In madcow 5x5, it states you can substitute incline press for overhead press, which focuses on the shoulders. Does this mean incline press works shoulders primarily, too? I am confused here, I thought incline press built your chest. Help?

  • 2
    I think this depends on the incline angle; the closer it is to a vertical position, the higher its impact on the shoulders. Sep 6, 2015 at 9:25

2 Answers 2


It does both. The amount of chest involvement depends on the width of your hand placement. Experiment with that and make note of where you feel it in your chest most.

  • Flat bench also works your shoulders, primarily the anterior delts
  • The further inclined you are the more you hit the mid and rear delts as well
  • All barbell bench variations will involve more of your arms than the chest

In fact to really hit the chest muscles well, dumbbells work best because you need to activate the chest to keep the dumbbells over you.

Incline bench can also be a good compromise between overhead and bench press.


Bench press works mostly chest, incline bench works both to the same extend (45 degree angle) and overhead press works mostly shoulders.

You can see the worked muscles in the order of percentage involved here:

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