The aim of the current study was to investigate the effects of horizontal and incline bench press as well as the combination of both exercises on neuromuscular adaptation in untrained young men. Forty-seven untrained men were randomly assigned to one of the three groups: 1) a horizontal bench press group (n= 15), 2) an incline bench press group (n= 15), and 3) a combination (horizontal + incline) group (n= 17). Training was conducted once a week for eight weeks, with equalized number of sets among groups. Muscle thickness, isometric strength and electromyography (EMG) amplitude of the pectoralis major were measured one week before and after the training period. There was no difference between groups for the change in horizontal bench press isometric strength (~ 10 kg increase, p=0.776) or incline bench press isometric strength (~ 11 kg increase, p=0.333). Changes in muscle thickness differed only in one of the three sites. The changes in the second intercostal space of the pectoralis major was greatest in the incline pressure group compared with the horizontal [mean difference (95% CI) of 0.62 (0.23, 1.0) cm, p=0.003] and combination groups [mean difference (95% CI) of 0.50 (0.14, 0.86) cm, p=0.008]. The change in EMG amplitude following training differed between groups in only one out of the four sites. The present results indicate that strength and conditioning professionals might consider that horizontal and incline bench press exercises, or a combination of both exercises can render similar change in general strength.
Keywords: Exercise choice; exercise variation; hypertrophy; strength.