Bench presses can be a great way to bulk up, gain strength, and get the ripped muscles that you are aiming for.
Bench press has a number of variations that can increase the intensity level and target specific muscle groups, but how do you know which variation is the best choice for you? In order to determine this you will need to compare the varying angles that can be used while you are performing this form of training. This will help you decide whether to stick with one version or change it up and use each of the variations regularly. You can choose to perform your bench presses flat, at an incline, or at a decline.
When you compare the different bench press angles you will need to look at all of the possible benefits that each one offers, and also make a note of any drawbacks that may be included. If you have any injuries or weakened muscle groups then one or more versions of the bench press may not be right until these complications are resolved. For most weight lifters and bodybuilders each variation can help change up the muscles that are worked out though, and help you get improved results and better gains. Some of the bench press versions may target certain muscles that are not fully utilized with other variations.
Reasons Some Prefer a Flat Bench Press
A flat bench press is a common preference, and there are reasons for this choice. The angle chosen for your bench presses will determine which part of the chest muscles you workout, and the flat version offers an effective workout for the entire chest area. Your pectoralis major has two different heads, the sternocostal head and the clavicular head. When you perform bench presses from a flat position this works out both of the muscle heads at the same time, but neither one is targeted more than the other. That makes the flat bench press an excellent choice for overall chest development and growth. When your position is changed to an incline or a decline then this may be more effective with one of the two muscle heads but less effective with the other. A recent study performed by Barnett et al in 1995 showed that the flat bench press actually works out the lower pecs more effectively than any other variation, even though many weightlifters do not realize this.
The Inclined Bench Press is a Popular Favorite
The upper and lower pecs both need to be worked out completely if you want to get the best possible gains and see a larger increase in size without appearing uneven. The inclined bench press tends to target the upper pecs or clavicular head of the pectoralis major muscle group. In the study the electrical charge generated showed that the inclined bench is slightly more effective than the flat bench press when it comes to working out your upper pecs. While the increase may be small and many consider it insignificant if you are trying to gain in this area then the inclined press may make a big difference in the outcome.
Decline Bench Presses Also Offer Certain Benefits
Performing your bench press at a decline may also offer certain benefits, and change the focus and targeted muscles of your workout. The decline bench press is believed to be more effective at working on the sternocostal head of the pectoralis major, and this routine is used by many weightlifters and bodybuilders who want to see better growth and strength in the lower pecs. Is the decline really more effective though, or is this just a mistaken belief that has been passed around the gym for so long that it is now believed to be fact? The 1995 Barnett et al study showed that the electrical activity in the lower pecs was not highest during the decline bench press. In fact the flat bench press produced the highest electrical charge in the lower pectorals. When you use the decline bench press the focus is mainly placed on the pecs and the triceps, but the strain that you place on the joints that are affected can be increased. This can place you at more risk of a joint injury. The decline bench press also allows you to lift maximum weight, but your body can only be effective as long as the weakest joints and tissues hold up.
What About the Grip Used?
Another consideration with any form of bench press is the grip that you are using to perform the routine. Proper grip placement can have a big impact on the results that you get, and the muscle growth and size that you see from your fitness efforts and lifting routines. Studies performed with EMG tests have shown that a wide grip is usually the most beneficial but this may not be true in every case. A narrow grip lessens the intensity and does not workout the maximum muscles possible. Carefully examine your grip the next time you are in the gym and determine if it is wide, narrow, or in between. The use of a wide grip during a flat bench press can target both the upper and lower pecs very effectively, and it also offers benefits for other muscle groups as well. One concern is the risk of shoulder injury though. If a wide grip is used this places more weight and an increased intensity on the shoulders and chest. If your grip is to wide then this will affect the stability of your shoulder joints and could increase the stress these tissues are under during your weight training.
Which Bench Press Angle Should You Use?
Choosing the right bench press angle is a personal decision, one that should be based on facts and scientific studies and not just on gym myths or advice that you received from a friend. Look at the objectives that you have for your training sessions, and consider which muscle groups and body areas that you are trying to target and focus on. Then decide whether you want to bench flat, on an incline, or on a decline. You may decide to stick with just one variation or you may include two or more versions in your weekly training sessions.