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10 Top Decline Bench Press Alternatives

Decline bench presses can offer many benefits but you may want other options. What are some alternatives to decline bench presses with similar benefits?

Decline bench presses are simply the popular bench press resistance training exercise done on a decline bench. With your hips higher than your shoulders.

By changing the angle of the bench you focus slightly more on the lower part of your chest muscles. Besides that, decline bench presses can also be a great compound exercise to train your triceps. In turn, this means that decline bench presses can help you build muscle mass, burn calories, and offer other typical exercise benefits.

Whether you don’t enjoy decline bench presses, you don’t have a decline weight bench, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these alternatives to decline bench presses can offer you some or all of the same benefits.

Keep in mind that implementing these alternatives can offer benefits but like any exercise, there is always some risk of injury. Implement a good technique to keep your injury risk low. When in doubt talk to an expert.

1. Decline floor press

A decline weight bench and some type of resistance like a barbell, dumbbells, or resistance bands can be helpful.

That being said you can also create your own decline alternative on the ground and potentially use a heavy compact household object as extra weight at home. To do a decline press on the ground with dumbbells take the following steps:

  1. Lie with your back on the ground, feet flat on the ground so that your lower legs are vertical, with a dumbbell at each side.
  2. Pick up the dumbbells and move into a position where the dumbbells are about shoulder-width apart at about chest height. You should have an overhanded grip which means your palms are facing towards your feet. Your arms should be at an angle of about 45 degrees to your sides.
  3. Push up your butt until you are in one straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
  4. Slowly push up the dumbbells straight in the air until your arms are slightly less than extended.
  5. Lower the dumbbells in a controlled motion into the position of step 3.

Using a bench for this exercise does allow a bigger range of motion and more retracting of your shoulder blades which can lead to reduced injury risk. Doing this exercise on a bench is also generally more comfortable than on the ground.

In any case, a decline floor press can be helpful for training your lower chest muscles if you don’t have a decline weight bench. A potential added benefit is that you engage your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back a bit more too.

You preferably want to use one-handed free weights since the barbell floor press can be awkward without a rack at the right height.

2. Decline chest fly

For this next decline bench press alternative you still preferably have a decline weight bench. You will also need some type of one-handed resistance. To do a decline chest fly with dumbbells on a weight bench take the following steps:

  1. Sit on the decline weight bench and secure your legs under the pads with a dumbbell in each hand. After that lie down.
  2. Keep your arms with the dumbbells slightly less than stretched and pointing up. Your hand palms should face each other and your hands should be as close together as possible.
  3. While keeping your arms slightly less than stretched slowly lower the dumbbells down sideways until your arms are about horizontally to the ground.
  4. Move your arms back to the position in step 2 in a controlled motion.

An actual decline bench is helpful but you could also do a decline chest fly at home without a weight bench by doing a floor variation in a bridge position.

Similar to the chest press, the chest fly is a relatively standard chest exercise. By changing the upward angle in relation to your body you engage your lower chest muscles more compared to the regular chest fly.

The decline chest fly is more of an isolated alternative. This exercise will give your chest muscles a hard time but not your triceps.

3. Cable crossover

For the cable crossover exercise, you will need to attach single-grip handles to each side of a double-pulley cable machine at about shoulder level. After that to do a cable crossover take the following steps:

  1. Grab 1 handle, walk towards the other handle and grab it with the other hand. Stand in the middle between the two cables.
  2. Put one foot a small distance backward and the other foot forward for balance. Slightly tilt your upper body forward while keeping your back straight. Keep your arms slightly less than extended throughout the exercise.
  3. Slowly bring your hands to the center and downward. Instead of stopping when right before your hands touch each other, you let one arm go above the other to go a little further.
  4. Slowly go back to starting position.
  5. When doing multiple repetitions switch between which arm goes above.

Make sure your arms really move from an up to a down position in the exercise. This movement makes it so you engage your lower chest muscles more compared to a more sideways-only movement.

An added benefit of the cable crossover exercise is that your chest muscles can go through a bigger range of motion compared to a regular decline bench press or chest fly. This is generally beneficial for muscle growth.

One potential downside or upside depending on your training goals is that your core muscles will have to work harder compared to a decline bench press or chest fly.

4. Incline pushup

Pushups are a popular bodyweight compound exercise that can be used to train your chest muscles. By changing the angle of a regular pushup you can change what parts of the chest muscle get engaged more. By doing an incline pushup you focus more on your lower chest muscles.

To do one you need an elevated platform to put your hands. Once you have that, to do an incline pushup take the following steps:

  1. Put your hands about shoulder-width apart on the elevated platform. Your arms start stretched.
  2. Move your feet back until your body is in a straight line and your arms are at a 90-degree angle to your body.
  3. Slowly fold your arms at your elbows until your face is close to the platform. Your upper arms should be at an angle of about 45 degrees to your sides. Another way to put it is if someone is looking down at you from above your arms should make an arrow, not a T.
  4. Stretch your arms again until you are back in the position from the second step.

Incline pushups are easier to do than regular pushups since less of your body weight rests on your arms, wrists, and shoulders. The more incline you go, the higher you place your hands, the easier the pushups become.

In some cases, this can be an advantage. Even so, when trying to build a lot of muscle you likely want more resistance. One way to solve this is by adding resistance to your incline pushups for example by wearing a weighted vest or using resistance bands.

How to do an incline pushup

5. Dumbbell pullover

For the dumbbell pullover you preferably want a dumbbell and a weight bench. Similar resistance types and a similar surface to lie on can work too. Once you have these to do a dumbbell pullover take the following steps:

  1. Lie on a weight bench with your head on the end of the bench. Hold a dumbbell on your chest.
  2. Grab one end of the dumbbell with both of your hands with your hand palms pointing upward. Extend your arms upward until they are slightly less than stretched and point them up.
  3. Slowly move back your arms as far as comfortable. Keep your elbows close to your sides, not pointing outward. Your arms stay slightly less than stretched throughout the exercise.
  4. Move your arms back to the position in step 3 in a controlled motion.

If you feel your latissimus dorsi working harder than your lower chest muscles your technique can likely use some improvement.

A big benefit of this decline bench press alternative is that it can be done with a flat bench which is more common in most gyms.

6. Regular bench press

For this exercise, you will need a flat weight bench with a barbell rack. To do a barbell bench press take the following steps:

  1. Load up the barbell with the desired weight.
  2. Lie down with your back on the weight bench and place your hands with an overhanded grip on the barbell at about shoulder width.
  3. Unrack the barbell and keep your arms slightly less than stretched and pointing up.
  4. Slowly lower the barbell to your chest. Your upper arms should be at an angle of about 45 degrees or less to your sides.
  5. Push the barbell back up in the position of step 3 in a controlled motion.

A decline bench can help you focus slightly more on your lower chest muscles but one issue is that not all gyms have this type of weight bench.

While the decline bench can be helpful in certain situations, a regular bench press also still engages your lower chest a nice amount. Besides that, you will also train your tricep and shoulder muscles.

7. Decline machine press

The chest press machine is basically the popular bench press exercise in machine form. Instead of using a barbell and lying down on a weight bench, the weights have a fixed motion and you are sitting down.

Some of these machine chest presses are even made to be an alternative to decline bench presses. The trajectory of your hands is made so you have to push slightly downward which can be helpful for targetting your lower chest muscles slightly more.

Make sure you adjust the seat and handles to the right settings for you personally. Your upper arms should be at about a 45-degree angle to your upper body in starting position. If your shoulders hurt during the motion it may be a sign that the machine settings or your technique are suboptimal.

A potential upside or downside of this option is that you have to pay less attention to balance the weights. This can lead to more focus on training your chest and tricep muscles which can in turn lead to more and faster muscle gain.

8. Chest dip

The dip exercise mainly helps you train your triceps if you keep your body straight, but also your lower chest if you tilt your upper body forward. You will need dip bars for this compound chest exercise. To do a lower chest dip take the following steps:

  1. Place your hands on the dip bars. Start with your arms in an extended but not locked position. You will likely need to step-ups to get into this position. Your upper body should slightly tilt forward.
  2. Slowly lower your body by bending your elbows until these are at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Raise yourself back up again into starting position in a controlled motion.

By tilting your body you engage your lower chest muscles a bit more but you will also still engage your tricep muscles with this decline bench press alternative.

For most people bodyweight chest dips are already more than challenging enough. Doing weighted dips with dumbbells, a dip belt, a weighted vest, or ankle weights is generally for individuals more experienced with resistance training.

9. Downward cable fly

The standing cable fly looks and is very similar to cable crossovers but your arms don’t go as far to the middle. Similar to cable crossovers, the downward cable fly allows your muscles to be under tension for longer compared to free weights. To do a standing cable fly take the following steps:

  1. Attach single-grip handles to each side of the cable machine at shoulder level.
  2. Grab 1 handle, walk towards the other handle and grab it with the other hand. Stand in the middle between the two cables.
  3. Put one foot a small distance backward and the other foot forward for balance. Slightly tilt your upper body forward while keeping your back straight. Keep your arms slightly less than extended throughout the exercise.
  4. Slowly bring your hands to the center and down until right before they touch each other. Make sure your arms really move from an up to a down position to target your lower chest muscles more.
  5. Go back to starting position in a controlled motion.

If you are not comfortable with crossing your arms as far as during a cable crossover you can stop at a regular cable fly. This will engage similar muscles to a similar extent.

One downside is that your chest muscles will have to work less hard due to the smaller range of motion. Even with that in mind, the downward cable fly is a good decline bench press alternative for isolating your chest muscles.

You can also do the standing cable fly with resistance bands at home if you have a sturdy resistance band anchor at about chest height.

10. Jackhammer pushdown

For the jackhammer pushdown you only need one pulley of a cable machine and a straight bar handle. Once you have these to do a jackhammer pushdown take the following steps:

  1. Set the pulley as high as possible and attach a straight bar handle.
  2. Stand next to the cable machine with your face toward it. Tilt your body slightly forward while keeping your back straight, and grab the straight bar with both of your hands. Your hand palms should face downward. In starting position you want your hands at about shoulder height.
  3. Slowly push down the straight bar until your arms are slightly less than stretched.
  4. Return to the position in step 2 in a controlled motion.

There are not many pieces of fitness equipment that allow you do to do jackhammer pushdowns. One alternative to using a cable machine is a resistance band.

Similar to decline bench presses, jackhammers work your lower chest and tricep muscles.