Decline bench press alternatives act as a substitute for a standard decline bench press. Alternative and standard decline bench press target your lower pectoral muscles, building strength and muscle in the area. Alternative decline bench presses give you similar benefits as standard motions but with more room for variations. Alternative exercises also allow you to work on your lower pectoral muscles without only bench pressing. Incorporating alternatives into your workout opens up room for vertical dips, incline push-ups, dumbbell flyes, and more.
Alternative exercises are suitable if you don’t have access to a decline bench press station or if the one at your gym is always occupied. The article below will go over seven of our favorite decline bench alternatives, including how to do them and what you’ll need to complete them. We’ll also explore frequently asked questions about decline bench presses and other facts you need to know.
- 1. Decline Dumbbell Bench Press
- 2. Decline Dumbbell Flyes
- 3. High to Low Cable Fly
- 4. Vertical Dip
- 5. Incline Push-Ups
- 6. Decline Floor Press
- 7. Dumbbell Pullover
- Decline bench press FAQs
1. Decline Dumbbell Bench Press
The decline dumbbell bench press is one of the best decline bench press alternative exercises to include in your workouts. Can’t get your hands on a barbell? A set of dumbbells is the next best thing.
Here are some cues that will help you to do this exercise correctly:
- Lie down on the decline bench
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your elbows bent and hands on either side of the chest
- Inhale and engage your core
- Exhale and straighten the arms
- Push the weight up over your chest (make sure the weight goes straight up over the sternum, not over your face)
- Inhale, bend the elbows, and lower the dumbbells back to the starting position
Need to further isolate the muscles of your lower and inner chest? Try twisting the dumbbells at the top of the exercise. Rotate the weights so that the pinkies touch. Your palms should face toward your face.
2. Decline Dumbbell Flyes
Decline dumbbell flyes are a decline bench press alternative that helps you to target the lower and inner chest muscles. This exercise is best done with lighter weights and a higher number of reps. Taking this approach allows you to focus more on technique. You also can avoid putting too much stress on the shoulder joint.
New to this exercise? Follow these cues:
- Lie down on the decline bench
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand
- The arms should be straight over the chest, and the palms should face each other
- Inhale and keep a slight bend in the elbows as you open the arms with the palms facing the ceiling
- Open the arms until you feel a deep stretch in the chest (make sure the weights stay in line with the sternum)
- Exhale and close the arms as you return to the starting position
- Squeeze the chest muscles when you bring the hands back together
3. High to Low Cable Fly
The high-to-low cable fly is another decline bench press alternative for those who can’t bench at all. This exercise targets the same muscles as the decline bench press. It’s also a good finisher to add to the end of your upper body workout.
Keep these cues in mind to get the most out of this exercise:
- Adjust the handles of the cable machine, so they’re at their highest setting
- Grasp one handle in each hand with a slight bend in the elbow
- Stand with your feet staggered (one in front of the other)
- Lean forward slightly, then inhale and brace your core
- Exhale and bring the hands together until the cables touch
- Pause for a second and squeeze the chest muscles
- Inhale and open the arms as you return to the starting position
Want to target the inner and lower chest more? Twist your hands at the top of the exercise and bring your pinkies together (as you did with the decline dumbbell bench press).
4. Vertical Dip
The vertical dip exercise functions as an alternative to a decline bench press. What’s the difference between vertical dips and horizontal dips? Vertical dips emphasize the lower chest while horizontal dips target the triceps.
You’ll need a set of parallel bars to do vertical dips. You can also set yourself up between two barstools if you’re exercising at home.
Here are some cues for proper vertical weighted dips:
- Grasp one bar in each hand
- Lift your feet off of the floor so that all of your weight is in your hands
- Lean forward slightly
- Inhale and bend your elbows to lower yourself toward the floor
- Lower until your arms form about a 90-degree angle
- You can sink lower if it feels comfortable on the shoulders
- Exhale and push down into the bars to straighten your arms and return to the starting position
Want to make this exercise more challenging? Hold a weight between your ankles. You can also attach a plate to a weight belt.
5. Incline Push-Ups
Incline push-ups are a suitable alternative to the decline bench press that you can do in the gym or at home. At first, this particular exercise might give you pause. Most people think incline push-ups are only for beginners. In reality, there are lots of benefits to doing this variation, even if you’re an advanced lifter.
Incline push-ups target your lower chest muscles more than regular push-ups. Is that the specific area you want to target? If so, you might get more bang for your bucks if you add incline push-ups to your workout.
To do incline push-ups correctly, follow these cues:
- Get into a plank position and place your hands on a bench with your wrists under your shoulders
- Inhale, brace your core, and squeeze your glutes
- Bend your elbows and lower yourself down into a push-up, bringing your chest down toward the bench
- Exhale and push against the bench to rise back to the starting position
Want to place even more of an emphasis on the lower chest muscles? Try adjusting your grip to an “underhand” grip. Flip your palms so they’re facing up. Then, grip the underside of the bench before getting started.
6. Decline Floor Press
The decline floor press is an alternative decline bench press you can do at home without a bench. All you need for this exercise is a pair of dumbbells. You can also use another semi-heavy object. A backpack with books in it is a great choice.
Follow these steps to do the decline floor press:
- Lie flat on the floor with the knees bent and heels close to your glutes
- Grasp a dumbbell in each hand
- Bend the elbows so the weights are positioned on either side of the chest
- Push into the floor with your heels and lift your glutes up
- Inhale and brace your core
- Exhale and press the weights up over your chest (make sure they stay over the sternum instead of going up over the face)
- Inhale and lower them back down to your sides
7. Dumbbell Pullover
The dumbbell pullover is a decline bench press alternative that primarily works the serratus anterior and lat muscles. However, the lower chest muscles also play a part in this exercise. It’s another good finisher for your upper body workout.
Keep these cues in mind when doing dumbbell pullovers:
- Grab a light-moderate weight dumbbell
- Hold one end of the dumbbell between both hands
- Keep the arms straight so the hands are over your chest
- Lie down on a flat bench
- Push down into the floor with the feet as you inhale and brace your core
- Extend the arms to send the weight over your head and back behind you
- Pause when you feel a stretch in your lats
- Exhale and return the arms to the starting position (don’t let them bend)
Decline bench press FAQs
Do you have any lingering questions about decline bench press variations? Below are some answers to some that I often get asked.
What muscles does the decline bench press target?
The decline bench press primarily targets the lower pectoral muscles. The alternative exercises listed above emphasize these same muscles.
The decline bench press is also a good exercise for the arm muscles. It targets the triceps brachii (located on the back of the arm) and the biceps brachii (located on the front of the arm). Decline bench presses also strengthen the anterior deltoid (the front part of the shoulder).
Why should you do decline bench press variations?
You should do decline bench press variations because the exercises help strengthen and build the lower chest muscles. This, in turn, creates a more well-rounded physique.
Decline bench presses can also reduce shoulder strain compared to traditional bench press exercises.
Do regular bench presses cause shoulder pain? If so, the decline variation might be a better fit for you.
How much weight should I use for decline bench press alternatives?
The weight you should use for decline bench press alternatives varies. Keep the weight lighter than what you’d use for a regular bench press or dumbbell press. Start with about one-quarter to one-half of your body weight. You can always add more if it’s too light.
Don’t have someone nearby who can help you out if you choose a weight that’s too heavy? Be safe and keep the weight light in this case, too.
Decline bench press alternatives add variety to your routine without sacrificing your gains. Alternatives are suitable for when you don’t have access to a decline bench, prefer to exercise at home with limited equipment, or prefer not to bench at all. You experience all the benefits of a standard decline bench press if you follow the exercises we’ve explored above. Keep our decline bench press alternatives in mind. They’ll help you get the most out of your upper body workouts and mix up your workout routine.