Friday, June 25, 2010

Decline Pectoral Exercises

There's certain exercises that are well known but seldom performed by the vast majority of gym-goers today. But what makes an exercise fall from such favor? We often hear about stimulating the muscle and addressing it from as many angles as possible; however, when dealing with pectoral development, at least, it seems that the emphasis is limited to the upper and middle portions of the muscle, with the decline execises like the decline bench press and decline flyes falling further and further into general disfavor.

So in an effort to tackle this phenomenon, I posed the following question to Blake Selby, Josh Castillo, and a few other of the notable members of the StrengthAddicts Facebook group -- but none replied. I am aware that people have lives and other commitments, but beyond the latter and the former I am also aware of how potentially-complicated this poll question.

I am very happy to present my question, followed by an excellently written response by one of our newest members on the Facebook group! He is an avid weight-lifter, coach, and has trained alongside Cassie Bishop on several instances. So without further adeu...

Christian Duque: What's your take on decline bench press, and how importantly would you rate this exercise with regard to sound pectoral development?

"In my opinion, decline bench presses are useful for only 2 reasons:

1. As a substitute to flat bench presses when you are nursing a shoulder injury. The unique biomechanical advantage of the decline bench press allows you to place less stress on the anterior deltoids, and put primary focus on the chest and the supporting triceps muscles.

2. For the same biomechanical reason listed above, decline bench press is also useful if your anterior deltoid strength is so strong that it takes away from your pectoral strength. You are able to utilize the decline bench press as a strategy to take the workload focus off of the shoulders, and place it more on the chest where you want it.

HOWEVER you must also keep in mind that just because decline bench press takes some load off the shoulders and directs it toward the chest, does not mean that it will help you develop the chest muscles to a greater level. Declines work primarily the lower chest, and to a lesser degree, the middle chest, and almost insignificantly the upper chest.
The majority of people already develop a great chest simply from flat bench press and incline bench press. Incorporating declines into your program will create a somewhat blocky look, due to diminishing the narrow separation between the pectoral muscles and the wall of the abdomen/sternum.

So in conclusion... if your shoulders are suffering from injury or if they are significantly stronger than your chest muscles, then substituting flat bench press for decline bench press may be a good idea. But if your shoulders are healthy and balanced, stick to flat bench and incline bench."

Brandon Mutti
Certified Strength and Fitness Coach
Redford/Detroit, MIchigan