How to Incline Dumbbell Press Correctly and Safely

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INTRODUCTION: INCLINE DUMBBELL BENCH PRESS

The Incline Dumbbell Bench Press is one of our favorite bench press exercises because it provides a low-intensity variation to your repertoire.  This exercise has two major benefits over other bench exercises,

1) It utilizes dumbbells which allow for a more natural range of motion of the shoulders and individual training of each arm. This is beneficial for those who have tight shoulders or experience discomfort during a barbell incline bench press.

2) The incline angle changes the way your pressing muscles contract which shifts the burden to your upper chest and shoulder muscles more than a flat bench press.

You will not be able to lift as much weight in this exercise compared to the flat dumbbell bench press.


INCLINE DUMBBELL BENCH PRESS FORM VIDEO

BENEFITS OF THE INCLINE DUMBBELL PRESS

  • Teaches how to maintain a stable shoulder position for everyday movements
  • Allows the shoulders to rotate freely without the restriction of a barbell
  • Strengthens the upper chest and shoulder muscles more than a flat bench press
  • Provides a new variation to the bench press, allowing you to continue strengthening the press pattern while decreasing the risk of overuse injuries

MUSCLES WORKED DURING THE INCLINE DUMBBELL PRESS

  • Upper and Mid Chest
  • Anterior Shoulders
  • Triceps

WHAT’S THE BEST ANGLE FOR THE INCLINE DUMBBELL PRESS?

The lower the Incline, the more the movement resembles the traditional Bench Press, while the higher the Incline, the more it resembles an Overhead Press.

High inclines will train the shoulders and upper pec muscles more, making the movement more difficult. A good place to start is roughly at the halfway mark between the two exercises or  30-45 degrees. 

PERFORMING THE INCLINE DUMBBELL PRESS WITH GOOD TECHNIQUE

  • Grab two dumbbells and position yourself in front of a bench set up at a 30 to 45-degree incline
  • Place the dumbbells on your lower thigh, right above your knees
  • Maintain the dumbbells in this position and sit down on the lower end of the bench
  • The dumbbells should be resting on your knees in a vertical orientation at this point as seen below

 

 

  • Retract and squeeze your scapulae together when laying on the bench. Maintain this retracted position throughout the entire lift

  • Next, using controlled momentum, you are going to lay yourself down while simultaneously bringing the dumbbells to your outer chest
  • Ensure that your scapulae are still retracted
  • Keep your elbows tucked at a 45-degree angle and the dumbbells angled slightly pointing towards your chin

 

 

  • Place your feet flat on the floor, directly under your knees, and point your feet straight or angled out up to 45 degrees
  • Begin the movement by pressing the weight directly up overhead
  • Do not rotate the dumbbells any more than is necessary, and it is unnecessary to make them touch at the top

 

 

  • Reverse the movement by bringing the weight back down until the edge of the dumbbells are in contact with your outer chest
  • When you are finished with your set, use momentum to simultaneously stand back up to a sitting position while bringing the outstretched dumbbells back down to your knees
  • Alternatively, you can simply drop the dumbbells in a controlled manner

COMMON INCLINE DUMBBELL PRESS MISTAKES

BENCHING WITH YOUR ELBOWS FLARED OUT

Do not flare your elbows out to 90 degrees from your body. This position places a lot of strain on you pectoralis tendon as well as your bicep tendon.  If you develop pain on the anterior side of your shoulder when performing this exercise, try tucking your elbows to a 45 degree (or less) angle to your body.

 

 

INTEGRATING THE INCLINE DUMBBELL PRESS INTO YOUR ROUTINE

Want to know how to use this exercise in your workout? Check out The Best Workout Template For Busy Individuals to learn how to integrate it into your training!

INCLINE DUMBBELL PRESS ALTERNATIVES

 


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Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH

Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH

Alex & Brittany Robles are physicians, a NASM CPT, health & fitness experts, and founders of The White Coat Trainer, a site dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy individuals. Their advice has been featured on KevinMD, The Doctor Weighs In, My Fitness Pal, Reader's Digest, Livestrong, and The Active Times. Learn more about them here.

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