Incline Smith Machine Press

Exercise Explained & Demonstrated by Certified Trainer

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTUpdated: December 22, 2022

The first time you try an incline bench press, it can feel strange because of the different angles. So you might shy away from this exercise.

But an incline bench on a Smith machine is much easier for beginners than free weights. Moreover, even advanced lifters should include this in their workouts from time to time.

In this article, I teach you the benefits of doing the incline Smith machine press. And show you how to do it using proper form in a step-by-step guide and short video.

Incline Smith Machine Press

What Is The Incline Smith Machine Press?

An incline Smith machine press is a variation of the barbell incline bench press where the bar moves on a fixed path. With the guide rails, it takes less balance and coordination compared to free weights.

At the same time, a Smith machine is more like free weights than other machines. So you get the benefits of both free weights and machines.

Incline Smith Machine Press Muscles Worked

As with all bench press movements, the incline Smith machine press is a chest exercise. However, the incline changes the angle of your arms relative to your body in a way that targets your upper chest.

In addition, the pressing movement recruits secondary muscles such as the triceps and anterior (front) deltoids.

Incline Smith Machine Press Muscles Worked

Incline Smith Machine Press vs Free Weights

The incline Smith machine press uses fewer stabilizer muscles than free weights because you don’t have to balance the bar as it moves through space.

By controlling the bar path, the Smith machine puts more load directly on the pectorals. And that’s what makes it great for muscle strength and size gains.

Incline Smith Machine Press Benefits & Limitations

So far, I’ve mentioned how the incline Smith machine press is a good option for beginners to get a feel for incline pressing. And how it can help even advanced lifters bust through plateaus to get new gains.

However, machine exercises are not as good for building functional strength as free weights. Also, setting up the bench and machine takes a bit of time.


  • Requires less balance and coordination
  • Great for beginners
  • It puts more load directly on the pectorals


  • Not the best for functional strength
  • More time to set up

How To Do An Incline Smith Machine Press

Before jumping into the exercise, it’s very important to properly align the incline bench inside the Smith machine. Because if the bench is crooked, you could stress your shoulder joints unnecessarily.

Setting Up The Incline Bench

Start by raising the Smith machine bar high enough to get an incline bench underneath it. Then adjust the bench so the back is at an angle of 30-45o.

Next, I recommend lowering the bar so it’s almost touching the bench. This makes it easier to align the bench in the center of the bar. And to make sure the bench is perpendicular to the bar.

The last step is ensuring the bar comes down to your mid-chest at the bottom of the movement. Move the bench forward or back until the bar hits your chest, as shown below.

Incline Smith Machine Press Setup

Performing The Exercise

Sit on the bench with your butt on the seat, and your back arched slightly. Grab the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width, using the markings to ensure even spacing.

Now rotate the bar as you push up to release the hooks from the safety stops. Your arms should now be fully extended. From this starting position, lower the bar until it lightly touches your chest.

Press the bar back to full arm extension and repeat for the desired reps. At the end of the set, rotate the bar back onto the safety stops.

To recap, here are the step-by-step directions:

  1. Position the bench perpendicular to the bar and center in the Smith machine
  2. Sit on the bench and grab the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width
  3. Push up and rotate the bar to release it from the safety stops
  4. Lower the bar to your chest
  5. Press the bar up until your arms are fully extended
  6. Repeat for the desired number of reps and re-rack the bar

Incline Smith Machine Press Video

For visual learners, it may be easier to watch a demonstration than to read instructions. So here’s a short 46-second video where I show you how to do the incline Smith machine press.

My YouTube channel has dozens of videos showing you how to do a variety of bodybuilding exercises. You’ll learn how to target and build specific muscle groups in 90 seconds or less. Click HERE to subscribe, or click on the button below!

Incline Smith Machine Press Form

With this exercise, the most common mistake is trying to lift too much weight. When this happens, people tend to bounce the bar off their chest, raise their butt off the seat, and don’t fully extend their arms.

These mistakes increase momentum, change your body position, and decrease the range of motion. And in turn, that results in less upper chest activation and less than optimal results.

For maximum effectiveness, move the weight in a smooth and controlled manner. And use as much of the range of motion as possible.

  • Do not bounce the bar off your chest

  • Do not do raise your butt off the seat

  • Do not do partial reps

  • Control the weight through the whole range of motion

  • Maintain proper body position

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Incline Smith Machine Press Alternatives

If you don’t have access to a Smith machine, here are some alternative incline bench exercises you can use instead.

Incline Barbell Press

The incline barbell bench press is still a go-to upper chest exercise. While it requires a bit more balance and practice, the overall upper body development is worth it.

If you’re new to this exercise, start really light until you get a feel for it. Then follow the proper form guidelines listed above.

Incline Dumbbell Press

Another great alternative is the incline dumbbell press. This movement actually requires even more stabilization than the barbell because you have to balance two weights at the same time.

But all that balancing is excellent for coordination, functional strength, and muscle growth. Also, the inward movement of the dumbbells at the top works more of the inner chest than barbells.

Plate Loaded Or Machine Incline Press

Some gyms also have cable or plate-loaded machines that target your upper chest. While they come in different forms, the key feature is that your arms are angled slightly upward in relation to your body.

On these machines, the entire movement path is dictated for you. Make sure you adjust the seat to a comfortable height and practice good form.

Feet Elevated Push-ups

Last but not least, if you are limited on gym equipment, you can replicate an incline press with a push-up variation. For this exercise, put your feet on a box or bench while doing a standard push-up.

By positioning your body this way, you change the arm angle like an incline press. And that’s what targets your upper chest.

Incline Bench Press vs Flat Bench Press

Incline bench movements are ideal for building your upper chest. But if you want to build a complete and proportioned chest, you need some flat bench press exercises too.

Click here to learn more about the body mechanics and benefits of incline bench press vs flat bench press.

With this information, you’re well on your way to building a bigger chest. And if you found this article useful, check out some of the related exercise tutorials below!

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By |December 22, 2022|Workouts|0 Comments
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