Decline bench presses are a unique bodybuilding movement. Because many flat benches do not include the decline function, most bodybuilders do not discover this movement until they advance past their home-gym training phase, and move on to a commercial gym. Even then, some commercial gyms still do not offer benches which move from flat into the decline angle. As a result of this, many bodybuilders rely solely upon flat and incline barbell and dumbbell presses to develop their chest muscles. Their upper and middle pectorals grow, but the bottom third of the chest often ends up underdeveloped compared to the rest of the chest. This must be corrected!
Most standard bodybuilding protocols dictate the use of decline bench presses to build up the lower pectorals. Four sets, performed once per week, are thought to provide adequate stimulation for the region. If it’s a major weak area, perhaps toss in 3 or 4 sets of decline dumbbell presses as well. There is some debate, however, as to just how effective the decline press movement is at all. Let’s examine both sides of the argument, and see if a solution can be reached.
Decline Bench Presses are not useful
This movement is perhaps the most useless exercise ever devised. You use a 4-inch range of motion, and the shoulders do most of the work. It’s more of an ego exercise, used by people who just want to move a lot of weight a small distance. Standard parallel bar dips are far more effective for hitting the lower chest. Additionally, there is a head rush that comes with the head being so far below the body, which makes this a dangerous movement. The last thing you want – when holding 225+ pounds over your head – is to feel lightheaded or faint.
Decline bench Presses are the best thing since sliced bread
This exercise is actually very useful for building up the lower chest and filling in gaps that can develop from years of consistently training only the middle and upper chest. They should be performed by slowly lowering the bar down to the collarbone and then returning it to the starting position in a smooth motion. They are useful in any rep range from 6 to 15. They also have a positive effect upon the shoulders and particularly the triceps, similar to a close-grip barbell press. For taller bodybuilders, decline presses are much easier to get into position than flat barbell presses.
There is an alternative – Try dumbbells!
Performing decline presses with dumbbells is perhaps the best solution of all! You are able to reach the full range of motion with none of that awkward balancing that a barbell requires. This movement is safer than barbell presses, as you are able to just drop the dumbbells a few inches to the ground once you reach failure. If you’d like to train your lower pectorals, but have found that decline barbell presses aren’t your cup of tea, give them decline dumbbell presses a shot. Also, don’t forget to toss in some dips as well!
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