It takes a variety of angles to develop a well-balanced chest. In addition to doing flat-bench presses and flyes, you also need to do these exercises on an incline bench, as well as a decline bench. To really build up the lower pecs, there is no better exercise than the decline bench press. However, unless you do it regularly, it can be awkward. A better option is the Smith machine decline bench press, which makes the exercise easier to perform so that you can better focus on the lower pecs. Position a decline bench in the middle of a Smith machine; set it at an angle of 30–40 degrees. Lie on the bench and unrack the bar. Slowly lower the bar to your lower chest and press it back up until your arms are fully extended, but your elbows aren’t locked out.
- Alternative: decline bench press, decline dumbbell press
WHEN TO DECLINE: Since the Smith machine decline bench press allows you to use more weight than the flat or incline versions, do it at the start of your chest workouts when you’re the strongest and can load on the most weight. Follow up with flat and/or incline presses, and finish with some single-joint isolation exercises, such as flyes and cable crossovers.
FORM AND FUNCTION: The pectoralis major comprises two major heads. The clavicular head, or upper pecs, starts on the clavicles (collarbones) and attaches to the humerus (upper-arm bone); the sternocostal head, or middle/lower pecs, starts on the sternum and also attaches on the humerus. When the pectoralis major contracts, it moves the upper arm in numerous directions, such as toward the center of the body (adduction), as when you do flyes and presses, and lifts the arm forward (flexion), as during reverse-grip bench presses, and moves the arm down (extension), as during pullovers.