No one wants to spend hours at the gym and not see results but committing these common incline dumbbell bench press mistakes might just get you there.
The incline dumbbell bench press is a popular gym exercise to grow the chest muscles. As a compound exercise, this dumbbell variation of the bench press has the lifter’s body fixed in an incline position and highlights upper body imbalances.
The change in the angle in the pressing motion alters the stimulus on the body, targeting the upper pecs, triceps, and front delts.
8 Big Incline Dumbbell Bench Press Mistakes
Dr Mike Israetel, PhD in Sport Physiology and cofounder of Renaissance Periodization, breaks down the biggest incline dumbbell bench press mistakes athletes make at the gym and how to avoid them.
1 – Wrong incline
Your aim is mainly to target the upper pecs, so the incline of the bench matters. The higher the incline, the more the upper pecs are involved, until you overshoot and this becomes a delts exercise. Too little incline and the whole pec is activated.
Fix it: feel it out. Experiment with what incline works best for you to activates the upper chest most effectively.
2 – Elbow position
There’s no right way to flare the elbows during the incline dumbbell bench press as long as you feel the upper pecs, and your elbows and shoulders feel comfortable in a position where you can produce a lot of force.
Fix it: use your preferred elbow position, but make it one that targets the upper pecs for you and allows you to produce force with your joints feeling comfortable.
3 – Back arch and shoulder retraction
Your chest and ribcage should be properly expanded throughout this exercise. This means you don’t want a flat or rounded back, as this will tax your arms more than your chest, but also avoid a completely flared chest like you’d have in a powerlifting setup.
Fix it: arch your back, slightly expand your ribs, and depress your scapula a little to get a full extension at the top and a deep stretch at the bottom.
4 – Low range of motion
Not locking the dumbbells at the top of the exercise or bringing the dumbbells all the way down at the bottom is one of the biggest incline dumbbell bench press mistakes you can make. By reducing the range of motion you’re only self-sabotaging.
Fix it: perform this exercise through the full range of motion. You can make sure you’re doing this by gently touching your shoulders with the dumbbells at the bottom of the exercise.
5 – No standard range of motion
You need to standardise your range of motion so you can determine when you’ve reached failure. If all your reps look different it’ll be hard to periodise your training effectively.
Fix it: set yourself a standard and keep your reps the same. This will allow you to properly track your progress.
6 – Uncontrolled eccentric
The descent in the incline dumbbell bench press is equally as important as the ascent. The eccentric part of the movement is a huge stimulus for hypertrophy so controlling it will drive more muscle growth.
Fix it: all reps should stimulate muscle building, so take about a second to bring the dumbbells down.
7 – Hips coming up
Some athletes use a hip drive to maximise the concentric part of the exercise, but ultimately the incline dumbbell bench press is a chest exercise, and as such you shouldn’t get your hips involved.
Fix it: plant your feet properly on the floor and ensure you keep your core engaged but it’s only your chest and arms doing the work.
8 – Choosing the wrong weight
Misusing dumbbell loads can come with big consequences. Because the incline dumbbell bench press is a relatively unstable movement, going too heavy can reduce your body’s ability to produce force because your brain detects this instability.
Fix it: choose a weight that allows you to perform around 10-20 reps.
Want to shake up your training? Try this dumbbell incline bench press variation: