decline bench press alternative
Exercise Alternative

13 Decline Bench Press Alternatives

Of all the ways of doing the bench press, the decline bench press, with a bench angle of about 30 degrees is the most effective. However, repping out on the decline bench workout after workout can get a little repetitive. In this article, I’ll lay out 13 decline bench press variation exercises that will pump your pecs for optimum muscle growth results.

1. Seated Cable Press

Why it’s a great alternative

The seated cable press allows you to move your pectorals through a full range of motion that follows the natural direction of the muscle fibers. It also allows for early phase loading, which is the ideal strength curve for a chest workout. 

Muscles worked

Chest

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Position a 30-degree incline standard bench in front of a double cable pulley machine, about 5 feet from the weight stacks.

2. Set the pulleys at shoulder level when seated.

3. Grab the cables and sit on the bench. 

4. From a starting position with your elbows at shoulder level, press your arms forward and together until your hands touch.

5. Reverse and repeat.

6. Do 4 sets of 6-12 reps. 

Equipment used 

Double pulley cable machine

Tips 

Keep your upper and parallel to the floor at all times. 

2. Flat Dumbbell Press

Why it’s a great alternative

The flat dumbbell press allows you to get a full range of motion through the chest by bringing your hands together, which you cannot do on the barbell decline bench press.

Muscles worked

Pectorals

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Lie on a flat bench with a pair of dumbbells held at chest level with palms facing forward.

2. Press the weights up to full arm extension.

3. Lower the dumbbells until your elbows are parallel to the floor. 

4. Do 4 sets of 6-12 reps. 

Equipment used 

Flat bench, pair of dumbbells

Tips 

Keep your feet on the floor.

3. Floor Press

Why it’s a great alternative

The floor press allows you to train your chest when you don’t even have a workout bench. It is also a safe exercise, allowing you to simply let go if you cannot complete your rep. You can also easily transition from a push press into a flye movement on this exercise. 

Muscles worked

Chest muscles

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Lie on the floor with a pair of dumbbells resting on your chest, held with palms forward. Bend your knees and keep your feet on the floor.

2. Press the weights up to full arm extension.

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3. Lower under control and repeat.

4. Do 4 sets of 8-12 reps. 

Equipment used 

Dumbbells

Tips 

Do not lift your hips from the floor while pressing. 

4. Standing Cable Press

Why it’s a great alternative

The standing cable press allows you to move the pecs through a complete range of motion according to the biomechanical movement of the muscle. 

Muscles worked

Pecs

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Set the pulleys on a double cable machine at their highest level.

2. Stand in the middle of the machine and grab the handles, bringing your elbows up to shoulder level.

3. Press the dumbbells down to meet in front of your groin.

4. Reverse and repeat.

5. Do 4 sets of 8-15.

Equipment used 

Pulley cable machine

Tips 

Push down and slightly forward. You may prefer to have a staggered stance for better balance. 

5. Incline Dumbbell Flye

Why it’s a great alternative

The incline dumbbell flye allows you to  get a great stretch through the pectoral muscles to fully activate the muscles. 

Muscles worked

Upper Chest muscles

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Set an incline bench to a 30-degree angle. Lie on the bench with a pair of dumbbells in your hands. 

2. raise the dumbbells above your chest at arm’s length.

3. Pivot from the shoulders, to bring the dumbbells down and to the sides to shoulder level.

4. Return to the start position under control. 

Equipment used 

Incline bench, dumbbells

Tips 

Do not lift your hips off the bench.

6. Push Ups

Why it’s a great alternative

The push up is the most basic chest exercise that exists, using your body weight as the resistance. It can be done anywhere with no equipment. This exercise can be done in a whole lot of variations to work your upper body from different angles. The push up is also a good overall upper body strength exercise. 

Muscles worked

Chest, shoulder, triceps

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Get down in the push up starting position with hands slightly wider than shoulder width and feet together. Your body should form a straight line from head to foot.

2. Lower down to bring your chest to the floor, stopping about an inch before making contact.

3. Push back to the top push up position. 

4. Do 3 sets of 12-20 reps. 

Equipment used 

None

Tips 

Be sure to go all the way down until you are just an inch from the floor. Do not let your butt lift into the air. 

7. Incline Cable Flye

Why it’s a great alternative

The incline cable flye provides you with the means of fully stretching the chest muscles with tension all the way to activate every single muscle fiber. 

Muscles worked

Upper Chest muscle

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Position a 30-degree incline bench in the middle of an double pulley cable machine. 

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2. Set the pulley at hip level when seated.

3. Get on the bench and grab the handles. In the starting position, your arms should be extended out laterally at shoulder level.

4. Move from the shoulder joint to bring your arms forward and together to meet at mid chest level.

5. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.

Equipment used 

Cable machine

Tips 

Do not bend your elbows as you are doing this exercise. 

8. Plate Press

Why it’s a great alternative

The plate press can be done with nothing but a single weight plate. It really engages the middle of the chest to activate all of the muscle fibers. 

Muscles worked

Chest muscle

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Stand with a weight plate held between your hands with your finger outstretched.

2. From a start position with the plate by your chest, press your arms out to full arm’s length. 

3. Pull the plate back to your chest level. 

Equipment used 

Single weight plate

Tips 

Squeeze your hands together forcefully as you push and pull the weight.

9. Decline Dumbbell Flye

Why it’s a great alternative

The decline dumbbell flye is another exercise that provides you with an excellent pectoral stretch to bring all fibers into play.

Muscles worked

Chest muscle

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Lie on a 30-degree decline bench with a pair of dumbbells in your hands, held at arm’s length.

2. Bend your elbows slightly and keep them locked in that position.

3. Pivot from the shoulders to bring your arms out and down to shoulder level.

4. Return and repeat.

5. Do 3 sets of 12-15 reps. 

10. Smith Machine Decline Press

Why it’s a great alternative

The Smith machine dumbbell press is a safer version of the barbell version as you are moving  a bar along a set track.

Muscles worked

Chest muscle

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Place a decline bench in the middle of a Smith machine.

2. Lie on the bench and grab the bar, unracking it.

3. Bring the bar down to chest level and then push back up to full arm extension.

4. Do 4 sets of 6-10 reps. 

Equipment used 

Smith machine, decline bench

Tips 

Set the bench angle to 30-degrees. Bring the bar down to your neck level. 

11. Decline DB Together Press

Why it’s a great alternative

The decline dumbbell together press allows you to maximally activate the inner part of the chest It also involves an isometric contraction component.

Muscles worked

Chest muscle

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Lie on a decline bench with a air of dumbbells in hand and held at arm’s length with your palms touching each other and the plates touching.

2. Keeping the plates pushed in to each other lower to chest level and then push back up again.

Equipment used 

Decline bench. dumbbells

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Tips 

Push the dumbbells in to each other the entire time.

12. Flat Bench Press

Why it’s a great alternative

The flat barbell bench press allows you to lift more weight than any other version of the exercise. This version of the bench press exercise will make you stronger faster.

Muscles worked

Chest muscle, Triceps brachii

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Lie o a flat bench press bench and reach up to grab the bat just slightly wider than shoulder width and with your feet on the floor.

2. Unrack the bar and bring it over your chest.

3. Lower the bar to your chest and then press back to the start position.

Equipment used 

Flat bench, barbell

Tips 

Do not arch your back as you are pressing. 

13. Decline Dumbbell Bench Press

Why it’s a great alternative

The decline dumbbell bench press allows you to work the complete range of chest fibers through their complete range of motion. 

Muscles worked

Chest muscle

Step-by-step how-to 

1. Lie on a 30-degree decline bench with a pair of dumbbells in hand and resting on your chest with palms facing forward.

2. Press your arms directly up and inward to meet at full arm’s length above your chest.

3. Lower under control and repeat.

4. Do 4 sets of 6-12 reps.

Equipment used 

Decline bench, dumbbells

Tips 

Go down until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. 

Conclusion

You now have 13 alternative exercises to the decline dumbbell bench press that each offer an excellent chest training option. Choose 2-3 of them, doing 4-6 sets each as you construct your ideal chest training program. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How much weight should I use for decline bench press alternatives?

The amount of weight you use on the decline press should allow you to perform the first 50% of your reps quite comfortably. They should then get progressively harder so that the last two reps are every difficult but not impossible. You should feel like you can do one more rep.

How do I get a bigger chest fast?

To get a bigger chest you need to combine the right exercises, with increased protein nutrition and adequate rest. Do a version of the decline chest press, along with cables chest press and flyes for a total of 12-14 sets. Train the chest twice per week for best results. 

What muscles does the decline bench press target?

The decline bench press will work your entire chest area. Contrary to what people say, it does not isolate the lower chest. It is impossible to isolate any part of the chest as all the muscle fibers have the same origin and insertion point. As a result, any movement of the muscle will involve all of the fibers of the muscle. 

Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer based in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness, and fat loss.

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