Few exercises can target the hard-to-reach upper chest like the incline bench press. Unlike the standard flat bench press, the incline bench press uses a bench at an incline of 45 to 60 degrees. The primary muscle used to perform the incline bench press is the pectoralis major, which is often referred to as the upper chest. The triceps and front deltoids, or shoulders, are also used to assist the pectoralis major with the exercise.
Position yourself for the barbell incline bench press by planting your feet firmly on the floor. Place your head and shoulder blades firmly on the bench while maintaining a natural arch in your lower back. Grasp the bar with your hands 6 inches wider than shoulder width. This is the starting position. Begin by lowering the weight slowly until your upper arms are slightly lower than parallel to the floor. Press the bar back up to the starting position.
The incline bench press is also performed using dumbbells. Grasp a pair of dumbbells and sit on a bench angled between 45 and 60 degrees with the dumbbells resting on your lower thighs. With your feet firmly planted on the floor, press the dumbbells over your eyes with your elbows straight. This is the starting position. Slowly lower the dumbbells to the sides of your upper chest until your upper arms are slightly lower than parallel with the floor. Press the dumbbells back up to the starting position.
For the incline bench press, perform three sets of eight to 12 repetitions. If you can perform 12 or more repetitions with little effort, increase the weight by 5 to 10 lbs. But, if you cannot perform eight repetitions, decrease the weight by 5 to 10 lbs. Remember to never sacrifice form for weight. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends engaging in strength training two to three times a week on non-consecutive days.
Before your chest workout, begin with a warm-up. A warm-up will help prepare your body for the exercise by increasing blood flow to your working muscles. Your warm-up should consist of five to 10 minutes of aerobic exercise such as walking or biking. After five to 10 minutes, the warm-up should include a transition to the incline bench press. Do this by starting with a lighter weight before moving onto a higher resistance level.