Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

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Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

The incline dumbbell press is a great way to stimulate your upper chest muscles. Similar to the incline barbell bench press, incline dumbbell bench press allows a greater range of motion and so is of even greater value in functional terms for sports training purposes. Besides working the upper part of the chest, the secondary muscles involved are the front delts and the triceps. The only difference between this exercise and the incline barbell bench press is that in order to stabilize the dumbbells your body needs to recruit more muscle fibers to keep the weight balanced.

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press Exercise Instructions

STARTING (INITIAL POSITION): Lie back (face up) on an adjustable incline bench set to a 45-degree angle. Hold a pair of dumbbells just outside your shoulders (at chest level) with your palms facing forward (overhand grip).

MOVEMENT (ACTION): Press the dumbbells straight up by contracting your pectorals and extending your arms until your elbows are just short of locked out. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the start position (to your nipple line – at chest level). As you lower the dumbbells, your elbows will flare out to sides. Your hands should stay over your elbows throughout the movement.

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press Exercise

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press Exercise

For more variety, you can rotate your wrists 90 degrees inward as you lift so that your palms are oriented toward each other at the top of the motion (neutral grip). Then you can rotate your wrists back as you lower the weight so that they’re in the starting position again (palms facing forward). In other words, simply rotate the dumbbells during the press so your palms face together at lockout.

You can also start with your palms toward each other (neutral grip), then twist your wrists 90 degrees as you lift
so that the palms are oriented toward your feet at the top.

Variable-Grip Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

Variable-Grip Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press Tips & Tricks

  • Make sure that you raise and lower the weights evenly. Avoid jerking or twisting your body to “muscle” them upwards.
  • Keep your back pressed against the bench, your feet flat on the floor.
  • The path the dumbbells travel when performing this exercise is important. When lowering the dumbbells, be sure the initial movement is out and away from your chest rather than straight down. The dumbbells should not hit your chest at the bottom. They should be even and a couple of inches away from the outside part of your chest. Push the dumbbells through the same path on the way up as on the way down.
  • The lower the dumbbells descend, the more the chest muscle stretches. Lowering the dumbbells too far can cause shoulder injury; it is safer to terminate the descent when the dumbbells reach chest level. You should achieve a maximal but comfortable stretch.
  • Keep your forearms vertical under the weights. They should move perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other.
  • Flare your elbows out wide during descent. Keeping your elbow out will ensure you are using more chest and less triceps.
  • If you are new to this exercise, it is advised that you use a spotter. The spotter assists by spotting your forearms near your wrists.
  • Do not set the angle of the bench too high otherwise the anterior deltoids will be targeted and take much of the emphasis away from the chest.

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press Variations

  • To work more of the middle chest while still emphasizing the upper pectorals, perform incline presses at less than a 45-degree angle.
  • Neutral-grip (Hammer grip) dumbbell incline bench press. To work the pectorals at a slightly different angle, perform this exercise with your palms facing in (neutral position) throughout the set. In this variation the palms of your hand will be facing each other during the entire movement. The neutral-grip position emphasizes the triceps while also reducing strain on the shoulder joints.
Neutral-grip dumbbell incline bench press

Neutral-grip dumbbell incline bench press

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press Substitutes

There are many other pressing exercises to target your upper chest area. Each exercise works the upper pecs and supporting muscles slightly differently. Remember, specificity requires that you choose exercises that reflect your needs and goals. Visit our upper chest exercise database to find those exercises.

Muscles Engaged

  • Main muscles: pectoralis major (clavicular area), triceps, deltoids (anterior)
  • Secondary muscles: deltoids (medial), coracobrachialis, serratus anterior, subscapularis
  • Antagonists: latissimus dorsi, biceps, deltoids (posterior)

Summing Up

Upper Chest Exercises

Upper Chest Exercises

The incline dumbbell bench press in probably the best upper chest exercise although you won’t be able to lift as much weight as with a barbell. This exercise gives you a slightly deeper range of motion than you get with a barbell (thus stimulating greater development), and with your arms working independently, your muscles have to work much harder to stabilize themselves. That independent action allows your shoulder joints to choose their own angles of ascent and descent, which means that fewer shoulder injuries are caused by dumbbells than by barbells.

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