Dumbbell Incline Bench Press (Step-by-Step Instructions)

The dumbbell incline bench press is a fantastic upper body strength exercise. The dumbbell is a uniquely powerful implement for upper body strength and shoulder stability.

The incline dumbbell bench press has proved to be a helpful upper body lift for court and field athletes, powerlifters, and general population lifters.

In this guide, I will be going over how to incline dumbbell bench press, coaching points, common mistakes, and alternatives if you happen to need them.

How To Do DB Incline Bench Press

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells
  • Adjustable Bench (Capable of changing angles)

Step-by-Step Instruction

  • Determine the angle for your incline bench. Most programs would refer to a 45-degree angle as ideal for it provides the best chest and shoulder engagement.
  • As you go higher with your angle, you are moving more toward a shoulder press. The flatter the bench gets, you are moving more toward a regular bench press.
  • Grab your dumbbells, sit on the edge of the bench, and sit the dumbbells on your thighs vertically.
  • Take a deep breath, lie flat on your back on the bench, and get your dumbbells in position ready to press.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor.
  • Keep your butt on the bench.
  • Pull your shoulder blades together and keep the back of your head on the bench. You will slightly arch your back. Keep your core tight and keep the shoulder blades pulled back tight.
  • The dumbbells should be slightly angled (representative of the path you are descending with your elbows).
  • Press the dumbbells up.
  • Control the dumbbells down during the eccentric movement and draw the dumbbells in, keeping the elbows at about a 45-degree angle away from the torso.
  • The dumbbells will make contact with your torso right at the nipple line on the chest.
  • Once contact is made, drive the dumbbells back up.
  • When your set is done, do not freely drop the dumbbells without checking your surroundings. You could drop the dumbbell and it might hit a person nearby. Or your could drop your dumbbell and crush your fingers on a dumbbell that was left next to your bench.
  • The best way to finish a set is to bring the dumbbells back to your thighs and stand up with them. Or have a lifting partner take them from you.

Coaching Points

Remember as you move your bench up, the more you are engaging the shoulders and less chest. Be sure your angle matches the goals you’ve set for pressing.

This is a very shoulder-friendly pressing movement. Because the implement is a dumbbell, the range of motion is increased, the shear force on the shoulder is decreased, and the shoulder stabilizing muscles are engaged.

I would highly recommend this movement to any athlete. It provides all the benefits that a pressing movement can offer with minimal risk.

Common Mistakes

  1. Do not let the elbows flare out away from the midline. The shoulders are incredibly vulnerable in these positions and the sheer force placed on the shoulders will lead to injury if the technique is not made a priority.
  2. Remember to finish your sets with awareness so that you and your training partner/fellow gym members stay safe and injury-free.

Muscles Worked

  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Triceps
  • Biceps (Isometric and eccentric contributors)

Dumbbell Incline Bench Press Alternatives

Landmine Single Arm Press

Push one end of your barbell into a corner or stable surface. Load the other end with some weight. I would recommend starting very light at first as you get used to this movement that is most likely new.  Standing in an athletic position, perform single-arm presses with the “landmine”.

Barbell Push-Ups

Set the barbell on the lifting rack at a low setting. Perform push-ups with your bench press grip. This is a great movement for lifters to get some volume with the same implement but now the scapula can freely rotate and is a little more shoulder-friendly.

Of course, if you don’t have a barbell, old-school push-ups are also still a great alternative for any chest exercise.

Med Ball Chest Pass

Stand in an athletic position with a lighter med ball (for most, 10-15 pounds will work well here). Extend the hips and chest pass the ball into the wall. This should be fast and explosive. I think this is also a great warm-up exercise for athletes getting ready for a bench day.

More Info and Links

Looking for some more great supplemental work for your bench day? Head over to our exercise library to find step-by-step exercises to help you reach your athletic potential.


Christian Gangitano has 6 years of experience coaching collegiate sports performance. He coached field and court sport athletes at Longwood University, University of Richmond, and Elon University.

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