press at 30 Degrees

MISTAKE #2: NOT squeezing THE SHOULDER BLADES

As you’ve seen me bang out a couple reps of the Incline Bench Press at 30 degrees, notice the position of my shoulder.

When the front delt becomes dominant, our shoulders tend to round forward. A lot of people reading this are probably sitting there right now with shoulders rounded forward.

That’s common, unfortunately.

What happens is, the front delt is actually put in more of a position of power in relation to the chest. It’s actually standing out more, willing and able to push more and spring to action more quickly than your upper chest.

We can silence that by getting it back where it belongs, allowing the chest to now be in a better position to contract. The way to do that is through positioning our shoulders in the right direction.

The back and down position places your shoulders backward in a position where they can be less dominant in the Incline Bench Press and put your pecs at the center of the action.

We want to make sure that whenever we press upward, we contract the shoulder blades back and down.

This back and down position places your shoulder blades backward in a position where they can be less dominant in the Incline Bench Press and put your pecs at the center of the action.

Contraction of the Shoulder Blades Back and Down

HOW TO DO INCLINE BENCH PRESS CORRECTLY

With the 30 degree angle on the bench, gravity helps to position the shoulder blades back and down, but you can’t just rely on the fact that the bench is helping you get there.

You do need to actively contract your shoulder blades as well to ensure that this happens. Squeezing the shoulder blades makes it much easier for the chest to be in a position of power and therefore increase their contribution to the Incline Bench Press. This, over time, will lead to greater chest muscle growth particularly in the upper chest.

Demonstrating the difference between only being leaned back at that 30 degree bench angle and then actively contracting the shoulder blades.

I hope you’ve found these exercise guides for the dumbbell Incline Bench Press to be helpful. Remember, this is about putting the science back in strength training. When it comes to strength and muscle building I don’t like to just tell you which are the best exercises to do but instead WHY they’re good and how to get the most out of them so you can get better results faster when you follow our training.

athleanx
THE HIGHLIGHT REEL:
MAKING THE INCLINE BENCH MORE EFFECTIVE

  • Because the front delt and the upper chest muscles are so close together, the front delt has a tendency to dominate in the Incline Bench Press. Many people don’t know how to incline bench press with proper form, and there are two common mistakes that make this front deltoid dominance more pronounced and two workout tips I’ve given to correct them.
  • Mistake #1: Using the wrong bench angle exacerbates this problem. Research shows that performing an incline bench press with a 30 degree bench angle is the best for the upper chest.
  • Mistake #2: Not engaging the shoulder blades in your incline presses also makes shoulders round forward which allows the front delt to be dominant.  Making an intentional down and back movement of the shoulder blades helps the upper chest to be in a better position to contract.

You can see how making even the smallest mistakes in your training can cause lost results and lost time. If you’re looking for a complete training plan that puts the science back in strength, helps you avoid common mistakes and gives you workout tips to get the most out of every single exercise you do, check out the ATHLEAN-X Training System. See how training like an athlete can help you lose fat and build strength, power and muscle mass throughout your entire body.

Watch the YouTube version of this article
Popular & Trending
stop doing face pulls like this facepull mistake
1
How To Do Face Pulls
By Jeff Cavaliere MSPT, CSCS
September 9th, 2019
Face pulls are one of the best corrective exercises to help offset poor posture and shoulder dysfunction.  They help strengthen the chronically weak...
how to identify your body fat percentage with images for men
2
Body Fat Percentage
By Jeff Cavaliere MSPT, CSCS
May 1st, 2013
There are many ways to measure body fat percentage; some wildly expensive and most inaccurate. It's time to give you an alternative method that...
2 reasons your biceps aren't growing and 3 ways to fix it
3
Why Your Biceps Aren’t Growing
By Jeff Cavaliere MSPT, CSCS
August 22nd, 2019
Have you ever felt that no matter how much you trained your biceps you’re left saying… “My Biceps STILL Aren’t Growing?” I believe I know...
The PERFECT Abs Workout
4
The PERFECT Abs Workout
By Jeff Cavaliere MSPT, CSCS
July 31st, 2019
We’ll be following my ‘Six Pack Progression’ sequence as we choose each of the beginner and advanced ab exercises for each abdominal movement...
incline bench press avoid mistakes for upper chest
5
How To Incline Bench Press Correctly
By Jeff Cavaliere MSPT, CSCS
June 21st, 2019
The Incline Bench Press is one of the best upper chest exercises there is, but there's one major problem preventing us from getting the maximum...
best dumbbell exercises for chest
6
The BEST Dumbbell Exercises for CHEST
By Jeff Cavaliere MSPT, CSCS
October 9th, 2019
Today I’m going to share my favorite chest exercises… but there’s a catch. We can only use dumbbells! I’ll show you what to do whether you...
how to construct a complete chest workout
7
The PERFECT Chest Workout
By Jeff Cavaliere MSPT, CSCS
July 25th, 2019
The classic theory of "Upper, Middle, and Lower" chest exercises is a good start, but, it's not enough!! The solution to this problem is to not...
best dumbbell exercises for shoulders
8
BEST Dumbbell Exercises for SHOULDERS
By Jeff Cavaliere MSPT, CSCS
October 5th, 2019
You want to build big shoulders and you only have access to a few pairs of dumbbells. What do you do? I’m going to show you what to do whether...
how to construct a complete biceps workout
9
The PERFECT Biceps Workout
By Jeff Cavaliere MSPT, CSCS
July 15th, 2019
The classic theories of “just do curls” or “it’s not necessary to train your biceps directly” are both flat out wrong! Why? Because it’s...
Home Chest Exercises UPPER, MID, LOWER CHEST!!
10
Home Chest Exercises
By Jeff Cavaliere MSPT, CSCS
March 25th, 2020
Being able to effectively hit your upper, mid and lower chest from home with NO equipment may seem impossible. But, I’m here to show you it’s...