Pecs, Triceps, Delts
The incline dumbbell press is a free weight exercise designed to target the chest, shoulders, and triceps, hitting each side of the body independently.
Unlike the more traditional flat bench press, the incline press shifts the focus of the movement to the upper portion of the pectoral muscle groups .(specifically, the clavicular head of the pectoralis major) and the front of the shoulder (specifically, the anterior head of the deltoid). This allows for greater hypertrophy (muscle growth) of the upper chest when the exercise is performed regularly.
The incline dumbbell press is designed to increase strength and size through your chest, so it’s typically included in a well-rounded strength training program. If you split up your weekly workouts by body part, include this chest exercise on your upper body or chest day, after exercises like pushups or the flat bench press.
The dumbbell incline press targets the upper portion of the chest—specifically, the clavicular head of the pectoralis major—an area of the chest that’s almost completely unengaged during other common chest exercises, like the bench press, pushups, and chest fly. The incline press also hits the anterior head of the deltoid muscle of the shoulders—the front part of your shoulder.
When the dumbbell incline press is performed regularly, you’ll develop a more well-balanced chest and shoulder musculature, helping keep the shoulder joint stable and strong.
Functionally, the dumbbell incline press transfers naturally to all types of pushing and pressing motions, like pushing open a heavy door or putting groceries away on elevated shelves.
The dumbbell version of the incline press is especially beneficial for correcting strength imbalances between each side of your body. It’s common for one arm to be stronger than the other, so by using dumbbells to perform the exercise, each arm has to work independently. This prevents one arm from “taking over” to perform the lift, improving strength and stability on both sides of the body.
As long as you have an incline bench or an adjustable bench at your disposal, it’s pretty easy to get started. You won’t need much space beyond the space required for the bench itself.
All you need to get started is an incline bench and a set or two of dumbbells. Set the incline of the bench between 30- to 45-degrees if your bench is adjustable. The bigger the angle, the more the exercise will engage the shoulders. Generally speaking, 30-degrees is the ideal angle for hitting the upper portion of the chest.
You’ll want to select dumbbells that are lighter than you’d use for a flat dumbbell bench press, and also lighter than you’d use when performing a barbell incline press.
- Sit on the bench and lean back, holding a dumbbell in each hand, positioned at your shoulders, elbows bent. Relax your neck against the bench. Keep your feet flat on the floor.
- Brace your core and press both dumbbells straight up over your chest as you exhale. Keep your wrists straight (don’t let them “cock” backward). At the top of the movement, the dumbbells should almost touch each other and your arms should be perpendicular to the floor.
- Reverse the movement and slowly lower the dumbbells back to the top of your chest as you inhale. As you lower the dumbbells, your elbows should come down at a roughly 45-degree angle to your torso.—they shouldn’t splay out to the sides, pointing toward the side of the room.
- Finish your set, then safely exit the exercise by sitting up and placing the dumbbells on your knees before you stand up. Avoid dropping the dumbbells while you’re lying on the incline bench.