If one of your fellow gymgoers invites you to work in with him on a few sets of decline presses, politely decline and head toward another bench—any other bench!
Puns aside, this bench press variation is best avoided. You may have enjoyed a brief ego boost after pressing max weight or convinced yourself you got an amazing pump in your “lower chest,” on the decline bench, but if you’re working to build muscle and strength, this variation is probably the least useful of any bench press approach.
There are many better ways to maximize chest day than decline bench presses, according to Men’s Health experts Mathew Forzaglia, N.F.P.T., C.P.T., founder of Forzag Fitness and MH fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.
“The decline bench press is the least useful bench press you have ever done—and we know you love doing because it’s your strongest bench press,” Samuel says. “It’s the greatest ego stroking bench press for any high school or college athlete out there, but it’s not worth your time, especially if you really want chest development.”
Why You Should Stop Doing the Decline Bench Press
Why is the decline bench press so overrated? Here are some of the reasons:
●Lower Chest “Focused” Exercises Are a Myth
We’ve been led to believe that decline presses work the ‘lower chest’ muscle—especially if the goal is to get rid of ‘man boobs’. But you’re not going to be able to target this area from the decline position. If you really want to grow your entire chest, a flat bench press or even incline press will get you in a better spot.
●The Decline Bench Press Has a Short Range of Motion
Since time under tension is what will help to grow your chest, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage from the decline position. Why? Getting from Point A to B with the angle of the decline bench is quicker because of the shorter range of motion—not quite what you need for maximum time under tension. Sure, you’ll be able to add a larger load at this angle, but still worth sacrificing the TUT.
●The Decline Position Is Not Great for Your Shoulders
Sure, you may be setting useless PRs on the decline bench, but you’re doing it from a position of internal rotation for your shoulders. That’s not good for your overall well-being and training longevity. You want to avoid this as much as possible in order to protect your rotator cuffs.
3 Alternative Exercises for the Decline Bench Press to Train Your Chest
- Chest Dips
3 sets of 8 to 10 reps
Dips can train your chest, and when you use a neutral grip, you’ll be in a more shoulder friendly than the decline bench press. You’re also able to adjust the tension with dips by angling your body more forward or upright, which allows you to incorporate more triceps engagement. And as an added bonus, you can use tools like a belt attachment to add additional load and make the dips more challenging.
- Elevated Pushups
3 sets to failure
Yes, this classic moves still works, and with this variation—perhaps the easiest of the pushups—in which you work from an elevated position, you won’t move as much load. That said, Samuel says the exercise is an excellent starting point to building mind muscle connection. You’ll also your free up your shoulder blades so that you can press freely, especially at the end of your chest workout.
- Floor Press
3 sets of 6 to 8 reps
If you really need to push heavy weight, use this alternative pressing exercise that will save your shoulders. Yes, like the decline bench, floor presses provide a shorter range of motion—but from the floor, you won’t put your shoulders into a position of internal rotation, allowing you to press more weight without the heightened risk of injury.
Jeff Tomko is a freelance fitness writer who has written for Muscle and Fitness, Men’s Fitness, and Men’s Health.
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