Muscles Targeted: The incline dumbbell bench press targets the upper portion of the chest as the primary muscle group involved and also targets the deltoids and triceps as secondary muscles. The great thing about using the dumbbells is the extra range of motion and stretch you can achieve in your pecs when you lower the weight down to the bottom position. If you’re using a barbell versus dumbbells, it will hit your chest and limit the amount of stretch you can achieve. The reason why this exercise targets the upper chest region is because of the position of your body on the incline bench. Since you are in a 45 degree position, you will be working more of the upper chest and the front deltoids as you push the weight up to the top. The angle of the bench dictates which area of the chest is targeted. If you adjust the bench down to a flat position, then you will work the middle part of your pecs. If you adjust the bench to a decline position, you will be targeting more of the lower part of the pecs. On most benches, the proper incline setting is at the number two or three notch on the bench, which is usually around a 45 degree angle. Feel free to adjust the bench until you reach a point where you can feel the majority of the stress in your upper pecs. If you feel your shoulders working too hard, the bench is probably too upright and you will need to lower it a little.
Exercise Advice: Begin the exercise by grabbing two dumbbells and positioning yourself on an incline bench. Make sure to start with a very light weight for your warm-up set to get blood into your muscles and to get your chest and shoulders warmed up. Start with the dumbbells resting on your knees and slowly “kick” up one dumbbell with your knee to bring it up to the starting position. Right after lifting up the dumbbell with one knee, “kick” up your other knee to bring the other dumbbell to the starting position as well. This starting kick move takes a little practice, so work on your technique in front of a mirror to get your form down. This move really does come in handy when you’re using very heavy dumbbells, so its important that you learn it since it’s a safe and effective way to get the dumbbells up to the starting position. With both dumbbells up next to your head and your elbows at about 45 degrees, begin the exercise by pressing the dumbbells up all the way to the top. Keep a slight bend in your elbows at the top to keep all the tension on your pecs and to alleviate some of the stress from your elbows. From the top, slowly lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position to complete one full repetition. Make sure to always use strict form and technique when doing this exercise to ensure you get the most out of it and also to avoid any possible injuries. Your back should be flat on the bench with your feet planted firmly on the floor during the entire range of the movement. Also, make sure to keep your wrist position firm and fixed during the exercise to avoid your wrists collapsing in and the dumbbells coming crashing down on your head! A good spotter is also important on the incline dumbbell bench press when you move up to heavier weights since they will be able to assist you to make sure the weight gets up to the top and they can also help if you’re doing forced reps where you go past failure.
Things To Avoid: One of the biggest things you want to avoid when doing the incline dumbbell bench press is to never raise your lower back off the bench when your pressing the weight up. You might see some people in the gym squirming all over the place and arching their backs up off the bench in order to get hundred pound dumbbells up, but this is horrible technique that should always be avoided. They are simply “cheating” the weight up and they are risking potential back injuries. You should also avoid completely locking out your elbows at the top of the exercise. By keeping a slight bend in your elbows, you will place more tension on your upper chest muscles and also relieve some of the stress on your elbows. Always avoid fast and jerky movements which will only lead to possible injuries. Use a slow and controlled tempo throughout the entire range of motion and really “feel” your upper chest muscles working. The angle of the bench is also something to watch out for. If it’s too inclined, you will be working your shoulders too much so make sure the bench is at about a 45 degree angle when doing this exercise. Your wrist position is also a concern since you want to keep them firm and in a fixed position when you’re pushing the weight up and lowering it down. If your wrists are relaxed and moving, you run the risk of the dumbbells collapsing in toward your head. This is especially important when using heavier dumbbells. At the bottom portion of the exercise, you really want to use caution when going too low and getting to much of a stretch since this can lead to overstressing your rotator cuffs and causing future shoulder issues. Only go down low enough, where you feel the most tension on the chest muscles and not the shoulders. Everyone is different, so do a few light reps to see where your comfortable point is and then hit that mark on each repetition.
Reps and Sets: For building overall muscle mass in the upper chest region, focus on a repetition range of 8-12 reps per set. For the incline dumbbell bench press exercise, choose 3 sets and then include 2 other exercises in your chest workout to hit different areas of the pecs. Your overall total sets in your entire chest workout should be in the range of 8-10 since it’s a larger muscle group. Rest periods between each set should be in the range of 1-3 minutes. When doing heavier weight and lower reps, your rest periods should be longer to ensure proper recovery. Only train your chest once per week to avoid any issues with overtraining and fatigue which can occur when doing multiple workouts each week for the same muscle group. Your chest workout should only take you a maximum of 45 minutes (after warming up) to complete. After about 45 minutes, your body’s muscle building hormone levels (testosterone) start to drop, so its a good thing to hit it hard and then get out of the gym so you can let your muscles rest, recover and grow.
Other Exercises To Use: A couple of great exercises to combine with the incline dumbbell bench press in your overall chest workout routine are the Barbell Bench Press and the Decline Dumbbell Press. By combining multiple exercise in your chest workout, you are able to hit the muscle from different angles and use different movements to stimulate the muscle into growth. These three exercises are great because they hit the upper, middle and lower portions of your pecs and really give you overall coverage of the muscle group. You always want to avoid doing the same exercises for each and every workout since your body will get used to them quickly and start to plateau since its not receiving new and different forms of stress. Always change up your exercises, reps, sets and rest periods to shock your muscles to keep them growing and getting stronger.