9 Effective Alternatives to Decline Bench Presses

Please include attribution to https://nanbf.org/ with this graphic.

Decline Bench Press Alternatives

  1. Decline Dumbbell Bench Press
  2. Decline Dumbbell Flyes

  3. Dumbbell Together Press/Svend press

  4. Decline Machine Press

  5. Single Dumbbell Serratus Pullover

  6. Straight Bar Serratus Pulldown/Standing Lat Pushdown

  7. Underhand Push Up on an Incline

  8. High to Low Cable Chest Fly

  9. Vertical Lean Forward Dips

The clue is in the name: a decline bench press is a bench press that is on a decline. A normal bench press is where the bench is flat, parallel to the floor.

An incline bench press is when the bench is angled upwards, with the head higher than the feet. A decline bench press is when the bench is angled downwards, with the feet higher than the head. 

9 Effective Decline Bench Press Alternatives
Cardio Nation USA Fitness Store

A decline bench press can be a useful exercise, but it’s not always the most accessible.

Some people prefer to look for alternative exercises for a variety of reasons, ranging from lack of equipment at the gym, inability to make a safe decline bench, or they may want to focus their attention on particular muscles. 

If you are looking for alternatives to this exercise, you have come to the right place! We understand that not everyone can do exercises on a decline bench but would like to achieve the same results.

We also understand that some may want to expand their fitness knowledge with other exercises. 

Here are the 9 effective decline bench press alternatives! 

What is a Decline Bench Press?

Before we get into the alternative exercises, let’s begin by defining a decline bench press and what the exercise does. This will help us to differentiate the coming alternatives! 

In the simplest of ways, the decline bench press is a normal bench press exercise but on a decline. Bench press exercises are designed to improve upper body strength, with emphasis on the chest, shoulder, and tricep muscles. It offers more movement than its exercise cousin, the floor press, as the elevation from the bench allows the user to move their arms further back. 

The bench is lowered at a 20 or 30 degree angle near the head to make it a decline bench. 

The decline bench press targets all of the muscles a normal bench press does, but places particular emphasis on the pectoral muscles. If you want to involve a wider range of muscles than just the immediate upper body, this is the exercise to achieve that. 

The movement for a decline bench press is the same as a normal bench press - with the feet firmly planted on the floor, arms holding the bar in the rack at a shoulder-width distance, and then the normal pulling and pushing movements. 

The only difference is that the decline makes it slightly trickier, as the force of the weight towards the declined position of the head has the potential to make this a precarious exercise. It is therefore important to have a spotter with you, and the feet need to be secured. Also, the weights need to be light to prevent extreme head rush - which will inevitably happen! 

Why People May Want Alternatives

There are several reasons people may want alternatives to the decline bench press. The decline bench press offers great results and focuses on a variety of upper body muscles at the same time, but it does come with its drawbacks. 

Firstly, some gyms may not offer a decline bench. As you can imagine, it’s important to have a secure structure in the angle of the bench, so you can make your own version, but this needs to be done properly. 

Secondly, some people may want to try the decline bench press at home or at a gym where there is no spotter available to help. A spotter will help the user control the barbell should they lose control. A lack of spotter could be potentially dangerous to the user, as they could accidentally drop the bar on themselves. 

Also, some people may want to emphasize the exercise on the lower pecs even further, which requires alternative exercises. 

Decline Dumbbell Bench Press 

This alternative exercise is probably the closest you will find to the decline bench press, but it’s a safer and easier version. This exercise does not require a rack or barbell, which is what makes it less awkward to set up and use - particularly if you don’t have a spotter with you. 

You will need a decline bench and two dumbbells, weighted at your choice. 

However, we do recommend having a spotter with you for any exercise if you are trying it for the first time. If you plan on increasing the weights of the dumbbell, it may also be worth having a spotter to give you the dumbbells. 

How to do the exercise:

  • Lie down on the decline bench with the dumbbells in your hands. To do this, tuck your feet under the bench pads (if your bench has them) and lean back on to the decline. 
  • If the dumbbells are too heavy, have a spotter hand them to you. 
  • Raise the dumbbells with your palms facing away from you, and your arms extended above you. 
  • Lower the dumbbells until your elbows reach a right angle, and then pause for 1-2 seconds. Don’t use this as an excuse to rest!
  • Remember to maintain the strength in your forearms - keep your palms facing away from you and your forearms perpendicular to the floor. 
  • Continue the rep until you have finished.

Top tip:

If you want to incorporate your chest muscles even further, you can twist the dumbbells when your arms are extended so your palms face yourself. 

Decline Dumbbell Flyes

This exercise is fairly similar to the last one. The difference between the both is that the decline dumbbell flyes targets the lower pecs even more, and is a great exercise for increasing muscular hypertrophy (muscle mass). 

You will need a decline bench and two dumbbells, weight of your choice. 

How to do the exercise:

  • Position yourself on the decline bench with your feet tucked under the pads (if the bench has them) and your dumbbells in hand. Lower yourself so you are lying down. 
  • Hold the dumbbells with your palms facing each other. Extend your arms above you to start the rep. 
  • Slowly lower your arms either side of you in an arc until you feel a stretch on your chest. Your palms should be facing the ceiling now.
  • Make sure to squeeze your chest muscles throughout this to feel the effects.
  • Pause for 1-2 seconds. 
  • Slowly lift your arms back to the starting position, and repeat. 
decline dumbbell chest fly

Top tip:

It doesn’t matter if the weights are too heavy or too light - remember to tense your muscles when you do the “fly” arc motion. If your arms descend back too far, this can cause injury!

It is also recommended to do this exercise with light weights and high reps to prevent injury and to focus the tension on your lower chest muscles. 

Decline Dumbbell Together Press/Svend press

This alternative exercise is a mixture of both the first alternative exercise on our list and the Svend press.

The Svend press is a standing exercise where the user squeezes two light weights (usually plates) together, and pushes them forward and back in a rep. This is a good exercise for the chest muscles. 

If you want to further engage your lower pecs, however, the decline dumbbell together press is the ideal exercise for you. 

You will need a decline bench and your chosen weights. 

How to do the exercise:

  • Position yourself on the decline bench with your feet tucked under the pads and dumbbells in hand.
  • Your palms should be facing each other, and dumbbells pressed together. The harder you press them together, the more effective this exercise will be.
  • Extend your pressed-together arms, then slowly lower the dumbbells to your chest. 
  • Drive the dumbbells back to the starting position and repeat. 

Top tip:

Some people prefer to use weighted plates instead of dumbbells as it is easier to press them together. However, as this is a decline exercise, it’s probably safer to grip on to the dumbbell handles!

This exercise is most effective with light weights and high reps. Always press the weights together as hard as you can, as this will increase your muscular hypertrophy.

Decline Machine Press

This exercise does feature a decline, but not on a decline bench. This is actually much easier to set up and get into position, and you don’t have to start by holding a dumbbell or barbell. 

You will need access to a decline machine press, which unfortunately is not a common piece of equipment in every gym. There will be other variations of seated chest press machines, but this exercise works best when on the decline. 

How to do the exercise:

  • Sit in the decline chair. There will only be a slight bit of adjustment to the height of the chair to make the most out of the exercise. It is best to have the bottom of your chest aligned with the handles. 
  • Hold the handles with your palms facing away from you. 
  • Starting pushing! 
  • Make sure to squeeze your pecs throughout this exercise.
  • After your rep, don’t let the weights bounce once you have finished. Slowly drive the handles to their starting position. 

Top tip:

Some people prefer to grab the handles with their fingers encased around them the whole time. Others prefer to open their fingers when their arms are extended. Opening the fingers allows for a wider range of motion without putting unnecessary strain on the chest muscles. 

Single Dumbbell Serratus Pullover 

Before we explain this exercise, you can do it with two dumbbells - but we recommend using only one as this can be strenuous on the shoulders. 

This exercise does not require a decline bench. You will need either a flat bench or an upper back bench - though that will require more focus on keeping your hips in line. If you want to focus entirely on your chest and upper body, stick to a flat bench. 

This exercise isn’t solely focused on the lower pecs, but it is a great upper body strengthening exercise and is a useful alternative to the decline bench press. 

How to do the exercise:

  • Lie down on the flat bench, holding the dumbbell above your chest. 
  • To hold the dumbbell, put both of your hands into an “L” shape so your fingers are holding the top of the dumbbell in a triangle shape. 

  • Slowly drive the dumbbell behind your head. Your arms should be extended, but allow them to bend slightly. Your arms should be parallel to the floor. 

  • Drive the dumbbell back to the starting position, and repeat. 

Top tip:

Make sure the bend in your arms is only a slight one. If you want to engage your triceps more, then you can bend your arms more - however this defeats the purpose of it being an alternative exercise to the decline bench press. 

If you want to use an upper back bench instead, this can be a good exercise for incorporating abdominal strength and your upper thighs - though this can be distracting and may shorten your reps. 

Straight Bar Serratus Pulldown/Standing Lat Pushdown

The exercise is fairly similar to the previous single dumbbell serratus pullover. It targets the serratus - one of the main chest muscles. However, this exercise is better for targeting the lower pecs than the single dumbbell serratus pullover. 

This exercise is simple but could be easily performed incorrectly. The aim is to make as little movement as possible, as pulling the handle down to your waist will not target the lower pecs as much as you want. Regardless, it is still a good upper body exercise. 

Also, the wider the grip on weights or handles, the more the lower pecs are activated. This is why this exercise is so effective for the lower pecs, as the handles are further apart. 

You will need access to a cable machine. It does not require a bench, decline or flat, which is what makes this exercise so accessible and straightforward.

How to do the exercise:

  • Position yourself at the cable machine. Hold the handles with your palms facing downwards, with a slight bend in the elbows facing to the sides. Stand with your back arched, knees slightly bent, and feet almost together. 
  • This exercise works best with a higher weight, so adjust this accordingly. 
  • You can either use a straight or curved bar on the cable. A curved bar may be easier to hold. 
  • Grab the handles with your hands shoulder width apart. 
  • Bring the bar down to around your belly button. You can pull it to your thighs if you wish, but to target the lower pecs, don’t pull it down too far. 
  • Return to the starting position, and repeat. Always remember to squeeze your pecs and keep your body tense at all times to get the best results. 

Top tip:

Your torso should not move during this exercise. It may look easy, and if it feels too easy, then chances are you’re doing it wrong. Always maintain your posture and tense those muscles. 

If you want to further enhance this exercise, some prefer to kneel instead of stand. This is to disengage the bottom half of your body which could be taking the majority of the load instead of your chest. If you find that this exercise is too easy, then try kneeling to put the focus on your upper body. 

Underhand Push Up on an Incline

This exercise is probably the most accessible alternative to the decline bench press on our list, as it doesn’t actually require specific equipment.

You can use anything, from a bar to a chair or table. All it requires is something tall enough to create an incline for a push up! 

With normal push ups, your palms are placed forward or to the side when on the floor. This is actually not a good thing, as it forces the elbows to rotate outwards, which can cause injury.

This exercise has tackled this issue, as it requires an underhand position. This stops the elbows from rotating, and in turn puts the focus back to the chest muscles. 

How to do the exercise: 

  • Find your setup. This could be either a bar, bench, or anything that can work as an elevated incline. 
  • Hold the chosen setup with your palms facing upwards, and fingers wrapped underneath it. Your forearms should be facing the ceiling. 
  • To achieve the incline, go into a push up position with your body at an angle to the floor. 
  • Start the push ups! Lower your chest to your chosen setup, keeping your elbows tight to your side. They will not rotate with the underhand position. 
  • Push yourself back up, and repeat. 
  • Make sure to squeeze your lower pecs throughout this to make the most of the exercise. 

Top tip:

This exercise is all about a high amount of reps until your body reaches fatigue. If you want to push your body further, you can use a light weighted vest or band to provide more resistance. 

This exercise is also a good warm up for other chest/lower pec exercises! 

High to Low Cable Chest Fly

This exercise is designed to focus on the lower chest muscles. It is best to have the cables set higher than the shoulders, as this will further target the lower chest muscles. 

You will need access to a cable machine. 

How to do the exercise:

  • Set the cable handles to the highest setting, or above your shoulders depending on your height. 
  • Stand away from the cable machine and grab both handles. 
  • Make sure there is a slight bend in the elbows. 
  • To get into position, stand with your feet one in front of the other and lean. This will support your balance. 
  • Don’t stand too far from the cable machine, as it will become more of a challenge to maintain stability! 
  • Pull your hands together in an arc motion, touching the handles with each other. 
  • Once the handles touch together near your groin, hold the position for 1-2 seconds. 
  • Drive your arms back to the starting position, and repeat. 

Top tip:

Always think about your chest when doing this exercise. If you don’t squeeze your chest muscles, the exercise will be effectively useless. 

If you want to further improve your lower pecs, you can twist your palms when the handles reach your groin so that they face each other. 

Vertical Lean Forward Dips

This exercise requires bars that are parallel to each other. 

The main thing to consider with this exercise is to maintain a slight decline in your body. If you stand upright when doing this, you will target the triceps more than the chest muscles. Today is chest day, so lean forward to target the chest muscles! This is what makes this a great alternative to the decline bench press. 

To further mimic the decline bench press, leaning forward is similar to forcing your body into a decline. Whilst this exercise does not require dumbbells or barbells, it relies on bodyweight - so don’t assume that it is easy to do!

How to do the exercise:

  • Wrap your hands around the parallel dip bars, with your arms extended. 
  • Lift your feet and lean your torso slightly forward. 
  • As with a normal dip, drive your body down so your arms are at a right angle. 
  • Push yourself back to the starting position, and repeat. 

Top tip:

Faster does not mean better in this exercise. You don’t need to pause before you push back up, but it is best to go slowly. Try to go down for 3 seconds, and up for 3 seconds to create the best results for your chest. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the decline bench press useless?

As with any exercise, there are pros and cons to the decline bench press. If we’re being totally honest, if your aim is to improve and focus on your lower pecs, then you don’t need to do the decline bench press. 

It is not completely useless, however! If it works for the user, then it works for the user. Some may find the decline bench press uncomfortable and awkward, especially with the possibility of head rush. 

Of course, it is all up to personal preference!

What exercise can replace the decline bench press?

As our article proves, there is a wide variety of alternative exercises to replace the decline bench press. These can include a decline bench, but most of them just need common equipment in a gym (or even makeshift setups at home!).

As long as the exercise is targeted specifically towards the lower chest muscles, as the decline bench press is intended for, there are many exercises to replace it. 

How do I get a bigger chest fast?

There are a variety of exercises designed to enhance your pectoral muscles. All of the alternative exercises we have recommended are designed to increase muscular hypertrophy in the chest.

It’s all about finding a good technique that works for your body, and sticking to a regular routine. 

There are also other factors to consider, such as low calorie diets. 

How Can I Target My Chest Without Decline Bench?

Chest training can be done with different exercises that don't rely on the decline bench press. Incline bench press, shoulder press and flat bench press are some of the alternatives. Make sure you pick an exercise that will work your muscles in a similar way to decline bench press - this will ensure better chest muscle development. Incorporate these alternative exercises into your weekly routine for best results.

What Can I Use If I Don’t Have a Decline Bench?

Consider using this equipment instead if you don't have a decline bench available.:

  1. Incline Push-Ups:  No equipment needed, but you could use resistance bands or have yours kids ride for extra fun.
  2. Exercise ball: Make sure to pick a stability ball that can support your body weight plus the weight of your normal barbell or dumbbell bench, and add another 60 pounds to be safe.
  3. Flat bench: You can use this in a bridge position. Just ensure you don't add too much weight or you could have a real bad day.
  4. Hyperextension bench: Back pads that aid the decline bench press are available on many all-in-one hyperextension benches. Of course, make sure the bench can handle the weight.


Well, there you have it! Those are the 9 alternatives to the decline bench press. Of course, there are more exercises that can replicate the effects of the decline bench press, but these are the ones that we find most effective.

These all prove that you don’t need to perform the decline bench press if you don’t like it, or if you don’t have access to performing the exercise, to get the same effects from other exercises. 

Speaking of the bench press, do you want to know the difference between powerlifting and bodybuilding bench press? We have that covered too since both are similar with different goals in mind.

Kevin Harris