Hereís why. The incline puts more emphasis on the shoulders than the chest, and shoulders are used in every sport; the chest isnít. Inclines do work the chest, the upper portion that helps stabilize the shoulder joints-a definite plus because the shoulders are much more fragile than most imagine. The deltoids and triceps play a greater role in the performance of the incline bench than they do during a flat bench. Theyíre involved in every physical activity, from driving a golf ball to spiking a volleyball, shooting a basketball, blocking the opposing lineman or hitting a baseball.
The motion of the incline-bench press is much closer to a wide range of athletic movements than the flat-bench counterpart. Offensive and defensive linemen in football use the straightforward move with their arms, but few others do. This means that the strength gained in the incline is more transferable to the swimmer, lacrosse player or tennis enthusiast, as well as the shot-putter, javelin thrower and pole vaulter.
One of the reasons I prefer the incline over the flat bench is that the incline is a pure strength exercise. Itís almost impossible to cheat on the incline, while various forms of cheating are the norm on the flat bench. Rebounding the bar off the chest is common practice in almost every gym, except those frequented by competitive powerlifters, who have to pause at the chest; for them, rebounding is taboo. In high school and collegiate weight rooms, however, the flat bench often resembles an act of contortion rather than a feat of strength. The lifter rebounds the bar off his chest, then raises his hips up off the bench to help move the bar through the sticking point.
Both forms of cheating can have dire consequenses. The rebounding damages the muscles of the chest, as well as the shoulders and elbows. Bridging is also quite stressful to the elbows and shoulders and eventually results in problems in the offended joints. In addition, when a lifter rebounds the bar off his chest, he is neglecting the muscles and attachments responsible for performing that job. The same holds true for bridging. Instead of learning how to grind the bar through the sticking point, the lifter opts for bridging it through. Thatís why itís called cheating-youíre not cheating others, only yourself.
Itís impossible to cheat on the incline-almost. Iíve seen a rare few who managed to bridge, and it was ugly. Rebounding doesnít help on the incline. The bar always runs forward, and once itís away from the precise line, the game is over. Thatís why the incline builds such functional shoulder power. All the groups that need to be worked are worked.
The first thing you discover when you do an incline-bench press is that the form is quite different from the one used in the flat bench. In the flat bench the bar touches the chest right about where the breastbone (sternum) ends, with some variations due to arm length and shoulder width. In the incline the bar touches the chest much higher, right at the point where the collarbones (clavicles) meet the breastbone. No variations at all. Itís the exact same spot for anyone-male, female, big or small.
In the flat bench the bar moves off the chest and glides backward slightly so it ends up over your face. The incline moves up and down in a perfectly straight line. Itís a little like working in a Smith machine. The difference takes a bit of getting used to before you can feel comfortable doing inclines. Rank beginners, as many of my female athletes were, learn the technique much faster than those who have been benching for a long time.
Letís now go over some basics of the incline-bench press. Your grip is largely determined by your arm length. It will be wider than the grip you use on the flat bench unless you employ an extrawide grip on that lift. The grip I recommend on the flat bench is to extend your thumbs so that they can just touch the smooth center of the Olympic bar, The grip for the incline is another thumb width wider.
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Last Update On November 13, 2011
The Bench Press Vs. The Incline Bench Press By Bill Starr
A Better Angle on Strength and Chest Size