What is the Incline Dumbbell Press? Tips, technique, benefits and more

The incline dumbbell press is a typical exercise used in a well-balanced intermediate strength training program. It has the benefit of building strength and size in the chest, shoulders and triceps – a great compound lift that uses multiple muscle groups but also allows the flexibility to focus on different areas at different intensities.

This makes it a popular choice for men and women interested in muscle building as well as functional physical training.

If you’re looking to strengthen your chest, shoulders, and triceps while maximizing muscle gains in those areas, try adding this weightless bodybuilding exercise to your routine!

How to incline the dumbbell press the right way

An incline bench or adjustable bench, along with a set or two of dumbbells, are all you need to do the incline dumbbell press. Beyond the surface area required for the bench, you don’t need much to perform this exercise.

To do the incline dumbbell press:

  • Lie on a bench and hold a dumbbell in each hand, arms straight at your sides and palms down.
  • Keeping your core engaged, press both arms up into your chest as you exhale.
  • Your wrists should be straight (don’t let them “arm” backwards).
  • At the top of the movement, the dumbbells should almost touch each other and your arms should form a 90 degree angle with your torso.
  • After lifting the dumbbells off your chest, slowly lower them back up your chest as you inhale. As you lower the dumbbells, keep your elbows at about a 45 degree angle to your torso. Don’t let your elbows extend out to the sides, pointing toward the side of the room. Instead, keep them pointed at the ground.
  • 1-3 sets of 8-12 reps are ideal. Start with one set and work up to two or three sets as you get stronger.
  • When you have completed one set, safely exit the exercise by sitting down and placing the dumbbells on your knees before standing up. Avoid dropping dumbbells while lying on an incline bench.

Benefits of the Incline Dumbbell Press

Excellent for increasing muscle mass and strength

The incline dumbbell press trains your chest and front deltoids in a stable position and through a wide range of motion. This is a fantastic muscle building formula! Your triceps are also used to move objects.

Strengthens the chest

The incline dumbbell press targets your upper chest muscles more effectively than flat workouts. Incorporating incline presses into your routine can help build your entire chest muscle.

Maintains muscle balance

The incline dumbbell press can be used to detect and correct side-to-side muscle imbalances because you are using dumbbells. Let your weaker side take the lead and your stronger side will soon catch up to you.

It is suitable for the shoulders

Many people think that incline pressing is less taxing on their shoulders than flat barbell or bench pressing.

Tips and techniques for the incline press with dumbbells

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  • Research shows that an angle of 30 to 45 degrees will best engage your upper chest. If you perform a bench press with an incline of 90 degrees, the main emphasis will be on your shoulders.
  • Doing a chest press with a flat bench results in a 0 degree incline and emphasizes your central chest.
  • A 45 degree incline will engage your upper chest muscles, but also involves your deltoids.
  • Select lighter dumbbells than you would use for a flat barbell bench press and start light while lifting a barbell bench press.
  • If you’re unsure of the right weight, start light and work your way up until you feel challenged, but can still do a full set using the proper form.

Common mistakes to avoid

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1) Wrong angle

Although you may feel tension on your upper chest from a 45 degree incline, your shoulders will do just as much lifting. 30 degrees is the best angle to focus on your upper chest because it maximizes clavicular head activation.

2) Too much wrist flexion

This is dangerous for your wrists and can cause injury. The wrists should be straight and parallel to the forearms. Bending them backwards when standing up puts them under unnecessary strain.

3) Heavy Dumbbells

Because the incline angle works underutilized chest muscles, you won’t be able to lift as much weight as a flat press. Start with a weight you can handle to help stabilize the movement, then gradually increase the weight.

4) Incorrect form

When you use more weight than you can handle, the weight will be propelled up and down. It may seem like a workout hack, but it fails because the targeted muscles won’t be engaged and the focus will likely shift to the supporting muscles needed to stabilize this fast-paced activity.


If you’re looking for something different and fun to work your chest muscles and don’t have access to a machine that allows for incline presses, using a pair of dumbbells will be the best bet.

Just make sure you’re using proper form, especially when increasing the weight of those individual dumbbells during each set. By incorporating it into your workout routine at least once a week, you will definitely feel a difference in your chest strength.

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Richard V. Johnson