My New Favorite Chest Exercise – Incline Bench Press
I've been very fond of the flat bench press my entire bodybuilding career, but I've lately developed a love of the incline bench press.
It offers similar benefits as the flat press, but with little of the ill effects (for me, at least) that flat benches bring.
First, the flat bench press tends to overemphasize the lower pecs; you can get that “droopy pec” syndrome, where your lower pecs completely overpower your upper pecs and you lose some balance in your pecs.
Incline bench presses eliminate that because they really focus on the upper pecs. These are especially great if you've been doing flats and declines for quite some time.
Second, for me at least, a lot of the shoulder joint discomfort I was having with the flat benches is completely gone. I'm in a new groove. And it's helping me build stronger delts, too!
I want to mention that I use a Smith machine. I've never been one to train well with partners (I have too many individual idiosyncrasies that I drive training partners nuts), and rather than rely on somebody I don't know to spot me, I just use a Smith machine.
I am aware that I lose some of the benefit of the exercise in terms of almost completely giving up on strengthening the stabilizing muscles (but I do other work for them, like dips and dumbbell work, which are better than barbells any day of the week), but I'm focusing here on maximal effort. I do a rest-pause with these. Here's a typical set/rep combo:
- Set #1 10 reps, mostly a warm up, with about a minute rest
- Set #2 10 reps with increased weight, with about a minute rest
- Set #3 8 reps with more weight, followed by 10 seconds of rest
- Set #4 As many reps as possible with same weight (usually 2-4), followed by 10 seconds rest
- Set #5 Same as #4
- Set #6 As many reps as possible with substantially-reduced weight (try to get at least 10 reps out, but I've been known to pump out 15-20)
I've found this system, practiced on my 3-day split (Chest and Deads day one, Legs & Arms day 3, Back & Delts day 5), allows me to beat the hell out of my pecs yet gives me a week to recover (it sometimes takes 6 days for the soreness to wear off). I follow up this chest workout with my Deadlift routine (it's short, but it's killer!) – this will be the topic of my next post.