The incline barbell bench press is one of the best ways to target your upper chest muscles, giving you a well-rounded chest Arnold Schwarzenegger would be proud of.

However, not everyone always has access to an incline bench, barbell or both. 

Whether it's an equipment or space issue, there are incline barbell bench press alternative exercises that will also yield great results. Read on to find the best substitute exercises below!

The upper chest is a muscle in the pectoralis major called the clavicular head. It is also referred to as the upper pecs.

The muscle fibers in the upper chest run at a different angle than the lower chest, so you need to do exercises that specifically targets this muscle for more balanced strength and size. 

If you can't do an incline barbell bench press, don't worry I have you covered. Read on for my 7 best incline barbell bench press alternative exercises.

1. Decline Push-Ups 

Woman Doing Decline Push-Ups Outside

The decline push up is one of the best alternatives exercises around.

It has a very similar movement pattern to the incline barbell bench press and specifically targets your upper chest and shoulder muscles.

One of the best benefits of performing this variation is that it requires no equipment.

So long as you have some kind of elevated platform to place your feet on, you can perform this exercise. 


  • Targets more of the upper chest due to the positioning.
  • More challenging and a great variation for those who are more advanced. 
  • Can easily be done at home, in the park or when you're travelling. 

How to do A Decline Push Up: 

  1. Kneel facing away from an elevated platform (bed, chair, stairs, etc.). 
  2. Place your hands on the floor and lift your feet onto the platform. 
  3. Walk your hands out, so your legs are straight. 
  4. Ensure your wrists are under your elbows and brace your core. 
  5. Slowly lower your chest to your hands in a controlled manner. 
  6. Push upwards, squeezing your chest together. 
  7. Repeat for desired number of reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

This exercise demands a lot of upper body strength. If you’re struggling to perform the decline push up, use a lower elevation for the feet, this makes the movement easier.   

2. Dumbbell Pullovers 

Man Doing Dumbbell Pullovers

If you’re looking to activate your upper pecs and develop your chest without needing a bench, the dumbbell pullover is the ideal alternative for incline barbell bench press.

This incline barbell bench press alternative is a favorite of mine as I can perform it pretty much anywhere in my home or home gym.

All you need is a dumbbell and some floor space, and it gives you a brilliant chest pump and helps develop a well-rounded chest.

However, if you don't have the necessary equipment, you can try out dumbbell pullover alternative exercises for the same effects.


  • Performing this movement is simple and is suitable for most gym-goers regardless of experience levels.
  • Strengthens all upper body muscles.
  • Increases flexibility and improves posture.

How to do A Dumbbell Pullover: 

  1. Lie on the floor with a dumbbell placed behind your head. 
  2. Place your feet flat to the floor and bend your knees to 90-degrees. 
  3. Reach over your head and grab hold of the dumbbell, holding it by one side only (so that it’s vertical). 
  4. Bring it over your chest. 
  5. Slowly lift the dumbbell behind your head, stretching your chest upwards. 
  6. Stop before the weight hits the floor and slowly bring it back to your chest. 
  7. Repeat for desired number of reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

It's important to keep your core engages throughout this movement. Keep braced and don't create a big arch in your lower back.  

3. Incline Chest Press With Bands 

Man Doing Incline Chest Press With Bands At Home

This incline barbell bench press alternative is another exercise you can use to train your upper chest without needing a bench press, making it perfect for your home gym or while you're traveling.  

The incline chest press with bands is performed standing and uses your upper pecs, triceps, shoulders, and core to keep your body in a stable position throughout the movement.  


  • Easy to do at home and a cheap option for those without dumbbells.
  • Resistant bands are great for beginner or those who are rehabbing injuries. 
  • A resistance band places constant tension on the chest muscles throughout the entire movement.

How to do An Incline Chest press with Bands: 

  1. Attach a resistance band to the bottom of a door using the band’s anchor, or stand on the band with your rear foot. 
  2. Stagger your stance and hold the band in both hands. 
  3. Bend your knees slightly and maintain a straight back. 
  4. Use a neutral grip (palms facing each other) and lift your hands to chest height. 
  5. Push your hands away from your body, squeezing your pecs together. 
  6. Slowly reverse the movement and repeat for desired reps. 

Tips From A Trainer!

If you find this a bit easy then add a 2 second pause at the end of the movement for extra chest stimulation. 

4. Incline Dumbbell Flyes 

Man Doing Incline Dumbbell Flyes

The incline dumbbell fly is a simple alternative for incline barbell bench press and can be performed easily using a DIY incline bench such as using your foam roller to support your back.

During this movement, the incline dumbbell fly allows your chest to move through a massive range of motion, stimulating your upper chest's muscle fibers resulting in increased strength and muscle growth.  


  • Effective exercise for increasing strength of the upper chest.
  • Great exercise for aesthetics and creating symmetry and size.
  • Increases flexibility by providing a stretch on the muscles when arms are extended.

How to do An Incline Dumbbell Fly:

  1. Place two dumbbells next to your DIY bench press (e.g., foam roller) on the floor. 
  2. Lie against the DIY bench and pick up the dumbbells. 
  3. Lift the dumbbells above your chest with your hands facing each other. 
  4. Bend your elbows slightly and maintain this bend throughout the movement. 
  5. Open your arms while lowering the dumbbells toward the floor. 
  6. Pause at the bottom and bring them back together while squeezing the chest. 
  7. Repeat for desired number of reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

One common mistake I see with a dumbbell fly is locking out the arms. To protect your joints make sure you keep a slight bend in the elbow. 

5. Underhand Front Raises (for Chest)

Man Doing Underhand Front Raises For Chest

Front raises for upper chest?... Hear me out.  

Usually, front raises are associated with deltoid development; however, with some adjustments, you can turn this exercise into one of the best incline barbell bench press alternative exercises around. 

With this exercise, you don’t require a lot of space, and the only equipment you need is a set of dumbbells, making it ideal for most home gym setups.  


  • Increases flexibility of the shoulders. 
  • Enhances the functionality of the shoulders and help keeps them healthy.
  • Targets your upper chest and increases strength and size. 

How to do An Underhand Front Raise: 

  1. Pick up a pair of dumbbells, stand with feet at shoulder width, and hold the weights with your palms facing forward. 
  2. Slightly bend your elbows and maintain that position throughout the movement. 
  3. Raise your arms to the front simultaneously by arching from your shoulder joint. 
  4. Squeeze your chest at the top of the movement. 
  5. Slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position and repeat the movement to complete your set.

Tips From A Trainer!

This is a very versatile exercise and targets different muscles with different press grips. If you use a supinated grip and focus on squeezing your pecs, you'll activate your upper pecs. If you use a pronated grip, you'll activate your anterior delts.  

6. Reverse Grip Rotational Dumbbell Press 

Man Doing Reverse Grip Rotational Dumbbell Press

The traditional flat dumbbell press can be adjusted to target your upper chest, and it’s one of the easiest ways to do upper chest exercises

Your upper chest activation is drastically increased by reversing your grip, so your palms are supinated (palms facing you). 


  • Reduces momentum and keeps form strict.
  • Strengthens the upper chest.
  • Adds variety to your workout routine and keeps things interesting. 

How to do A Reverse Grip Rotational Dumbbell Press:

  1. Lie on a flat bench holding dumbbells on your chest with a neutral grip. 
  2. Press the dumbbells up and rotate your hands, so your little fingers face each other and squeeze your chest hard. 
  3. Slowly reverse the movement bringing the dumbbells back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat and complete your set.

Tips From A Trainer!

This alternative for incline bench press works your chest through an increased range of motion. You’ll feel your upper chest working most at the top end of the movement.  

7. Incline Swiss Ball Dumbbell Press 

Man Doing Incline Swiss Ball Dumbbell Press Exercise At The Gym

The incline dumbbells press can be done on a bench or if you want the added challenge to your core, I love doing this exercise on the Swiss ball (exercise ball).

The Swiss ball is one of the most versatile pieces of gym equipment around, so it’s probably no surprise you can use it as a makeshift substitute for an incline bench.  

During the incline Swiss ball dumbbell press movement, your upper pecs, triceps, and anterior deltoids are stimulated. 


  • Swiss balls are inexpensive and don’t take up much room.
  • Engages more core strength and stability to help balance yourself on the ball.
  • Uses small stabalizer muscles more effectively than a bench.

How to do An Incline Swiss Ball Dumbbell Press:

  1. Sit on a Swiss ball and hold your dumbbells at shoulder level. 
  2. Slide down the ball until your hips are just off the floor. 
  3. Push the dumbbells upwards and squeeze your chest together. 
  4. Bring the dumbbells down to the starting position with control. 
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps. 

Tips From A Trainer!

Plant your feet firmly on the floor to keep your body stable and always focusing on keeping your core braced.  

Muscles Worked With Incline Barbell Bench Press Alternatives

Pectoralis Major

The pectoralis major is the largest part of the chest, and it needs to be sufficiently stimulated to develop a barrel-like chest. The clavicular head is the upper part of the pectoralis major muscle. By working this muscle regularly, you’ll increase your overall upper body strength and this will improve your other lifts.

Anterior Deltoid

During the incline barbell bench press alternatives, your anterior (front) deltoids are required to create stability in the shoulder joint.[1] By having more stability in your shoulder joint, it’ll carry over into your other pushing exercises, allowing you to lift more weight. 

Triceps Brachii

The triceps make up over 70% of your upper arms, so it’s important they’re worked during your workout.[2] The incline barbell bench press alternative exercises mentioned on this list use your triceps to help stabilize the arms and assist with pressing the dumbbells or weight.

Benefits Of Substitute Exercises Over The Incline Bench Press

Performing these incline bench press alternative exercises has a number of benefits: 

Increased Upper Body Strength 

Training your chest, triceps, and anterior delts helps increase your overall body strength. Having a strong upper body is something most gym-goers aim to achieve.

Alternatives such as the dumbbell pullover require a hell of a lot of strength to perform as it trains your upper chest, triceps, deltoids, core, and even activates your lats.

Promotes Muscular Hypertrophy 

If you train a muscle effectively, it results in muscular hypertrophy, increasing your overall muscle mass to give you a better-looking physique. Increasing your muscle mass helps burn more calories and prevents muscular breakdown as you age.  

Developing your upper chest muscle using alternatives chest exercises like the reverse grip rotational dumbbell press is a brilliant way of stimulating muscle growth in your upper chest.

Easy To Perform At Home 

Most of the incline bench press alternative exercises on this list are simple and don’t require specialist equipment, and this makes them perfect for performing in your home gym. 

The dumbbell pullover is one of the easiest variations to perform, as all you need is a dumbbell and floor space. 

Common Incline Bench Press Questions

What can I use if I don’t have an incline bench? 

If you don’t have an incline bench available in your gym, you have a few options available to you. You can use a foam roller to angle your upper torso to create an incline; while this isn’t perfect, it does give you a different feel to regular flat bench press and engages your upper pecs. Or, you could try one of the incline bench press alternative exercises mentioned on the list above.

Can you use a chair as an incline bench? 

You can, but it’s not the most comfortable piece of equipment to use. I have in the past used wooden bed slats angled against a chair (or bed) to create an incline bench. While it’s not perfect, it does the job. But, always put safety first and test the DIY bench first before you start lifting weight above your head. 

How do you turn a flat bench into an incline? 

If you’ve got an adjustable bench press, then you simply lift the back pad of the bench into a 30-45 degree angle and lock it into position. However, if you’ve got a flat bench, you can place a weight plate under one side of the bench to create an incline. Ensure the bench is stable on the plate before you begin to use it for your incline bench press movement.  

Should I start with an incline or flat bench? 

It depends... if you’re looking to lift more weight, then the flat bench is generally where most people are the strongest. But, if you want to develop your upper chest, I’d recommend focusing on the incline bench as your primary exercise, so I’d suggest starting on the incline. Whichever exercise you choose to start with is dependent on your goals.  


If you’ve been looking to develop your upper chest muscles but you don't have access to an incline barbell bench press, you’ll need to find alternative exercises to perform in your home gym, so you don’t leave your upper chest lagging.  

Try adding some of these bench press alternatives to your next chest workout.




Jo Taylor

Jo Taylor

Hi, I’m Jo. I love sunrise swims, cold water immersion and cats. I have been dedicated to strength training for the past 14 years. I became a qualified Personal Trainer in 2020, and am passionate about helping my clients get stronger. Visit Jo Taylors Website