Smith Machine Incline Bench Press is one of the best exercises for targeting the upper chest (Pectoralis Major, Clavicular) and front deltoid. The Smith Machine also allows you to lift more weight because there is no weight in the bar (it's counter weighted) and instead of worrying about dropping the weights on your chest, you can just twist the bar to lock it off when your muscles give way. Additionally, if you are the type of person who only uses free weights, adding the Smith Machine exercises may be exactly what you need to get your body through a plateau.
Basic Chest Physiology
The chest is a major muscle which consists of the pectoralis major and minor. Other names for this muscle group include: Chest, Pecs, Pectoralis Major, Pectoralis Minor, Pecs. For bodybuilding purposes the chest can be divided into 5 areas of concentration:
- Upper Chest
- Middle Chest
- Lower Chest
- Inner Chest
- Outer Chest
Smith Machine Incline Bench Press Overview
- Main Muscle(s) Worked: Chest; Pectoralis Major, Clavicular
- Other Muscles Worked: Shoulders, Triceps
- Equipment: Smith Machine, Incline Bench
- Mechanics Type: Compound (An exercise that involves two or more joint movements).
- Force: Push (Movement away from center of body during the concentric contraction of the target muscle).
- Utility: Basic (A principal exercise that can place greater absolute intensity on muscles exercised relative to auxiliary exercises. Basic exercises tend to be gravity dependent, have an inclusion or shift of resistance through multiple muscle group throughout the range of motion (e.g. bench press: front deltoid to pectoralis major to triceps) and have a natural transfer of torsion force to compression force (e.g., lockout on squat, bench press, etc.) or tension force (e.g. extension of arm curl) to the bone(s) and joint(s) during full range of motion.
Target Muscles Used for Smith Machine Incline Bench Press
- Pectoralis Major, Clavicular
Synergist Muscles Worked When Performing Smith Machine Incline Bench Press
- Deltoid, Anterior
- Triceps Brachii
Stabilizers Worked When Performing Smith Machine Incline Bench Press
- Biceps Brachii, Short Head
Antagonist Stabilizers Worked When Performing Smith Machine Incline Bench Press
Muscle Fiber Recruitment
When you use a Smith Machine, the machine stabilizes the motion for you throughout the entire range. This makes it easier for you to perform the motion safely, but the problem is that you will not recruit muscle fibers used to stabilize the motion as you would using free weights. As a result, the level of development for both muscle mass and strength will be lower while using the Smith machine than while using free weights.
Caution Needed Performing Smith Machine Incline Bench Press
If you have any shoulder or elbow problems that are bothered by this exercise, be smart and just avoid this exercise. There are plenty of other movements which deliver success without such risk.
Smith Machine Set Up
- Adjust an incline bench to a 30-45 degree angle.
- Position the bench so that when the bar is lowered it is centered and it comes down to the upper chest, approximately 2 inches above the nipples.
- Lay down and test the bench first, before putting any weight on the bar.
- Once the position is right you can load the bar with the desired weight.
How to Properly Perform Smith Machine Incline Bench Press
- Sit on an incline bench adjusted at 30-45 degree angle.
- Plant feet flat on floor, back and butt firmly against the bench.
- Grab the bar with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder width.
- Twist the bar to unlock the bar from the safety hooks.
- Raise your rib cage (doing this takes the lats (back) out of the movement and increases the intensity on the chest muscles.
- Lower the bar to upper chest while inhaling, pause briefly.
- Exhale while driving weight straight up over chest until elbows are almost locked (do NOT lock out)
- Squeeze the chest muscle to get maximum contraction.
- Slowly lower weight back down to upper chest and repeat.
- Once you have finished your set, twist the Smith Machine bar to lock back the weight.
Tips for Performing Smith Machine Incline Bench Press
- Position the bench correctly. When positioning the bench underneath the machine, make sure you have it in the right place. This means it should not only be centered under the Smith Machine side to side, but the bench should be positioned so that the bar comes down to slightly above the middle of the chest for incline presses.
- Use a proper bench angle. No more than 45 degree angle, otherwise too much emphasis is put on the shoulder.
- Use a smooth and controlled motion. This will avoid cheating which in turn will take the emphasis off the chest.
- Begin with a light weight to practice good form and control and properly warm up the shoulder girdle.
- Use a spotter. Although The Smith Machine is a great way to lift heavier weights without the fear of dropping the weight of your chest, it's still useful to use a spotter. A spotter can also help you get those last few reps out!
Other Chest Building Tips
Incline bench press movements are very important for developing a full well rounded chest. As a bodybuilder, incline movements, such as the Smith Machine Incline Press should be performed as one of the first exercises in a chest workout.
Common Errors While Performing Smith Machine Incline Bench Press
- Using too much weight. A common mistake for many novice lifters is lifting too much weight. Make sure to use correct weight that will allow you to use proper form and full range of motion.
- Compromise range of motion. Gripping the bar too wide will limit the range of motion, and reduce the effectiveness of the exercise. It will also put too much pressure on the shoulder joint which can lead to injury.
- Bouncing and jerking weight. This is referred to as cheating and will take the emphasis of the chest.
- Performing the movement too fast. Performing the movement too fast doesn't allow you to fully recruit as many muscle fibers, and diminishes the effectiveness of the exercise.
Variations of the Smith Machine Incline Bench Press
Variations are intended to work different subgroups of muscles, or work the same muscles in slightly different ways. There are plenty of variations to this strength exercise. Some other variations of the Smith Machine Incline Bench Press include:
- Barbell Incline Bench Press. Same movements as detailed above but using a barbell.Barbells and dumbbells recruit additional muscle when training, because you need to stabilize the motion by yourself.
- Dumbbell Incline Bench Press. Same movements as detailed above but with dumbbells. Dumbbell movements, like barbell movements recruit additional muscle when training, because you need to stabilize the motion by yourself. Dumbbell movements are also good to throw into the mix because the arms can work independently of one another, allowing for a deeper stretch at bottom of movement. The deeper stretch also allows for a stronger conytraction and again the recruitment of more muscle fibers. This both can lead to better growth and bigger gains.
- Machine Incline Bench. Same movement as detailed above but using different types of machines.
- Cable Incline Bench Press. Same movement as above but using cables which will allow a deeper stretch at the bottom of movement.
Additional Exercises to Compliment Smith Machine Incline Bench Press
No exercise program should consist of machines alone, and no exercise program should consist of free weights alone. Variety in the type of exercises you incorporate is exactly what you need to develop your body. When creating a workout plan for any body part, including the chest it is good to include both machines and free weights, dumbbells and barbells, and cables, mix up the angles and positioning so that you work the body part from different angles. It is also good to include isolation movements as well as compound movements too! The following are a few suggested exercises that would compliment the Smith Machine Incline Bench Press:
- Decline Dumbbell Fly. Is an isolated dumbbell fly movement that targets the Pectoralis Major, Sternal when properly done will give a full width stretch of chest muscles while concentrating mostly on the center of the chest. It is a great complimentary exercise to the Smith Machine Incline Press because (1) it works the lower part of the chest instead of the upper part; and (2) as a free weight dumbbell exercise the decline dumbbell fly utilizes more muscle stabilizers required to balance and control the weight during exercise execution.
- Barbell Bench Press. The Bench Press is a compound movement that targets the Pectoralis Major, Sternal. The Barbell Bench Press is a great complimentary exercise to the Smith Machine Incline Press because as a free weight exercise it utilizes more muscle stabilizers required to balance and control the weight during exercise execution. Performing it on a flat bench will also work the middle chest (as oppose to the upper chest which the Smith Machine Incline Press targets).
- Dumbbell Pullover. The Dumbbell Pullover is an advanced movement that when performed properly will hit the chest at a different angles and employ muscle fibers not normally recruited standard chest building movements such as the bench press, Pec Deck and flyes. Employing the Dumbbell Pullover as part of your chest workout will aid in the full development of your chest pectorals.
- Dumbbell Bench Press. The Dumbbell Bench Press is an compound movement (An exercise that involves two or more joint movements) exercise that primarily develops the chest (Pectoralis Major). It allows you to work your chest and stabilizer muscles as well. It is a great complimentary exercise to the Smith Machine Incline Press because as a free weight dumbbell exercise it utilizes more muscle stabilizers required to balance and control the weight during exercise execution. Dumbbell movements are also good to throw into the mix because the arms can work independently of one another, allowing for a deeper stretch at bottom of movement. The deeper stretch also allows for a stronger conytraction and again the recruitment of more muscle fibers. This both can lead to better growth and bigger gains.
- Dips. Dips always are a great addiiton to a chest workout. They allow for a great stretch and the recuitment of muscle fibers that are not typically worked during pressing movements.
Smith Machine Incline Bench Press is one of the best controlled movement incline press exercise out there targeting the upper chest. By using the Smith Machine Incline Bench Press with the controlled movement will allow you to concentrate on pushing heavier weight with not having to worry about balance. Incline press should be included in every chest workout. Of importance and worth noting, make sure to train your back just as hard as your chest or injuries could occur.
About Jeff BeharJeff Behar, MS, MBA is a recognized health, fitness and nutrition expert, regularly writing about hot topics in the areas of health, fitness, disease prevention, nutrition, anti aging and alternative medicine. Jeff Behar's work often appears in several of the major health and fitness newsletters, health and fitness magazines, and on major health, and fitness websites. Jeff Behar is also a well sought after personal trainer, motivational speaker and weight loss expert.