The bench press exercise is a key exercise for chest growth, but if you think that the flat bench chest press is enough for ultimate growth, you’re sadly mistaken.
As with most exercises variety is the spice of life in terms of seeing progress. Explore the variation in bench press angles below and switch up your boring bench press routine today for ultimate pec growth.
Your chest is comprised of two muscles, the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor. While the pectoralis major might get all the glory and be the prime focus of most chest day workouts, both areas of the chest need to be worked in order to maintain balance, proper growth and prevent injury.
The general rule of thumb when it comes to bench press training is that incline work is best to target the upper pecs while flat and decline training is best for the lower pecs. Think of the muscles you can feel working during the different angles of bench press. The further inclined you are on the bench the more work you feel in your upper chest and even shoulder muscles, while the flat and decline positions place much more pressure on the lower part of your chest.
A study published in the European Journal of Sport Science recently revealed that a 30-degree angle seems to be the best bench press angle for ultimate pec growth. In the study, this 30-degree angle was shown to trigger the most muscle activation in the pectoralis major. The study had participants bench press at many different angles – 0, 15, 30, 45 and even -15. In the end the study showed that the bench press performed at the 30 degree angle was the most effective at muscle activation and strengthening.
Of course, this by no stretch of the imagination means you should only focus on an incline bench press. As mentioned, the chest is comprised of both the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor. Ignoring half of the muscles that makes up the chest will not only derail any progress but will also lead to an unbalanced chest and possible injury. Whether you train your chest once or twice a week, consider mixing up the type of bench you perform – alongside your other chest exercises such as the cable/dumbbell flyes, dips, cable cross overs etc.
A variety in equipment is just as important as a variety in angle, so if you’ve never used dumbbells for chest press before (or vice versa) it’s time to make the switch. While you might see some progress training with just one, that progress can be uneven. This is because the barbell bench press tends to put more focus on the upper pecs and front delts while the dumbbell bench press puts more of a focus on the lower pecs.
The dumbbell also activates more ‘stabilizer’ muscles which is why it’s harder. Another consideration is that constantly using the barbell (especially without a training partner) may lead to uneven chest growth given that one side may be stronger or more dominant than the other. If you’ve noticed this, then switching to dumbbells can help even out things.
It’s important to understand about angles and constantly look to hit your muscles in different ways. This will always lead to muscle growth and a more refined body from head to toe. With the above information in mind, see how you can vary exercises for other body areas. Use the 1 Rep Max Calculator below for optimum results while benching.