Decline Barbell Bench Press

If you've been eyeing your chest with disdain and are looking for exercises to build it up, then we have the perfect one for you. The decline barbell bench press is the perfect lower chest exercise to incorporate into your workout.

If you're wondering what new exercise this is, it is a variation of the bench press which you can do on a flat bench. For this exercise, however, you will be using a decline bench.

The decline barbell bench press is incredible at targeting the chest muscles. It works out muscles in your chest that aren't targeted by other bench press variations, such as the incline bench press and flat bench press.

You'll find that the lower chest muscles are targeted most heavily. Researchers did a study in 1997 published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that showed that the movement during a decline barbell bench press activates the lower chest muscles significantly. It also helps the upper chest muscles like the incline bench press.

How To Perform The Decline Barbell Bench Press

Execution of the decline barbell bench press needs to be done with proper form. Since the position is different from the regular bench press or any other variation, the wrong technique can do more harm than good. There are 3 stages of performing the exercise.

Stage 1: Preparation

Troy preparing for a decline barbell bench press
  1. 1
    It is important to be warmed up and stretched out before you attempt the decline bench press or any other variation. Apart from your general warm up and stretches, consider a warm up set with just the bar.
  2. 2
    Once you're ready, place your legs under the padding of the bench.
  3. 3
    Carefully lower yourself into position.
  4. 4
    Grip the bar wider than shoulder width, keep your body controlled, and don't arch your back.

Stage 2: Execution

Troy performing a decline barbell bench press
  1. 1
    Now that you're in position, it is time to perform the exercise.
  2. 2
    Un-rack the barbell and keep it over your chest with elbows slightly bent.
  3. 3
    Inhale as you let the barbell go down slowly to the lower chest.
  4. 4
    Without letting the bar rest completely at the bottom, push it back up explosively. Exhale as you push the barbell up.
  5. 5
    Contract the chest up top, then repeat.

Stage 3: Recovery

Troy finishing a decline barbell bench press
  1. 1
    Once you've completed the number of sets you had planned, it is time to end.
  2. 2
    Put the barbell back and slowly return to a normal position.
  3. 3
    If possible, have somebody there to help you rack the barbell after. It isn't easy to re-rack due to the odd positioning.

Tips To Achieve Perfect Form

There is no point in performing a decline barbell bench press if you aren't doing it properly. It'll have no visible effects and can even hurt your progress. Here are some common mistakes that you should keep an eye out for and correct!


The barbell will seem a lot heavier in this variation because of the decline position. A common mistake is to bounce the bar off the chests. It increases the momentum and makes pushing the barbell upwards a lot easier.

Not only can this cause a sternum injury, but it reduces the improvements you would've otherwise seen from doing the decline barbell bench press.

Range of Motion

When looking at the mistakes you're possibly making during the decline barbell bench press, the lack of full range of motion is just as common as bouncing the barbell on the chest. The increased weight and the unique position can hamper your range of motion. Choose a more appropriate weight and use a spotter if you find that you're losing range.


The decline barbell bench press isn't all about the weight but also about maintaining your breathing. The right breathing techniques make the exercise more effective and help regulate the pace of the workout as well. Proper breathing keeps you from getting tired fast. So, if you catch yourself not breathing right, take a moment and get your breathing under control.


We've mentioned how odd the positioning of the decline bench press is, and the odd position is why you will need a spotter. Re-racking the barbell with the muscle fatigue and awkward angle is hard at best. Having someone around to guide you through the decline barbell bench press is the best way to get through it carefully, without injury.

Benefits of the Decline Barbell Bench Press

The decline barbell bench press has several benefits; both compared to the regular versions and as an exercise itself. A bench press exercise on its own helps strengthen the chest and arms; the decline bench variation works even better. It is usually meant for bodybuilders and those looking to actively bulk up. You won't find athletes gravitating towards this exercise, but heavy lifters will do it religiously.

If you're looking for exercises that will broaden and strengthen your back, lower chest, and arms, then you've found it!

Lower Chest

Lower Chest Exercises

There lies a stubborn portion of your chest that not many exercises have succeeded in working out. The lower section of the pectoralis major is usually neglected in most exercises. The decline barbell bench press is one of few that work this section. When you perform this exercise properly, you're going to see wonderful results.

Back Stress

man sitting on flat bench at the gym with back pain

If you've ever made the mistake of arching your back during a standard barbell bench press, then you know the pain your lower back experiences. The decline position leaves no room for arching your back or lifting it in any sense. You'll experience no additional stress on your lower back and avoid any injuries in the process when doing the decline barbell bench press.

More Weight

strong male bodybuilder with barbell pancakes at the gym

More weight means that your pecs are likely to be worked out better and grow well. The decline barbell bench press allows for greater weights to be lifted because of the angle you're exercising in. The increased weight increases tension and stimulates the growth of the pecs.

Note: When you're increasing the weight being lifted, make sure you have a spotter. The exercise requires unusual positioning and demands that your form and technique is perfect throughout the sets.

In a Workout

Now that we've seen the benefits of the decline barbell bench press, it is important to incorporate it into your own workout routine. It is best done as a part of your chest routine. For best results and muscle growth, you can do all three variations of the bench press.

The incline bench press and flat bench press work your upper body, and the decline barbell bench press works on the lower muscles and lower pecs. All the variations together will chisel out your pecs and work out the triceps and shoulders. The activation of all this muscle group means you'll need to take a break for a day or two.

When performing the decline barbell bench press, you'll need to do more than the regular number of reps. On average, you will be required to do 12 reps in one set. To truly work out the triceps and lower pecs, you'll need to do 3-5 sets. In every way, the decline barbell bench press demands more from you.

Performing this level of strength training, especially if you're new, requires professional instruction and monitoring for a while. Even after you have been performing the decline bench press for a while, you will still require some assistance for your sets to reduce the risk of injury.


There are several variations of the decline barbell bench press. Some of these variations are simply a change of equipment, others are a variation of the angle at which you perform the bench press.

Decline Dumbbell Bench Press

Dumbbell Bench Press

Generally, the decline bench press is performed with a barbell. Dumbbells are great for balance issues and work as a great alternative for barbells. The dumbbell bench press works brilliantly if you're looking for a freer reach than a barbell can offer. Dumbbells also give you a chance to improve your stabilization and get a good stretch and contraction for your muscles.

Decline Cable Press

Much like the dumbbell, a cable machine is a great tool for keeping constant tension on the muscles without a barbell's restrictive motion. Cable machines are a great part of working out and do wonders in any variation.

To perform a decline bench press with a cable machine, you'll need to set up the decline bench between the cable pulleys. You'll have the same form as the free weight variations, but it is always better to start with a lower amount of weights.

If you're not sure of how to perform a cable press, then you can watch a few video examples to help you get used to the idea.

Flat Bench Press

Troy performing a barbell bench press exercise at the gym

The decline barbell bench press is a variation of the standard flat bench press. This is a baseline for what the motion will be and what kind of grip, pressure, and weight you can handle.

When it comes to the flat bench press, you're majorly working on the pectoralis major or your pecs. It is necessary to work on these muscles as they are responsible for any pushing movements. The movement allows for a full upper-body workout but requires an exceptional form to prevent injury.

Incline Flat Bench Press

Barbell Bench Press

The incline bench press is another variation on the standard bench press. The difference is that you perform the movement on an inclined bench. Most inclines are about 15 to 50 degrees. The greater the incline, the greater the effect on the shoulders and deltoids. The incline helps you work out the upper portion of your body better but doesn't show any drastic differences in your physique.

You'll find yourself having to shift down to lower weights because of the incline. There are differences in the incline that make it impossible to press the same weight that you would in a flat bench press. An incline bench press is great for athletes like football linemen who require more strength in the upper body.

Wrap Up

The decline barbell bench press is an exercise you need to tackle when you're a bit more experienced and have someone to guide you through the process. It is also more effective when you are aware of what kind of strength and physique you are after. While it is great to exercise the whole chest, you might find that you don't like the effect on your body. This bench press exercise, in particular, has some great benefits and will definitely spice up your regular chest workout!

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