The decline bench press can be helpful to focus more on the lower part of your chest. At the same time, there are alternatives you could like more.
By changing the angle of your bench to decline, you focus more on the lower parts of your chest muscles and less on your front deltoids (shoulders).
At the same time, decline bench presses are still a great chest compound exercise that still works your tricep muscles a lot.
That means decline chest presses can offer growth and strength progress in these areas, burn calories, and offer typical exercise benefits.
That being said, some people don’t enjoy the position of decline bench presses, don’t have a decline bench press, or want alternatives for other reasons. For these people and situations, the exercises below could be better choices.
1. Decline floor press
This first decline bench press alternative is for people who want to do a similar movement at home but don’t have the budget or room for a decline bench.
That being said, you still need some resistance like dumbbells, kettlebells, or challenging resistance bands. Take the following steps to do a decline floor press with dumbbells:
- Lie with your back on the ground and pull your shoulder blades back and down. Put your feet flat on the ground at a distance where your lower legs are vertical. Hold one dumbbell in each hand and keep them at about chest height.
- Raise your hips so that your body is in a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
- Push the dumbbells up in a controlled motion until your arms are slightly less than stretched. Keep your upper arms at angles of 45 degrees or less to your sides.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells again so that you are back in the position of step 2.
You typically want to do bench presses with an actual bench. This allows you to go through a bigger range of motion and tends to make it easier to pull your shoulder blades back.
These things can make your chest press more effective and involves a lower injury risk. Additionally, a weight bench is typically more comfortable.
At the same time, decline floor presses can still help you work your (lower) chest and tricep muscles to a nice extent. This makes it a good alternative to decline bench presses for certain situations.
2. Decline chest fly
To do a decline chest fly you still need a good decline weight bench. Additionally, you need some type of one-handed resistance like dumbbells, resistance bands, and kettlebells.
Once you have the required gear, take the following steps to do a decline chest fly:
- Hold one dumbbell in each hand and take place on the decline weight bench with your legs anchored behind the pads. Pull your shoulder blades back and down.
- Push the dumbbells up until your arms are slightly less than stretched and pointing up.
- Slowly move the dumbbells sideways and down as far as comfortable.
- Return the dumbbells back to the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.
The decline chest fly is more of a chest isolation alternative to decline bench presses.
You engage your biceps to a tiny extent to keep your arms stretched but the main focus is on your chest muscles and more specifically the lower part.
If you like the chest isolation aspect but don’t like the feeling of a decline bench, you can also do the chest fly on a regular bench. Keep in mind this does not focus as much on the lower part.
In theory, you could also do a decline chest fly at home on the floor. In practice, your range of motion will be so small that you would likely prefer doing a similar movement with resistance bands.
3. Cable crossover
For the next decline bench press alternative, you need a double-pulley cable machine. With this, take the following steps to do a cable crossover:
- Put the pulleys at about chest height, selected the desired resistance, and attach single-grip handles on each side.
- Grab one handle, walk towards the other handle, and grab it with the other hand. Go to the middle of the two cable pulleys and take a step forward.
- Put one foot slightly forward and one foot slightly backward for balance. Tilt your upper body forward to a small extent while keeping your spine straight. Let your arms follow the resistance of the cables for now and keep them slightly less than stretched throughout the exercise.
- Slowly move your hands to the center and downward. Right before they touch each other, move one hand slightly upward and the other slightly downward so that they can cross each other.
- Move your hands back to the position of step 3 in a controlled motion.
- Let the other hand go up in the next repetition.
If you still want to focus on your lower chest muscles you want to make sure you really do cable crossovers in a way where you move your hands downward in relation to your upper body.
As you can expect, the cable crossover is another exercise that really isolates your chest muscles. To work your triceps you will have to consider one of the other alternatives.
One of the more unique benefits of cable crossovers is that your chest can move past each other. This allows your chest muscles to go through a larger range of motion than a dumbbell chest fly.
A bigger range of motion is generally more effective 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 not a well-known but also an effective bodyweight resistance training exercise that works your chest, tricep, and front deltoid muscles.
By changing the angle of this exercise, you change what part of the chest muscles have to work harder and to what extent you work your front deltoids.
To do incline pushups you need a sturdy elevated surface. Once you have that, take the following steps to do the exercise:
- Put your hands about shoulder-width apart on the elevated platform. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched for now.
- Walk back with your feet until your body is in a straight line from your heels to the top of your head. Keep your shoulders above your hands.
- Slowly lower your body as far as comfortable by folding your arms. Keep your upper arms at angles of 45 degrees or less to your sides. From above, your body should look like an arrow, not a T-shape.
- Push your body back in the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.
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.
For some people, this could be a benefit. That being said, to grow and strengthen muscles you have to pressure them enough.
That means somewhat stronger lifters may need to do incline pushups with extra resistance like a weighted vest to see the desired results.
5. Dumbbell pullover
For this next decline bench press alternative, you preferably have a dumbbell and a flat weight bench. Similar resistance types and surfaces could work too.
Once you have the required gear, take the following steps to do a dumbbell pullover:
- Hold one end of a dumbbell with both of your hands. Lie down at the end of a weight bench so your head is right in front of the edge.
- Move the dumbbell up and extend your arms until they are slightly less than stretched and pointing up.
- Slowly move the dumbbell back and down as far as comfortable. To really make this an alternative to decline bench presses you want to keep your elbows close to the center. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched.
- Raise the dumbbell back to the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.
Some of the previous exercises were already very isolated but dumbbell pullovers take this a step further. With the technique above, you really focus on your lower chest muscles.
If you feel your latissimus dorsi (middle/upper back muscle) working instead, you likely need to move your elbows closer to the center.
The more isolated focus could align more with your aesthetic and athletic performance goals than decline bench presses.
At the same time, you likely want to work your triceps and front deltoids with other exercises too.
6. Regular bench press
To do the next exercise you need a flat weight bench and some type of resistance. Most people prefer using a barbell with a rack.
Take the following steps to do a regular bench press:
- Rack the barbell at a height where the next step can be done, load it with the desired amount of weight, and put a weight bench below the bar.
- Lie down on the weight bench, pull your shoulder blades back and down, and put your hands about shoulder width apart on the barbell. At this point, your arms should be somewhat less than stretched.
- Push the barbell up and move it forward until it is above your chest.
- Lower the barbell as far as comfortable in a controlled motion.
- Slowly push the barbell back into the position of step 3.
One challenge people have with the decline bench press is that not all gyms have this type of equipment available. Additionally, the position of the barbell can be somewhat scary in a decline bench press.
If these things apply to you, you can still consider the regular bench press. This exercise will still work your lower chest a nice amount on top of the tricep and front deltoid engagement.
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 sit down.
In some cases, these machines are built to offer the same downward push angle as decline bench presses. These can be helpful alternatives when you want to work your lower chest and tricep muscles in machine form.
The fixed trajectory makes it so you have to engage your stabilizing muscles to a lesser extent. This could help you focus more on the main muscles of the exercise.
Additionally, the machine form will be less scary than bench pressing heavy weights with a barbell hovering above your head.
One thing to keep in mind is that you want to adjust the machine settings for you personally. Using suboptimal settings can be uncomfortable and can potentially lead to injuries.
Besides that, working your stabilizing muscles can help you avoid injuries. You may also want to consider implementing some of the other compound alternatives to decline bench presses.
8. Chest dip
To do chest dips you want parallel dip bars. These are basically two sturdy horizontal bars with enough space below to do the exercise.
Once you have these, take the following steps to do a chest dip:
- Put your hands on the dip bars with your arms slightly less than stretched and your body weight resting on your arms. You may need some type of step to get into this position.
- Tilt your upper body slightly forward.
- Slowly lower your body by folding your arms until your elbows are at 90-degree angles.
- Raise your body in a controlled motion by stretching your arms again.
You can basically describe chest dips as very steep decline bench presses. That means you will focus more on your tricep and lower chest muscles and less on the rest of the chest muscles.
One potential downside of chest dips is that the bodyweight version is already relatively challenging. People who are not that strong (yet) may need to start with the assisted version.
On the flip side, more advanced lifters may need to do weighted dips with dumbbells, a dip belt, a weighted vest, or ankle weights to see the results they desire.
9. Downward cable fly
You preferably have a double-pulley cable machine to do the downward cable fly. However, you could also do the standing cable fly with resistance bands at home with a sturdy resistance band anchor at about chest height.
Take the following steps to do a downward cable fly:
- Set the pulleys to about chest height, select the desired weight, and attach single-grip handles.
- Grab one handle, walk towards the other handle, and grab it with the other hand. Move to the middle of the two pulleys and take a step forward.
- Put one foot slightly forward and one foot slightly backward for balance. Tilt your upper body slightly forward but keep your spine straight. Additionally, keep your arms slightly less than stretched throughout the exercise.
- Slowly move your hands to the center and down until they just don’t touch each other. To really make this movement an alternative to decline bench presses you want to focus on moving your arms down and not just sideways.
- Return your hands back to the position of step 3 in a controlled motion.
The cable chest fly looks, sounds, and is very similar to cable crossovers but you don’t cross your arms. Some people will find this more comfortable but keep in mind that your range of motion is slightly smaller too.
When it comes to the muscles they work they are still similar. That means the downward cable fly will be more focused on your lower chest and less on your tricep muscles than decline bench presses.
10. Jackhammer pushdown
To do this next decline bench alternative you only need a cable machine with one pulley and a straight bar handle. A similar setup with resistance bands works too.
Once you have the required gear, take the following steps to do a jackhammer pushdown:
- Set the cable pulley to a high setting, select the desired weight, and attach a straight bar handle.
- Stand right in front of the cable machine with your face toward it. Grab the straight bar handle with an overhanded grip, pull it down, and point your arms down.
- Let the bar go up to about chest height in a controlled motion.
- Slowly push the bar down until your arms are slightly less than stretched.
You can describe jackhammer pushdowns as very steep decline bench presses with a cable machine. This alternative will focus more on your tricep and lower chest muscles than decline bench presses.
On the flip side, the other parts of your chest muscles will not have to work as hard. This can be an upside or downside depending on your training goals and personal preferences.