Bench presses are a very popular workout with bodybuilders and weightlifters for training muscles in the upper body, the bench press works three groups of muscles in the upper body, the chest, arms, and shoulders, the bench press, however, does only work certain muscles in these three muscle groups.
Another reason why the bench press is so popular is its many variations that help focus on certain muscles in these three muscle groups. The decline bench press is possibly the more difficult variation of the bench press but has its uses in training certain muscles.
In this article, we will explore the different muscles that the traditional bench press and the decline bench press work, as well as teach you how to safely perform a decline bench press and the dangers that could come with it.
How To Do A Decline Bench Press
When doing a decline bench press, you need to have your bench on a decline of around 15 to 30 degrees. On most benches used in the gym for bench press, there are stirrups at the bottom to be used when you need to secure your feet, place your feet underneath these stirrups to secure them firmly on the floor.
Lie down so that your back is straight and your spine is neutral, your eyes should be underneath the barbell. Grip the bar with both hands facing forward, your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart as they would be in a traditional bench press.
Straighten your arms and lock your elbows to lift the bar off of the bench rack and move it over your shoulders. Keep your elbows and arms 45 degrees from your body, straight up into the air, inhale, and slowly lower the bar until it touches your mid-chest, with your elbows to the side of your body.
Then exhale and lift the bar slowly to its starting position with your elbows locked and your arms straight. Repeat this process for the number of sets you feel comfortable with the weight that you have.
We recommend that if you are doing a decline bench press for the first time, you are just using the bar and not adding any weight to perfect the form. It is proven that form does more for muscle growth when weightlifting than the weight you use.
We also highly recommend that you use a spotter when performing any bench press, especially the decline bench press as you have little control over your lower half of the body when in the decline bench press position.
Dumbbell Decline Bench Press
Dumbbell decline bench press is a variation of the decline bench press that uses two dumbbells instead of a bar. This can be very useful in training each side of your body with a closer eye and making sure that each side of the body is doing the same amount of work.
Performing a dumbbell decline bench press is very similar to performing the decline bench press, the position on the bench will stay the same, with your feet firmly planted, your back straight and your spine neutral.
You will, however, start with two dumbbells of the same weight, holding these dumbbells slightly wide of each shoulder with your hands facing forward.
Slowly lift these dumbbells straight into the air, making sure that your arms and elbows are at a 45-degree angle to your body until your arms are straight and your elbows are locked. Then slowly bring the dumbbells back down, with your elbows facing outward until your forearm touches your bicep.
Using dumbbells instead of a bar means that you can also work one side of your body at a time to really focus on form and make sure that both sides of your body are working as hard as each other. Using dumbbells is also a lot safer than using a bar as dumbbells can easily be thrown to the side if you lose control.
What Muscles Does A Decline Bench Press Work?
The traditional bench press and all of its variations work three muscle groups, the chest, arms, and shoulders. Although they only work certain muscles in these muscle groups and some variations focus more on some muscles than others.
The chest is made up of one major muscle called the pectoralis major, commonly referred to as the ‘pec’, this large muscle is what most bench presses and variations of bench press focus on.
There are two heads in the pec, the sternocostal head is the bigger of the two heads and connects your upper arm to your ribcage. On top of the sternocostal head sits the smaller clavicular head, this connects your upper arm to your collarbone.
Your pec is used when pushing your arms out in front of you, the angle at which you push your arms out determines which head of the pec is used. When performing a decline bench press your arms are pushing down in relation to your body, so your sternocostal head is doing the majority of the work.
The clavicular head is still being worked, however, the sternocostal is being worked more. The decline bench press is a great way to develop the sternocostal head.
The arms are split into three separate muscles, the biceps, triceps, and forearms. The biceps have two separate heads, the larger of the two is the biceps brachii that sits on top of the biceps brachialis.
The biceps assist in bringing your forearm closer to your upper arm and the triceps assist in bringing your forearm away from your upper arm.
In all other variations of the bench press, including the traditional bench press, the triceps and forearms are the only muscles in the arm used. The triceps are still the main arm muscle used in a decline bench press as you are pushing the weight away from your body and therefore pushing your forearm away from your upper arm.
However, because of the decline and the 45-degree angle, your arms are in relation to your body, the biceps are also worked during a decline bench press when bringing the weight back down to your chest. The decline bench press can therefore be a great arm workout that focuses on triceps but does a little work for your biceps as well.
The shoulders are made up of three primary muscles, all of which are called deltoids or ‘delts’, there’s the anterior deltoid (on the front of your shoulder), the posterior deltoid (on the back of your shoulder), and the lateral deltoid (on the top of your shoulder).
When bench pressing it is mostly the anterior deltoid which is worked as this muscle helps you bring your arms out in front of your chest, the decline bench press is no different.
A decline bench press can be quite difficult and it is always important to bring along a spotter when attempting a decline bench press (or any bench press for that matter).
However, the decline bench press is a great way to focus on your lower upper body, specifically the sternocostal head of your pec. If you feel as if your pecs are looking a little too top-heavy, then this is the workout for you.