Muscles of Iron

Strength, Health, and Might

Larry Scott on Incline Bench Design

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Larry Scott, the first Mr. Olympia winner, released a gem of a book some years ago entitled Loaded Guns. This is a pure bodybuilding book, and, in my opinion, one of the best ever written. Scott’s great work is filled with excellent and unique training tips, and his informative script also packs in a lot of useful advice concerning the proper design of strength equipment.

In Loaded Guns, Scott argued that the upper pecs are best built by performing incline presses on a 25–degree incline bench, rather than on a standard 45–degree unit. According to the former physique champion, performing presses on a steep-angled bench favors the development of the frontal deltoids, but only marginally stimulates development of the upper chest muscles.

Photo 1

wooden home-made incline bench, side view

Here’s a side view of my 25-degree incline bench.

In addition to reducing the bench angle to 25 degrees, Scott emphasized that the bench seat should be parallel to the floor to obtain best results. This configuration, he explained, will allow the lifter to exhibit maximum power without undue strain on their lower back. Scott also suggested that the bench seat should be low enough to facilitate lifting a pair of dumbbells from the floor to the press position.

The vast majority of commercial incline benches are built on a steep 45 or 60–degree angle. Furthermore, the seat of a typical commercial unit is angled 90 degrees relative to the back rest. Thus, most iron athletes are accustomed to these common configurations, and many lifters may not realize the benefits that can be obtained by reducing the bench angle and leveling the seat.

Before I read Scott’s book, I considered it gospel truth that building the upper pecs is best accomplished by performing presses on an incline bench 45 degrees or more. However, after building and using a 25–degree incline bench with a flat seat, I must say that it works better for me than the steeper–angled units I used previously.

Photo 2

wooden home-made incline bench, front view

Here’s a front view of my 25-degree incline bench.

If you perform the incline press, either with a barbell or with a pair of dumbbells, you too may want to try Larry Scott’s recommendations. If you do not have access to a flat–seated bench with a 25–degree back rest, you could have a carpenter make one for you, or, better yet, you could build one yourself. Larry Scott used to sell his own version of the 25–degree incline bench via his website, but I’m not sure if his signature bench is still available. Regardless, you’ll probably get much more satisfaction building your own incline apparatus, and you’ll save a few clams in the process too.

Yours in strength and health,
Robert Drucker