The incline dumbbell press is often a lot more accessible and practical than performing an incline bench press. It also allows for more variation in movements, and is often a lot more comfortable an exercise for a lot of people to perform.
The incline dumbbell press works the chest, shoulders and triceps, with more of a focus on the upper and mid pectorals. The main issues people face with this exercise are a reduced range of motion and loading the shoulders (namely the front head) too much. Luckily some simple adjustments can increase the range of motion, and stretch on the chest muscles, rather than the rep depth being determined by shoulder mobility and biomechanics.
As with every exercise, actually improving you’re the flexibility of the muscle and mobility of the joints will benefit the incline press. Try this upper body stretching routine 2-3 times per week.
How to Incline Dumbbell Press:
- Set the bench to a 15 or 30 degree incline, tilt the seat toward the bench and select an appropriately weighted pair of dumbbells.
- Sit on the bench, before setting the feet flat and outside shoulder width, with the midfoot tucked directly below the knees.
- Lay back, with the dumbbells in a hammer press position (elbows tucked by your sides), before squeezing the shoulders back and down to create a small arch in the back.
- Flare the elbows out until there’s a 45 degree angle at the armpit between the arm and torso, tilt the dumbbells slightly towards each other and press the weights upward.
- Let the dumbbells move toward each other until the hands are directly above the shoulders, and chest is fully contracted.
- Breathe in at the peak, before allowing the dumbbells to move away from each other and down smoothly.
- Touch the dumbbells to the outside of the chest, in line with the nipples, before driving back to the peak.
- Breathe out as you extend the elbows, ensure you are balanced, breathe out and repeat.
- Keep the feet planted, and pushing back into the bench throughout the movement. This locks the hips in place, minimising instability and change of the arch in the back.
- When the dumbbells are on the thighs before your first rep, slide the hands down the handle and grip. This will make the dumbbells tilt inward more naturally, improving the plane of motion with each press.
- Maintain the 45 degree angle at the armpit throughout the press. This will feel like you are too close to the side, but flaring them outward is not an effective press.
- Keep the dumbbells tilted inward throughout the rep, especially at the base of each rep. This means even when you drive hard or are struggling the dumbbells natural move up and inward in a soft arc. No corrections or directional changes makes an effective rep, which allows more weight to be used.
- If you still don’t feel the press in the chest, rotate the pinky fingers toward the legs. Keep the handles at this 45 degree angle with the torso throughout each rep, and bring them down in line with the lower chest with every rep. This will force you to stretch and load the chest throughout the set.
The incline dumbbell press is a great movement for building the chest, and also a good tool for a chest and shoulders session, given the shoulder activation increases in line with the gradient. It is a movement commonly done ineffectively; bouncing off the shoulder joint and without much control. However, if you reduce the weight, follow the information above, and actually aim to feel the stretch and contraction of the muscles, you will get more bang for your buck with this exercise. And even better value if you improve you flexibility and mobility too!