How To Do The Decline Bench Press

Decline dumbbell bench press
(Image credit: Getty Images / South_agency)

The bench press is an all-time great chest exercise. It’s one of the big three lifts alongside the squat and deadlift, and a part of almost every weight room regular’s weekly routine. 

It’s so great, in fact, that you might wonder why you’d ever need to bother with a variation on it. The answer is that you will boost the pec-popping benefits of the bench press by working your chest muscles from a different angle with a move such as the decline bench press. 

The decline bench press focuses on the lower pec muscles, while still working the upper ones. The lower pecs are not easy to target, and doing the decline variation regularly alongside the classic bench press will help increase your overall chest strength.

How To Do The Decline Bench Press

Set up your bench at a 15° to 45° angle below horizontal – anywhere in this range should ensure you are hitting the lower pecs as desired. Secure your feet in the pads at the end of the bench; the last thing you want to do is slide off the bench during your set. 

Lie back on the bench holding the bar with your hands wider than shoulder-width apart. Bring the bar down to your chest, then press it up. Pause for a beat at the top of each lift and lower the bar with control on each rep. 

Decline Bench Press Variations

Dumbbell decline bench press

You can also perform the move using dumbbells instead of a bar. This allows for a greater range of motion so you work more pec muscles during the exercise, and you’ll also be working each side of your body independently. That allows you to spot any strength imbalances and work on them so one side isn’t doing all the heavy lifting during the barbell version.

Lie back on the bench holding a weight in each hand. Press the dumbbells above you and bring them closer together above your chest for greater pec activation. Don’t let them touch, though, because this will take the load off your chest. Lower the weights in a slow and controlled manner.

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.