Decline Dumbbell Bench Press Exercise
Decline dumbbell bench press is identical to the incline press with dumbbells, except that you lie on a decline bench, where your legs are higher than your head. By having the bench at this angle, you shift the focus to your lower pectorals (the sternal portion of your chest). To keep your body stable during the exercise, your knees should be at the end of the bench with your lower legs hanging over the end. There should be a support bar to press your feet against for further stability and to keep you from sliding down. In other words, the position is the same as for the barbell press, but it is necessary to lie back while holding the dumbbells with the arms flexed, unless you are being helped by someone who can pass you the weights.
Decline dumbbell presses help build definition in the lower portion of your pectoral, or chest muscles. Using dumbbells also speeds up visible results, and you gain a greater range of motion using dumbbells compared to a barbell. It is an exercise that is not only advanced but should also be done with a spotter when you are training heavy.
Decline Dumbbell Bench Press Technique
STARTING (INITIAL) POSITION: Grab a dumbbell in each hand and lie on a decline bench (about 30 degrees below parallel) with your knees over the far end of the bench. You may need a spotter to help you get the weights into position. Hold the dumbbells even with the top of the bench, with your arms shoulder width apart. Your palms should be oriented toward your feet. The dumbbells should extend straight over your chest at arm’s length.
MOVEMENT (ACTON): Slowly lower the dumbbells under control to your nipple line. Your elbows should point down and flare at 45 to 60 degrees from your sides. Lightly touch your chest, then quickly press the dumbbells straight up and slightly in until your elbows are just short of locked out. Let your elbows extend from your sides for better leverage. Hold, then lower the dumbbells to the starting position. Repeat.
- Main muscles: pectoralis major (lower part), triceps, deltoids (anterior)
- Secondary muscles: pectoralis minor, coracobrachialis, serratus anterior, subscapularis
- Antagonists: latissimus dorsi, biceps, deltoids (posterior)
Decline Dumbbell Bench Press Tips & Tricks
- Make sure that your legs are steady at the top of the bench—you don’t want to slide down the bench.
- Use light weight in the beginning, raising and lowering the dumbbells directly over your lower chest.
- Forcefully press the dumbbells up in an arc (coming toward each other at the top) until your arms are fully extended above your lower chest or upper abs.
- Your breathing should always be out on extension, which means you are blowing the weight away.
- Don’t bounce the dumbbells at the bottom of the movement.
- Flare your elbows out as the bar is lowered to maximize pectoral isolation.
- It is not advisable to work out intensely for prolonged periods with the head below the level of the heart. This is because the human body is not designed for effort in an inverted posture.
- The bench should never be set at a decline of more than about 35 degrees.
Decline Dumbbell Bench Press Variations
Decline press can be done with a bar, dumbbells, a machine, or a Smith machine. You need to analyze the advantages and disadvantages of each version to choose the version (or versions) that will work best for you. Ideally, the modification or alternative exercise will still work the same type of motion or movement pattern (pressing movement) but in a slightly different manner. This will ensure that your body still gains strength in a certain move, but the exercise is different enough to spur huge gains.
- Hold the dumbbells so that your palms face each other throughout the movement (dumbbell decline bench press with neutral grip).
- As you press the dumbbells up, turn your wrists toward each other so that at the top of the repetition your forearms face in and the dumbbells touch.
- Alternating decline dumbbell bench press. Push just one dumbbell up and slightly toward your head so that when your arm is extended, the dumbbell is above your chin. As you lower the dumbbell back to your chest, repeat the movement with your other arm. Alternate the arm you start with on each set.
Decline Dumbbell Bench Press Substitutes (Replacement Exercises)
If you want to find more exercises for your lower chest, visit our lower chest exercises category.
The decline position of this exercise works the lower chest muscle. Performing the decline press using two dumbbells affords an increased range of motion as the weight is lowered. A barbell stops when it touches the chest, whereas dumbbells can be lowered farther for additional stretch at the bottom of the lift. The second advantage of using dumbbells instead of a bar is that they reduce the tendency of stronger muscle groups to compensate for weaker ones.
You may not realize it, but the angle of a decline bench decreases the distance you have to push the weight up. Because of this, you’ll discover your chest muscles are much stronger lying in this position, so choose dumbbells that are between 10 and 20 percent heavier than you use when doing a standard chest press.
Because of the awkward position of your body on the decline bench, this exercise can be difficult and dangerous to perform for a beginner. If you do decide to perform this exercise, be sure to have a spotter.