10 Top Decline Bench Press Alternatives

Decline Bench Press Alternatives

The decline bench press is scary, to say the least. Beginners and even intermediate gym goers find it intimidating. After all, you’re forced into a precarious position with a heavy free weight essentially over your face. The slightest misstep could spell disaster if you don’t know what you’re doing. For those who do know what they’re doing, however, it’s a fantastic lower chest builder. Are there alternatives that provide the same lower chest building benefits as the decline bench press that are more beginner-friendly?

The best decline bench press alternatives are the decline dumbbell bench press, decline dumbbell together press, decline dumbbell fly, decline dumbbell floor press, high to low cable fly, straight bar serratus pushdown, decline machine press, forward leaning dip, incline push-up, and flat bench press. These alternatives provide similar chest building benefits but are more accessible to beginners.

Performing some or all of the above decline bench press alternatives will provide you an excellent chest workout. Let’s dive into each and explore a little more!

How Do You Decline Bench Without a Decline Bench?

If you have no decline bench, you can’t do an actual decline bench press. However, there are some alternatives that will provide similar benefits without the need for the decline bench.

The high to low cable fly will provide excellent lower chest building activation. Vertical dips with a forward lean will target the lower pecs as well. 

These two alternatives make good substitutes if you’re in a commercial gym with other equipment, but no benches are available. However, they still require some equipment to perform the exercises. What if you have no equipment available whatsoever?

The decline dumbbell floor press is a viable alternative. This exercise puts you in a similar position as the actual decline bench press but only requires dumbbells. As long as you have free weights to press and a floor, you can perform this exercise.

Is Decline Bench Press Really Necessary?

Decline bench presses offer specific kinds of gains that may not be for everyone.

Bodybuilders, who spend time carefully sculpting each aspect of their physique, will want to incorporate the decline bench press into the rotation. Neglecting this useful lift leaves the lower pectorals in need of further attention. For their purposes, it’s worth learning and perfecting the decline bench press.

Performance-based athletes could go either way, on the other hand. The decline bench press offers upside in the form of strength gains. However, athletes will get similar results just sticking to the flat bench press or performing high reps of push-ups.

Average gym goers looking to keep a slim waist most likely do not need to decline bench press. In fact, it’s arguable that average fitness folks need to bench at all. Sure, it’s one of the best chest-building lifts you could incorporate into your regimen. However, you can easily craft a well-rounded fitness routine that never brings in a barbell or bench press at any time.

Consider your personal goals and decide if the decline bench press is good for your purposes. It’s not for everyone, but it is still a great lift that targets the lower chest.

How Do You Simulate a Decline Bench?

Simulating a decline bench press without actually performing a decline bench press is tricky.

The benefits associated with the lift come from the unique angle of your body. The angle at which you push away resistance, whether it’s free weights, cable resistance, or your own bodyweight, plays a role as well.

Each of our recommended alternatives below target the chest in similar fashion to the decline bench press. Some of the alternatives still require the use of a decline bench, but many do not. Some can even be performed from the comfort of your home where equipment may be very limited to what’s in your home gym.

Take a look below for more!

Can I Do Dips Instead of Decline Bench Press?

Vertical dips are one of the best alternatives to the decline bench press.

First and foremost, vertical dips have the ability to target the lower chest similar to the decline bench press. To accomplish this, all you need to do is lean your torso forward while performing the dip. It’s an easy adjustment and requires very little equipment to pull off.

In addition, dips can be made more challenging by using a dip belt. A dip belt allows you to attach free weights, plates, and other objects to increase the challenge. This is great for folks that find their own bodyweight is too easy to feel a real burn.

Overall, vertical dips are one of the best alternatives if you’re unable or uninterested in performing the decline bench press.

Top 10 Decline Bench Press Alternatives

Without further ado, here is our list of the top 10 decline bench press alternatives.

1. Decline Dumbbell Bench Press

As with most barbell exercises, swapping the bar for dumbbells is totally viable. Doing so recruits additional stabilizing muscles since each dumbbell must be steadied independently.

Similar to the barbell version, the decline dumbbell bench press will target the chest, specifically the lower pecs, primarily. You’ll feel activation in the triceps too.

Here’s how to do the decline dumbbell bench press with proper form:

  1. Lie down on a decline bench with your dumbbells in hand or at your sides.
  2. Grab the dumbbells with a pronated grip.
  3. Push the weights straight up above your sternum. Do not lift dumbbells above your face for safety reasons.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat as needed.

Some bodybuilders will rotate the dumbbells at the top of the movement. This allows you to isolate the lower and inner chest muscles and get a real good squeeze!

2. Decline Dumbbell Together Press

Got your decline dumbbell bench press down pat? Good, because now we’re going to perform the same motion while squeezing the dumbbells together.

Here’s how to do the decline dumbbell together press with good form:

  1. Lie down on a decline bench with your dumbbells in hand or at your sides.
  2. Grab the dumbbells with a neutral grip and squeeze them together.
  3. Push the weights straight up above your sternum.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat as needed.

You’ll get excellent activation of the inner chest from squeezing the dumbbells together. We recommend going a little lighter on this exercise than you would with the regular decline bench since you’ll have to squeeze simultaneously.

3. Decline Dumbbell Fly

Decline dumbbell flyes are an excellent alternative to your standard decline bench press. Like the regular fly, you inspire hypertrophy of the chest muscles. To target the lower pec region like the decline press, however, you’ll have to position the dumbbells slightly lower than you would during a regular fly.

Here’s how to perform decline dumbbell flyes with proper form:

  1. Lie down on a decline bench with a pair of dumbbells.
  2. Point your palms to the ceiling as you get into position.
  3. Bring your palms together high over your sternum. Avoid allowing the dumbbells to travel back toward your shoulders or face as you execute the fly movement.
  4. Squeeze your chest at the peak of the contraction.
  5. Slowly return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat as needed.

As with regular flyes, don’t go crazy on the weight. You’re better off doing a high number of reps and really squeezing at the peak of the movement. Be sure to keep a slight bend in the elbow as well, as locking them could increase your risk of injury.

4. Decline Dumbbell Floor Press

This alternative is perfect for folks working out at home who don’t have a bench. We take the fundamentals of the decline dumbbell bench press and take it to the floor!

Here’s how to perform a set of decline dumbbell floor presses properly:

  1. Lie on the floor with two dumbbells, one at each side of your body. Bend your knees and plant your feet on the floor.
  2. Raise your hips so that your knees create a 90-degree angle. The position should look similar to a glute bridge.
  3. Press the dumbbells to the ceiling, squeezing the chest at the top of the movement.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat as needed.

The decline dumbbell floor press requires some balance and stability. For this reason, it’s not easy to lift heavy weights with this exercise. 

On the other hand, you’re engaging your core throughout the movement. This makes it a great compound movement to hit your arms, chest, and core in one exercise.

5. High to Low Cable Fly

Tired of dumbbells? 

Set up shop on the cable machine and perform a set of high to low cable flyes. Positioning the cables above your shoulders targets the lower pecs similarly to the decline bench press. Plus, the unique resistance that cable machines provide will engage your muscles differently from using free weights.

Here’s how to perform high to low cable flyes with correct form:

  1. Bring the cable handles to the highest setting.
  2. Grab the handles and stagger your feet by placing one in front of the other. Lean slightly forward and put a slight bend in your elbows.
  3. Bring your hands together so that they touch at the end of the movement.
  4. Squeeze at the peak of the contraction.
  5. Slowly return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat as needed.

Want to hit those lower pecs even harder? Just as you did with the decline dumbbell press, twist your hands at the end of the movement. By switching the grip and squeezing hard, you’ll target the lower pecs even more.

6. Straight Bar Serratus Pushdown

This variant of the lat pushdown helps you target your serratus muscles alongside your ribs and the lower pecs as well. 

The trick here is to limit the range of motion, as bringing the bar completely down to your waist will hit the lats harder than the pecs. However, it’s a great compound movement that can hit areas of your back, sides, and chest all in one exercise.

Here’s how to perform the straight bar serratus pushdown with good form:

  1. Set the cable machine at the highest level and secure a straight bar to the carabiner.
  2. Take the widest grip you can manage.
  3. Bend your elbows slightly and hinge forward at the hips.
  4. Push down the bar toward your waist, stopping at the belly button level.
  5. Squeeze your chest at the bottom of the motion.
  6. Slowly return to the starting position.
  7. Repeat as needed.

You’ll also feel some activation in your arms, but the brunt of the work will be performed by your serratus muscles and lower pectorals. This makes it a great alternative to the decline bench press.

7. Decline Machine Press

Not all gyms have this super specific machine, but rest assured, dear readers, it exists!

Instead of having to get into the precarious position of declining a bench and dangling a heavy barbell over your face, the decline machine press places you in a reclined chair essentially. From there, you push the weight forward and get similar pec activation as you would from the real deal.

Here’s how to get in a great set of decline machine presses with good form:

  1. Sit in the chair of the machine. Grab the handles outside your chest and press your palms out in front of you.
  2. Straighten your arms out in front of you while squeezing your chest.
  3. Slowly return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat as needed.

As with all gym machines, the machine restricts your range of motion so there’s no wobble, no hyperextension, and significantly reduced risk of injury. Overall, it’s a much safer alternative to the decline bench press. It’s an exceptional, albeit rare, machine.

8. Forward Leaning Dip

If you haven’t heard, dips are by far one of the best bodyweight exercises you can be doing in the gym. They’re excellent for your arms, chest, and core. Adding a forward lean to your standard vertical dip will hit the chest even harder too.

Here’s how to do a forward leaning dip properly:

  1. Grab the handles of the parallel dip bars.
  2. Lean your torso forward slightly.
  3. Slowly lower yourself until your arms reach a 90-degree angle.
  4. Push yourself back to the starting position, maintaining your forward lean throughout the full movement.
  5. Repeat as needed.

Once sets of just bodyweight become inadequate, switch things up and purchase a dip belt. With a high-quality dip belt, you can load plates and other weights to you and increase the challenge of the exercise.

For a free alternative to increase the challenge, perform tempo dips instead. Take three seconds descending into the bottom of the movement, count to three, and slowly return to the starting position over the course of three seconds.

9. Incline Push-up

Incline push-ups take the decline bench press and flip it upside down. By performing the push-up on an elevated surface, you’re hitting the lower pec in a similar fashion to the decline bench press.

Here’s how to do incline push-ups with proper form:

  1. Place a flat bench in front of you.
  2. Create a 45-degree angle, approximately, with your body.
  3. Slowly lower your chest to the bench, squeezing your chest as you move.
  4. Push yourself back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat as needed.

To get even more focus on the lower pecs, try using an underhanded “grip” for your set. Simply flip your palms upside down and point your fingers to your toes. This one simple tweak will give even more attention to the lower pecs.

10. Flat Bench Press

Wait a minute. If performing the regular bench press is good enough to hit your lower pecs, why even bother with the decline bench press?

It’s a fair question. After all, including any level of arch in your standard bench press will help target the lower pecs. Plus, a regular bench press already hits your lower pecs in addition to the rest of the muscle.

So why risk injury performing the advanced decline bench if the vanilla flat bench version works just fine?

Well, because the decline bench hits the lower pecs to a much greater degree. For regular folks, this might not count for much. However, bodybuilders and powerlifters find the decline bench press and alternatives indispensable to a well-rounded workout regimen.

Take caution if you choose to use the decline bench press. For the rest, here are tips to perform a high-quality flat bench press instead:

  1. Lie flat on your back on a bench.
  2. Grip the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. Your hands should stack directly above your elbows.
  3. Inhale as you slowly bring the bar to your chest.
  4. Exhale as you push the bar to the starting position.
  5. Repeat as needed.

Remember to keep focused on the ceiling, not the bar, as you push it back up. This ensures a consistently straight bar path and good form.

As we hinted at above, you’ll want to include some arch to your back during the movement as well. There’s no need to create an extreme curve by any means but pushing into the bench with your upper back while allowing the lower back to come up is not out of bounds.

Whether you’re using the flat bench press as a substitute for the decline press or just an occasional audible, it’s an important exercise you should consider using regularly.

Decline Bench Press Muscles Worked

The decline bench press works out your chest and your arms.

Specifically, the following muscle groups will be targeted primarily during a decline bench press:

  • sternal head of your pectoralis major
  • triceps brachii in the back side of your upper arm
  • biceps brachii on the front side of your upper arm
  • anterior deltoid in the front of your shoulder

Let’s discuss what happens during the decline bench press further. 

The first step in executing the lift involves removing the bar from the rack. Stabilizing the weight above you requires the use of your arms and chest. Then, you bring the bar down to your chest. Your anterior deltoid and lower pec contract, along with the bicep brachii as well.

Once you hit the bottom of the movement, you immediately exhale and push the bar back up. This engages the triceps brachii on the back of your arms and your lower pecs too.

From start to finish, the decline bench press is excellent for hitting the arms and the chest.

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