Decline Bench Press Alternatives

The decline bench press is unquestionably an awesome exercise — despite the fact that some folks would seemingly doing anything to avoid it — for more than one reason:

  • Decline bench presses help you chisel your lower pecs
  • They get your triceps involved nicely, too
  • They allow you to lift more weight than many other exercises
  • Compared to many other exercises, decline bench presses are easier on the back and shoulders 

As much as we’d like to sing the praises of the decline bench press some more, there are plenty of reasons to look for alternatives. Lacking access to a decline bench has got to top the list, but even “can’t be bothered to set it up”, “haven’t got a spotter” and “want some more variation” are all valid. 

Are There Any Substitutes for Decline Bench Press?

As it so happens yes, there are a bunch of great exercises you can do to target the same muscle groups activated in the traditional decline bench press but without the bench or potential shoulder discomfort. Below are some of the most popular pectoral/tricep stimulating decline bench press exercises you can substitute into your program!

1. Dumbbell Pullover

Like decline bench presses, correctly-performed dumbbell pullovers work your pecs like a dream. Here’s how to do them:

  • Use a lower weight than you’d otherwise choose at first, just so that you can feel whether you’re working your pecs effectively. Depending on your stance, you could end up working your back, instead.
  • Lie down on a bench, with your feet shoulder-width apart on the floor. Your head should stretch beyond the length of your bench, with the nape of your neck being the upper most part of your body to touch the bench.
  • Start with your arms fully extended above you, holding a dumbbell. Now, lift your arms up and lower them behind your head, making sure to keep your shoulders in the same, straight, position throughout. Pause, and return to the starting position. 

2. High to Low Cable Fly

This is a great substitute for decline bench presses if you’re simply bored of them. The high to low cable fly is a brand new way to target the lower pecs. How? Here you go:

  • Make sure the cable handles are at the highest setting.
  • Slightly bending at the elbows, hold onto the handles and place your one foot in front of the other.
  • Now, simply bring the handles toward each other in a slow and controlled manner. Pause, and allow yourself to feel the burn. Return to the starting position.

3. Vertical Dip

You might already have done horizontal dips to target your triceps, but vertical dips are great for your pecs. 

  • You’ll ideally use parallel bars for this exercise, but if you’re DIY-ing it at home, some folks have had success with bar stools. Make sure they can support your weight if you go this route.
  • Grab onto the bars. Lift yourself off the floor with your arms. Leaning forward gently, and bending at the elbows, move yourself toward the floor, aiming for your arms to reach a straight angle. Never touch the floor. (If you’re up for a challenge, hold a weight between your feet.)
  • Pushing yourself into the bars, use your strength to get back to square one.

4. Weighted Pushup

Pushups are a great way to work not just your pecs, but your entire chest — but by adding weights to the equation, you’re really taking them to the next level. The best thing? You won’t need any equipment beside weight plates. 

To perform weighted pushups:

  • Get some weight plates ready. For extra ease, have a mate who can add the weights onto your back at the ready. If not, get on all fours, add the weight yourself, and gently lower yourself into the pushup position.
  • Your hands and toes should be on the floor, parallel to one another, and your whole body should be straight and flat the entire time. Focus on form, not speed.
  • Do pushups, the same way you normally would. 

5. Decline Floor Press

This exercise is great for folks who want to do decline bench presses, but who don’t have access to a decline bench for the moment. By doing decline floor presses, you’ll be working all the same muscles. Mimicking the decline bench press without specialized equipment is surprisingly simple, and here’s how:

  • You’ll need a pair of dumbbells and a yoga mat. 
  • Lying with your back flat on the floor, bend your needs to about a 50 degree angle
  • Equip your hands with the dumbbells of your choice.
  • Push your glutes and back off the floor. 
  • Push the dumbbells up, extending your arms until they are nearly straight, but don’t pass the breastbone. Lower them to your side by bending at the elbow.

6. Incline Pushup

Incline pushups are an awesome way to isolate the lower pecs — and this is another exercise you don’t need much equipment for. A bench is ideal, but if you’re creative, you can definitely make do without, too. 

To do incline pushups:

  • Get your bench or other surface ready.
  • With your entire body flat and straight, place your hands, palms-down, onto the bench. Your hands should be extended all the way, and your toes are the only things making contact with the floor.
  • Bending your elbows, form a 90 degree angle, and slowly return to the starting position.
bench press meme

A Final Word

None of these exercises make decline bench presses obsolete, but we’ve tried to include the largest possible variety of options. No matter what equipment you have access to or what exercises you feel like doing, there will be at least one or two decline bench press alternatives here that are just right for you. Any of these exercises can have a place in your chest workout, focusing on the pecs. 

As always, make sure to focus on your breathing as you perform the exercises. Start with a lower number of reps, and where relevant, feel free to start off with lower weights too, while you master the exercise. Slowly work your way up to a toned chest anyone could be jealous of!

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