Changing movements can influence what muscles you focus on and how hard the exercise is. Find out whether the decline bench press is easier and if this matters.
In some comparisons, for example an incline vs a flat decline bench press, changing the angle of the exercise makes it so people are generally able to lift more or less weight (flat bench more).
For the decline bench press, whether it is easier or harder in terms of weight you can lift will depend on your personal strength ratio of the different (parts of) your muscles.
One study did not find a significant difference in 6 RM between decline and flat benches. Anecdotes and numbers from workout tracking sites imply that people generally find the decline bench press easier.
In terms of body position, many people will find the decline bench press more awkward. On the flip side, this version could make it easier to keep your shoulder joints in a safe position.
Combined strength muscles worked
By changing the angle of the bench press, you change what parts of what muscles can exert effort in what ratios. In turn, this can influence how easy or how hard it is to move a certain amount of weight.
A clear example of this is the bench press vs shoulder press.
The bench press uses the strong pectoral muscles (and triceps and deltoids) a lot whereas the shoulder press only really works the somewhat weaker deltoids and triceps.
Is a decline bench easier or harder than a flat bench?
That being said, these differences are not always as big. Comparing the decline bench press with the regular bench press is a good example of that.
Decline bench presses will focus more on the lower chest muscles and less on the shoulder muscles than flat (and incline) bench presses.
Whether the decline bench press is easier or harder than the flat bench press will depend on your personal strength differences between the chest and shoulder muscles.
One study compared, among other things, the differences in 6 RM loads between -25-degree, 0-degree, and 25-degree bench presses.
They observed that the average 6 RM load of the decline bench press was slightly lower (129.4 kg) than the average 6 RM load of the flat bench press (132.7 kg) (1). However, the difference was not statistically significantly different.
Another interesting data point is that Strength Level, a website where lifters can enter their lifts, reports that people tend to lift around 7% heavier on the decline bench press (2).
In short, on a population level, the decline bench should be about equally easy or hard as the flat bench press. At the same time, your personal ratios of muscle strength can influence this one way or the other.
Is a decline bench easier than an incline bench press?
Next, whether a decline bench is easier or harder than an incline bench press is a lot more straightforward.
While the exact angles will play a difference, incline bench presses will generally rely more on the weaker deltoid muscles. In turn, decline bench presses tend to be easier than the same weight in incline benches.
The same study from above observed the same thing. More precisely, the average incline bench press 6 RM was 109.2 kg which was statistically significantly less than the average decline bench press 6 RM of 129.4 kg (1).
Similarly, Strength Level reports that its lifters are able to lift around 21.25% more weight on the decline bench press than on the incline bench press (3).
In short, the decline bench press is generally easier than the incline bench press.
Decline bench press positioning
Most people will want to know about the differences in weights you can lift but this is not the only way changing your lifting angle is different.
To do a decline bench press you have to take place on a FID weight bench with your feet anchored behind pads and the rest of your body “hanging” down.
This sounds harder than it is but at the same time, this does make it clear that a decline bench press will be harder in terms of keeping your body in the right position.
The more challenging position is not the end of the world but you do want to keep this detail in mind before going straight to trying to do decline bench presses with as much weight as possible.
Shoulder joint comfort
Another important part of a good strength training routine is trying to avoid injuries. These can slow down your progress by many weeks.
While you can also do them relatively safely, bench presses are known as a resistance training exercise with a relatively high injury rate. Especially in the shoulder joints.
Some people find it easier to keep their upper arms in positions that are safer for their shoulder joints in the decline bench press compared to the flat or incline bench press.
If you really want to avoid shoulder injuries at all costs but still want to work your chest and tricep muscles, you could also consider a few decline bench alternatives.
Is a decline bench better than a flat or incline?
Lifting more weight thanks to adjusting the angle of your bench is not necessarily better (except for a quick ego boost). It just means that the relative strengths of the muscles you work can move more weight.
Similarly, working your muscles in certain ratios is not necessarily better or worse for everyone. Your preference depends on things like your training goals and personal situation.
Since these two details are the main focus of the comparison, it is hard to really say that a decline bench is better or worse than a flat or incline bench in every situation.
Besides that, you should be able to get used to the more awkward body positioning of the decline bench press with some practice.
Lastly, with some technique adjustments and strengthening, most people can do bench presses in a relatively safe way at different angles. That means again, it is hard to call one better than the other for everyone.
In short, whether a decline bench press is better or worse than the flat or incline versions depends on your training goals and personal situation.