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Barbell Decline Bench Press 101 Video Tutorial

Gym Main Variation Strength


Barbell Decline Bench Press
Barbell Decline Bench Press

Exercise Synopsis

Target Muscle Group


Secondary Targets



Force Type

Push (Bilateral)

Required Equipment


Fitness Level











The Barbell Decline Bench Press is a compound strength training exercise primarily targeting the chest muscles, with secondary engagement of the shoulders and triceps. This exercise is performed on a decline bench, set at a downward angle to emphasize the lower pectoral muscles. Using a barbell, the lifter lies on the decline bench, securing their feet and unracking the weight. The barbell is then lowered to the lower chest, and the lifter presses it back up, effectively working the chest muscles through a full range of motion. The decline angle places greater emphasis on the lower portion of the pectorals, contributing to a well-rounded chest development. Incorporating the Barbell Decline Bench Press into a comprehensive strength training routine enhances upper body muscle development, particularly targeting the chest while engaging the shoulders and triceps.

How to Perform

  1. Begin the Barbell Decline Bench Press by lying flat on a decline bench, ensuring your body is well-positioned for the exercise. Place your hands just outside shoulder width on the barbell and secure your feet underneath the provided pads to establish a stable foundation.

  2. Set your shoulder blades by actively pinching them together and pressing them into the bench. This step is crucial for creating a firm and supportive upper back, enhancing overall stability during the movement.

  3. Take a deep breath and coordinate with a spotter for a controlled lift-off, maintaining tightness in your upper back throughout the entire process. A spotter can assist in initiating the lift while ensuring you maintain proper form and stability.

  4. Allow the weight to settle, ensuring that your upper back remains tight post lift-off. Maintaining this tightness is essential for optimal muscle engagement and a secure lifting experience.

  5. Inhale and begin the descent phase by slowly unlocking the elbows, lowering the bar in a controlled manner. Aim for a straight-line descent, directing the bar to just below your sternum (breastbone) and making contact with the chest.

  6. Initiate the ascent by exhaling and pushing the bar back up in a straight line. Press yourself into the bench and fully extend the elbows to complete the lifting motion. Focus on maintaining a smooth and controlled movement throughout the press.

  7. Repeat the entire sequence for the desired number of repetitions, prioritizing proper form, and controlled movements. Regularly adjust the weight to match your strength level and progressively challenge your chest, shoulders, and triceps for consistent development.


  1. Prioritize Technique Over Weight: Emphasize proper technique before focusing on the amount of weight lifted during the Barbell Decline Bench Press. Injury prevention should be a primary concern, and maintaining correct form ensures a safer and more effective workout.

  2. Ensure Bar Alignment with Wrist and Elbows: Keep the bar aligned with the wrists and elbows, promoting a straight and controlled bar path. Position the bar as low in the palm as possible while maintaining a straight wrist to enhance stability and reduce strain.

  3. Optimize Triceps and Chest Engagement: If seeking increased tension in the triceps and chest, stop each repetition just short of lockout at the top. This modification enhances muscle engagement and ensures continuous tension throughout the movement.

  4. Balanced Elbow Positioning: Avoid excessive elbow tucking, as this advice is often geared towards lifters using specialized suits. A slight tuck during the descent or utilizing the cue "Flare and push" from Greg Nuckols achieves the same effect. Find the balance that suits your lifting style.

  5. Mindful Arching for Specific Goals: Consider arching based on your goals, focusing on mid to upper back arching rather than lower back arching to prevent discomfort or potential injury. Maintain proper positioning to avoid cramping in the lower back.

  6. Consistent Chest Touch: Ensure the bar touches your chest with every repetition, maintaining consistency throughout the set. To target specific ranges of motion, explore variations like board presses or accommodating resistance with chains or bands.

  7. Thumb Placement and Grip Width: For most lifters, start with a thumb-wrapped grip, reserving thumbless grips for intermediate and advanced lifters. Experiment with grip width based on arm length, adjusting as needed to prevent front shoulder pressure.

  8. Wrist Extension Awareness: Fight the urge to allow wrists to roll back into extension; instead, focus on rolling knuckles toward the ceiling. This helps maintain wrist stability and reduces strain during the Barbell Decline Bench Press.

  9. Explore Grip Width for Individual Comfort: Experiment with grip width based on arm length and shoulder comfort. Adapt your grip to alleviate front shoulder pressure, improve scapular retraction, or modify the range of motion if necessary.

  10. Optimal Shoulder Stability: Squeeze the bar tightly to enhance shoulder stability, preventing unnecessary movement during the exercise. This contributes to overall control and effectiveness in targeting the chest, shoulders, and triceps.

  11. Maintain Retracted Shoulder Blades: Ensure the shoulder blades remain retracted throughout the press, avoiding changes in position that could compromise form and stability.

  12. Controlled Descent and Touch: Descend under control and ensure the bar touches the chest without bouncing or relying on excess momentum. This controlled approach enhances muscle engagement and reduces the risk of injury.

  13. Focus on Pushing Away from the Bar: Shift your focus to pushing yourself away from the bar rather than just pushing the bar off your chest. This mindset promotes a more comprehensive muscle contraction and emphasizes the engagement of the chest, shoulders, and triceps.

  14. Upper Back Tightness: Prioritize maintaining tightness through the upper back throughout the entire lift, contributing to overall stability and effective muscle engagement.

  15. Spotter Assistance for Lift Off: Ideally, use a spotter to assist with the lift-off, ensuring tension is maintained through the upper back. A spotter provides support and helps maintain proper form.

  16. Bar Bending Activation: Focus on pulling the bar apart or attempting to "bend the bar" to activate intrinsic stabilizers in the shoulder. This technique enhances overall shoulder stability and contributes to a more controlled press.

  17. Continuous Glute and Shoulder Blade Contact: Ensure that the glutes and shoulder blades maintain consistent contact with the bench throughout the entirety of the Barbell Decline Bench Press. This helps provide a stable foundation and minimizes the risk of injury.

How Not to Perform