Chest Training – Incline Dumbbell Press

Incline dumbbell presses are an exceptional exercise for building bench press power and chest muscle size. Using dumbbells for the exercise forces you to stabilize the weight and taxes your muscles to a greater degree. Adding this exercise to your training program will make a difference in your bench pressing power.

Purpose of this Exercise

Incline dumbbell presses exercise your pectoralis major (pecs), emphasizing their upper portion. They also work your anterior deltoids (delts) and triceps.

Using dumbbells for the incline bench press versus a barbell allows you to also train your stabilizer muscles*. Machine exercises provide a guided path for the weight which free weights do not. Additionally, when using a barbell the bar stabilizes the bar laterally. When using dumbbells you must guide the dumbbells straight up and down without this assistance to perform the exercise. This results in greater control and power when performing barbell exercises.

*What are your stabilizer muscles? Stabilizers assist primary muscles in performing the target exercise by helping you maintain proper control to guide the weight along the correct path. Stabilizer muscles the incline dumbbell press are your biceps, latissimus dorsi (lats), and delts(1).

Exercise Technique:

Although similar to the dumbbell press and the incline bench press, incline dumbbell presses may seem awkward at first. Use relatively light dumbbells for this exercise until you can fully control them through the entire range of motion. You will likely need to use a lighter weight than both dumbbell presses and decline dumbbell presses for incline dumbbell presses.

Setup for the Exercise:

  • Adjust your incline bench to an angle approximately between 45 and 60 degrees.

Approximate angle for incline dumbbell presses

  • Lie on the bench resting the dumbbells on your thighs.
  • Center your grip on the dumbbells before starting the exercise. If not centered, the dumbbells may twist out of your grip, reducing the number of reps you can complete.
  • You may use your legs to help lift the weights to the starting position. Raise your leg straight up using the momentum to bring the dumbbell to your chest.
  • Rest the dumbbell across the base of your palm so that when lifting the force of the weight drives down through your wrists and forearms. Allowing the dumbbell to rest higher in your palm will reduce your leverage and place extra strain on your wrists.

Exercise Execution:

  • Begin with the dumbbells in line with each other and the inner edge of the dumbbell touching the upper portion of your pecs.

Starting position for incline dumbbell press

    • To increase stability squeeze your shoulder blades together, and keep your lats tight throughout the exercise.
    • Drive the dumbbells off your chest explosively. Continue pressing them straight up until your elbows are locked out. Keep your shoulders planted on the bench throughout each rep.
    • Concentrate on pressing the dumbbells straight upwards toward the ceiling. Be careful not to let them drift toward your head, feet, or outward.
  • You do not have to bring the dumbbells together allowing them to touch at the top of the exercise. Locking out without bringing the dumbbells together maintains tension on your pecs and triceps, increasing the effectiveness of the exercise.

Locked out position for incline dumbbell press

  • Pause briefly while locked out. Inhale while locked out and then bring the dumbbells back down quickly, but in a smooth and controlled action.
  • Pause again with the dumbbells lightly touching your upper pecs before pressing them back up. Begin exhaling as you press the dumbbells past your sticking point.
  • Select dumbbells with weight that you can control through the full range of motion. If they are too heavy and begin to drift out of the correct path, you may place unnecessary strain on your shoulders.
  • As you tire it may become difficult to press the dumbbells along the correct path. If your spotter needs to assist you with your final repetitions, he must help guide the dumbbells to keep them from drifting out of line. If you cannot maintain proper form as you tire, end the set to prevent the possibility of injury.

Exercise Safety:

  • Make sure you are in adequate health to perform this exercise properly. You should consult your physician before beginning any new fitness program.
  • Use dumbbell weights that you can control using correct lifting technique.
  • Use a spotter who is familiar with the exercise to ensure you continue lifting through the proper range of motion as you become fatigued.

Additional Chest and Tricep Exercises

You may want to check out these powerlifting tips to make even greater improvements to your bench pressing exercises:


1. “How Can One Strengthen Stabilizer Muscles”, “Workout of the Week”. Web, Dec 12, 2010. <>

Comments are closed.