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How To Do The Decline Barbell Press

Decline Barbell Press Opener

Round out your chest development with this isolation move.

By Michael Berg, NSCA-CPT

Admittedly, the decline press is not nearly as vital as the incline and flat-bench versions, which work the upper and middle pectorals — the meatier, more aesthetically important areas. But the decline press can round out the fan-shaped muscle through its lower third region. If you’re planning on competing in a bodybuilding show or are simply after a well-rounded physique, you’ll want to include a decline press at least occasionally in your chest routine.

Muscles Worked: Decline presses (and flyes) work the pectoralis major, emphasizing the lower portion of the muscle just above the abdominal area.

Starting Position: Lie face up on a decline bench set at about a 45-degree angle. Your torso should be fully supported from your head to your hips, with your knees bent and feet supported. Grasp the bar with a grip at shoulder width or slightly wider and unrack it, holding it overhead so your arms are angled directly toward the ceiling.

Decline Barbell Press

Action: Bend your arms and slowly lower the bar toward your lower pectorals. When the barbell lightly touches down to your torso, forcefully extend your elbows to drive the bar back to the starting position. Control the move so your elbows don’t snap into a locked position at the top.

Decline Barbell Press

Do: Press the weight straight up toward the ceiling, not allowing your arms to drift forward or back, and keep your elbows out away from your body.

Don’t: Choose a weight that’s too heavy. It’s likely you can handle a bit more weight than you could for flat-bench presses (because the range of motion is slightly shorter), but if you find yourself struggling and the bar not rising evenly on both sides, rack it and shed some pounds for your next set.

Variations: Decline dumbbell flyes are an excellent substitution for the barbell version, offering a little more in the way of stretch at the bottom of each rep.

Uses: The decline press should only be included in a routine after your incline and flat-bench pressing is complete, unless you’re specifically targeting an underdeveloped lower chest and need to prioritize the area.

Advanced Technique: With an attentive spotter, you can add forced reps to decline presses to increase the overall intensity of the exercise. To do forced reps, you continue your final set until momentary muscular failure, and then your spotter gives you just enough assistance by putting his hands under the bar to finish two to three more reps.

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