Without fail every month there would be a special on building some kind of barreled/huge/thick/slabs of pecs (boy that felt homoerotic). Funny enough, the common theme in those articles was always that the incline press be the staple of your chest pressing.
You see, in bodybuilding it's more important to have more muscle mass in the upper pectoral region. This gives a more aesthetic appearance and makes one look "prettier" if you feel. I mean seriously, there's nothing worse looking than a case of some saggy boobs....or moobs.
|The dumbbell variation is solid as well|
While I benched plenty when I was younger (who doesn't?), I never neglected my incline. I always did a lot of incline work, sometimes even dropping the flat bench for long periods in favor of it. Without fail, if my incline went up during this time, I could go back to flat bench and find a bigger press there too.
Now this sort of goes against my own theory of specificity reigning. If you want a big squat, squat. Don't box squat. If you want a bigger pull, you gotta spend some time pulling. If you want a bigger bench, then bench. I still believe this to be true, however over the years my ability to bench more often has declined due to my creaky elbows and the fact that my permanently separated shoulder causes my pec tendons to get inflamed and painful.
This is what eventually caused me to create my split of inclining one week, then benching the next. I never found this to hurt my bench, and often helped it by giving my elbows and such a break.
I'm not the only one that has found this to be beneficial as I've received tons of write ins from guys who ran the "all my shit hurts" split with great success.
All My Shit Hurts Split -
Week 1 -
Bench (heavy) - 5,4,3,2,1,1,1 (no back offs)
Incline (light) - 225 or 250 for max reps x 2 sets
Week 2 -
Incline (heavy) - up to a top triple, 1x8-10 back off
Overhead Press - medium weight - 2 sets all out
This was the routine that helped get my bench back up to over 400 on a consistent basis. Since then I've done many modifications of it. For this past meet, this is how it looked most of the time.
Week 1 -
Bench - base building work, then later the short cycle
Week 2 -
Incline - base building work
That was pretty much it. Lots of volume from either option 1 or option 2 of my base building cycles, then later into the peaking stuff.
In retrospect what I should have done, is taken one of the incline weeks and thrown the 350 method back into it. The amount of volume that I do now week after week will in fact take a toll on the joints, even using lower intensities. So backing way off to get some blood moving through there would have probably benefited me quite a bit.
So basically just swap out one week of base building incline work, with the 350 method.
Let me also add that one thing I've always noticed about guys with good inclines is that they were both good at benching AND overhead pressing. I've known lots of shitty benchers that could overhead well, and lots of great benchers that couldn't overhead press well. I don't know of any guys that can incline pretty well that can't bench and overhead pretty good as well. From a "duh" kind of perspective, it's probably because incline falls between those two pressing angles. So if you get good at incline, you'll probably see some carryover to one or the other, or both. Just my own opinion.
Actually incline pressing.....
I do not bring the bar down all the way to my chest, no. I talked to John Meadows about this because he does the same thing. Cuts the ROM just an inch or so short. He told me he does so for the same reason, because it's much harder on the shoulders to come all the way down to the chest. I can vouch for this. I can't incline without pain if I come all the way down to the chest, so I cut the ROM an inch or so short. I also learned this years and years ago from IFBB Pro Chris Cormier, who had a 500+ incline and did this as well.
If you feel better bringing the bar all the way down to your chest, do so. If it gives you pain or discomfort, shorten the ROM that inch or so and try that.
I never think of all the trivial things to mention however the bar path on incline is pretty simplistic. You bring it down to your upper chest area, and press it straight back up. This is one of the reasons why I like the incline for beginners rather than the bench, and that's because there is no "set up". There isn't anything to worry about other than mostly lying down on the incline bench, and doing some pressing. There is a brutal simplicity to it that I like in that way.
Some benchers with a huge arch and small ROM due to setup, might hate the incline because it exposes their pressing as being weak. If they just competes in powerlifting and their pressing really revolves around technique, that's fine. However I am in the gym to actually be strong as well. And I think one of the things about being strong is that you need to be strong, period. If someone wants to do a new movement, you shouldn't be weak as shit on it because you can't squeeze yourself into some sort of leverage advantage. I'm not saying getting better leverages isn't a part of actually lifting more weight, but there is a difference in being "strong" and using leverages. Some people are going to argue with that, and I don't give a fuck. Anyone who has been around the iron long enough knows the difference.
I also believe, and so do lots of S&C coaches, that the incline offers better application for sports strength.
From Charles Poliquin.....
Next, throughout the years, for all lower body sports that require speed, I have found there is an optimal ratio that, when achieved, translates into short-distance improvement. For example, in short-track speedskating, when the incline press reaches 85 percent of the front squat, you get the best potential speed for the 500 meters. Of course, the skater should also work on getting his or her front squat numbers as high as possible.
If you are going to choose only one test to measure shoulder flexion and elbow extension strength, an excellent choice is the incline bench press performed with a barbell.
Although the bench press is one of the basic tests used in the NFL combine, it is overrated as an upper body maximal strength test. The pressing angle of an incline bench press is more specific in terms of sporting movement due to the shoulder joint angle in relation to the trunk. Whether it is a punch delivered in boxing, the release of a shot put, or the push-off position in the short-track speed skating relay, you will notice that the upper arm is at a 45-degree angle upward in relation to the trunk. There are also many sporting movements where one pushes with the upper arm directly at 90 degrees to the trunk.
The last many years the incline has taken a back seat to guys just wanting to bench and overhead press, and I don't know why. I am pretty much an overhead pressing phenom and I can tell you that I never did a thing to make that happen other than show up at the gym. Overhead work also never did a single thing for my other lifts.
If you've been slaving away at your pressing for a while with no results and aren't doing incline I suggest you rotate some inclines in for a while and see what happens. You're not going to get weaker, so I'm not sure why you're not doing them. If you don't do them because you suck at them, that's probably an even better reason to do them.