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June 13, 2022 8 min read

If you want to build big and well-proportioned pecs, that can put out some serious power, then you need to put some emphasis on the lower chest (the area of the muscle that sweeps from under the armpit to underneath the nipple).

If you neglect the lower chest (really any part of the chest), you won’t have that large, strong, and full look that bodybuilders and powerlifters have made famous.

Your upper body strength can also suffer because of this.

To focus on the lower chest area, the decline barbell bench press is a necessity because its angle of decline targets the lower chest fibers and trains them adequately promoting both strength and hypertrophy gains.

What happens though if your gym doesn’t have the conventional decline barbell bench press setup? Or maybe you’re looking to try something new and add to your repertoire of exercises to pick from?

What’s so great about the fitness industry is that there are plenty of people out there creating and perfecting exercises that achieve similar results like you would get from traditional decline bench press equipment.

So even if you were to incorporate just one or two of them in your training program, that will take your lower chest development to the next level and build muscle.

Can You Isolate Parts of Your Chest?

Unfortunately, you can’t isolate what part of the chest you’re working on. The reasoning is that every chest exercise will hit every part of the chest.

People tend to confuse the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor as being the upper and lower chest. When in fact the pectoralis major is the big fan-shaped muscle that makes up the majority of your chest musculature.

So when we talk about the upper chest and lower chest, we’re talking about the upper and lower part of the pectoralis major.

The pectoralis minor on the other hand is just a small muscle that lies underneath the pectoralis major.

This means that an incline bench press exercise will still hit your lower chest, and decline exercises still hit your upper chest. Technically even if you only did one type of pressing exercise for the rest of your life, you can still build your entire chest. 

Various decline pressing, push-ups, fly exercises, and dips do target the lower portion of the chest a bit more than incline movements do.

While various incline pressing/fly exercises target the upper portion a bit more than decline movements do. 

Flat exercises fall somewhere in the middle and hit a good bit of everything, but do tend to put more strain on your shoulders. 

Muscles Worked During a Decline Bench Press

The decline bench press primarily targets the lower part of the pectoralis major muscles.

To a lesser extent, it also works the upper pectoralis major, anterior deltoids, and triceps.

The biceps muscles on the front of your upper arms work as stabilizers during the movement.

How to do A Decline Bench Press

If this is your first-time decline bench pressing, we would recommend starting by using a weight that is light enough that you can control for 3-4 sets of 10-15 repetitions.

Perfect proper form before you start adding more weight. You can use a barbell, a pair of dumbbells, or kettlebells to perform this exercise. Make sure to have a spotter when doing a decline bench press. 

If you don't have a decline bench press setup, you can also use a flat bench and place plates under one side to elevate it. Make sure to hang your feet off the side that is elevated.

How to Do the Decline Bench Press: 

  1. Lie face-up on a decline bench with your feet anchored securely under the foot roller pads and your back in contact with the bench. Your eyes should be directly underneath the barbell. 
  1. Maintain a neutral head and neck position. Your chin should remain tucked throughout the movement as if you were holding an egg under your chin.
  1. Engage your core and maintain a neutral spine. Your shoulder blades should be slightly down and back, and your upper back should remain tight and stable throughout the entire set.
  1. Grab the barbell with a wide grip that is slightly wider than your shoulders.
  1. Rotate your shoulders outward to engage your lats.
  1. Without losing your alignment, lift the barbell off the uprights. Your wrist should be neutral and in line with your elbows.
  1. Slowly lower the barbell towards your lower chest by bending your elbows.
  1. Lower the barbell until your upper arms are in line with your back. Your elbows should be at a 45-degree angle.
  1. Pause for 1–2 seconds at the bottom position, making sure that you got the full range of motion.
  1. For the pressing portion, squeeze your chest and begin to straighten your elbows.
  1. Squeeze your chest and triceps at the top of the movement while maintaining a slight bend in your elbows.
  1. Repeat this movement for the number of repetitions needed to complete your set.

Decline Bench Press Alternatives

You may not have access to a barbell, or a bench, or weight in general, but that doesn't mean you can't target the same muscle groups as you would with the decline bench press. Check out these alternatives. 

Cable Chest Decline Press

You don’t have to be on a decline bench to achieve the ideal slightly downward angle of movement.

This is a great alternative exercise and when you use a double cable machine stack so you can sit in an upright position to get the same result.

You can also use resistance bands if the cable stack is unavailable.

How to Do Seated Decline Cable Press:

  1. Sit with your back firmly braced up against the backrest. If the cables are adjustable make sure to align the handles level with your shoulders or slightly above. 
  1. Grasp the handles and position your hands just below chest level. Position your feet firmly on the floor to help stabilize your body. 
  1. Brace your abdominal muscles and make sure to maintain the natural arch in your lower back.
  1. Pull your shoulders back and down, and attempt to hold this position throughout the exercise.
  1. Exhale softly and perform a pressing movement, extending your arms forward towards your thighs. Try to maintain a neutral wrist position and don’t over-arch your back to force the rep. By arching your back you won't get the full range of motion.
  1. Continue pressing until your elbows are fully extended, but never till locked out. 
  1. Return to your starting position slowly and under control
  1. Repeat the movement until the set is complete. 

Chest Dips

Chest dips are one of the best bodyweight exercises to target your pectoral muscles, shoulders, and triceps.

This bodyweight movement allows you to put more emphasis on your lower chest area whenever you lean your torso forward.

As you get stronger and can do your bodyweight easily for reps, you can start adding chains, weighted vests, or dip belts to increase the resistance. In the opposite direction if you’re struggling to do your body weight we recommend using a dip machine or doing them off of a bench. 

How to Do Chest Dips: 

  1. Grip each bar with one hand and raise yourself above them with your arms locked.
  2. Keep your arms parallel with your torso, your head in a neutral position, and your knees bent so your thighs are perpendicular to your torso.
  3. Lower yourself down slowly while breathing in. Continue until your shoulders are just below your elbows, try to avoid going any deeper to avoid the increased risk of injury.
  4. You should be feeling a nice stretch throughout your chest muscles. Keep your torso leaning forward at a 30-degree angle throughout the repetition.
  5. Lift yourself back into the starting position while breathing out.
  6. Once you reach the top you don’t have to lock out your elbows again, this is only necessary whenever you’re getting ready to start.
  7. Repeat until the set is complete. 

Decline Dumbbell Flyes

The decline dumbbell fly is a chest fly variation performed on a slight decline, which targets the lower chest muscles slightly more than the traditional flat and incline variations.

Just like the decline bench press, this great exercise helps to decrease the strain on the anterior shoulders when compared to the flat or incline version.

Since the triceps and the shoulders are less involved in this variation, this helps to focus on the lower chest even more. 

We recommend doing this exercise with light weights to start and slowly building it up as you get comfortable with the form. You can use a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells to perform this exercise. Make sure to have a spotter when doing decline dumbbell flyes.

How to Do the Decline Dumbbell Fly: 
  1. Grab your dumbbells with a neutral grip, palms facing in. Position the dumbbells in the crest of your hips and lay back. 
  1. Lie back on the decline bench, keeping the weights close to your chest, with your feet firmly placed into the pads.
  1. Push the dumbbells away above you. Make sure to squeeze your glutes as well.
  1. Retract your shoulder blades by pinching them together, and slowly start to lower the dumbbells laterally.
  1. Once the dumbbells are in line with your chest on each side, and you feel the stretch, reverse the movement until the dumbbells are touching. 
  1. Squeeze your pecs together at the top of the movement, which helps to engage your pecs further. 
  1. Repeat steps until the set is complete.

Decline Floor Press

In a decline floor bench press, you will use your own body to create the 30-degree decline.

This angle places your upper body on a downward slope, which activates the lower pectoral muscles as you push weights away from your body. This variation is great for your shoulders since you’re unable to get the full range of motion because of the floor. 

How to Do the Decline Floor Press: 

  1. Grab a couple of dumbbells and place them on the floor. 
  1. Sit behind the dumbbells with your knees bent. 
  1. Grab the dumbbells and lie back on the floor with them held above your chest. 
  1. Lift your hips off the floor and as high as possible. Make sure to squeeze your glutes and brace your core. 
  1. Hold your body in this position as you lower the dumbbells out and down until the upper arms are in line with the torso.
  1. Push the dumbbells back to the start position, being sure to bring your hands together and squeeze your pecs together.

Dumbbell Chest Pullover

This great exercise is incredibly beneficial for your chest because the pattern of a chest pullover resembles an arc. This arc motion allows your lower pecs to stretch and contract effectively.

Apart from hitting your lower pecs, this exercise mainly targets your pecs, serratus anterior, and lats.

While also working the delts, upper abs, triceps, and biceps slightly. While it isn’t the perfect substitute for a decline bench press, they do contribute greatly towards the overall size, strength, and shape of your chest. Another way that can help you to build more muscle is by trying the  Ultimate Mass Stack

How to Do the Dumbbell Chest Pullover: 
  1. Lie perpendicular to the bench press, with only your shoulders supported.
  1. Your feet should be flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Your head and neck should hang over the bench.
  1. Your hips should ideally be at a slight angle compared to your shoulders.
  1. Grasp the dumbbells with your hands crossed in a diamond shape using your thumbs and pointer fingers, your palms should be pointing to the ceiling. 
  1. The movement starts with the dumbbell over your chest, elbows bent 10–15 degrees throughout the movement.
  1. Take in a deep breath, hold and slowly lower the weight back over your head until the upper arms are in line with the torso, parallel to the floor. You should be feeling a stretch throughout your chest. 
  1. The weight travels in an arc-like motion toward the floor.
  1. Exhale and pull the dumbbell back over your chest, purposely squeezing the chest as you return to the starting position. 

Closing Thoughts

If you want to build big and well-proportioned pecs, that can put out some serious power, then you need to start putting some emphasis on the lower chest.

With the five alternatives to the decline barbell bench press, you should be more prepared to build a strong and sculpted chest. 

Implementing these exercises with other movements that emphasize every part of the chest can help lead to a more balanced upper body. 

Train your chest in a way that allows you to emphasize both upper and middle parts as well. This will ensure that you build muscle, overall strength, and size development of your chest.