Incline Smith Machine Press

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

But doing an incline bench on a Smith machine is much easier for beginners compared to free weights. 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 types of 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. Although 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

Compared to free weights, the incline Smith machine press uses fewer stabilizer muscles. This is due to the fact that you don’t have to balance the bar as it moves through space.

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

Incline Smith Machine Press Benefits & Limitations

So far I’ve mentioned how the incline Smith machine press is a good option for beginners getting 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, it takes a bit of time to set up the bench and machine.


  • Requires less balance and coordination
  • Great for beginners
  • 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 you jump into the exercise, it’s very important to properly align the incline bench inside of the Smith machine. Because if the bench is crooked, you could put unnecessary stress on your shoulder joints.

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 down 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 making sure 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 with a grip that is 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 number of 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 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

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 extend their arms all the way.

These mistakes increase momentum, change your body position, and decrease the range of motion. All of which result 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 that 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 great for coordination, functional strength, and muscle growth. Also, the inward movement of the dumbbells at the top works more of the inner chest compared to 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 up in relation to your body.

On these machines, the entire movement path is dictated for you. Just 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 up on a box or bench while doing a standard push-up.

By positioning your body in this way, you change the arm angle similar to 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.

Incline Bench Press vs Flat Bench Press
Build Your Chest

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!

How to Build Chest Muscle

A big chest doesn’t have to be the stuff of mythology and fantasy.  Unless you’ve been dealt a very unlucky hand genetically, you can build a big chest too!  Chances are you simply haven’t structured your training for maximum growth.  In this article you will learn how to build chest muscle with a killer chest workout designed for optimal growth.

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