How to Do Incline Dumbbell Press: Muscles Worked & Proper Form

Incline Dumbbell Press exercise technique

Muscles Worked in Incline Dumbbell Press

Muscles worked in incline dumbbell press

Primary muscles worked:

Secondary muscles worked:

How to Incline Dumbbell Press

  1. Sit on a bench, and lift a pair of dumbbells up to the starting position.
  2. Press the dumbbells up to straight arms, while exhaling.
  3. Inhale at the top, or while lowering the dumbbells with control back to your shoulders.


The incline dumbbell press is a mixture of the dumbbell chest press and the shoulder press, and both the front deltoids and the upper portions of the chest muscles are trained in this exercise. Thanks to the inclination of the bench, many experience this exercise as easy on their shoulders and that they can get a nice, long range of motion.

You can also do the incline press with a barbell (see incline bench press).

Benefits of the Incline Dumbbell Press

  • Great for building muscle and strength. The incline dumbbell press works your chest and front delts through a long range of motion and in a stable position. That is a great recipe for muscle growth! Also, your triceps get some work as secondary movers.
  • Builds your upper chest. The incline dumbbell press works your upper chest muscles more than flat pressing exercises do. Adding incline presses to your program is therefore an effective way to develop your entire pecs.
  • Prevent muscle imbalance. Since you’re using dumbbells, the incline dumbbell press can be used to find and fix muscle imbalances from side to side. Let your weaker side set the pace, and it will soon catch up to your strong side.
  • Easy on the shoulders. Many find that incline pressing is easier on the shoulders than, for example, flat dumbbell pressing or bench pressing is.

Incline Press with Dumbbells vs. Barbell

Incline pressing with dumbbells vs. barbell.

There are three main differences between using dumbbells compared to a barbell (like in the incline bench press):

  • Dumbbells allow for a personalized range of motion. With barbells, you are fixed into one bar path which may or may not suit your anatomy. With dumbbells, you get another degree of freedom, which makes it easier for you to find a range of motion that suits you. If incline bench pressing feels awkward on your shoulders, try switching the barbell out for dumbbells.
  • Barbells are more stable. Depending on your goal, this can be a pro or a con. Greater stability usually means that you are able to tire out your muscles further before your balance becomes an issue, which is good for building muscle. On the other hand, dumbbells might be stable enough for muscle growth. Additionally, because of their greater instability, you will train shoulder stability and coordination to a greater degree, including working your rotator cuffs more.
  • Finding and fixing muscle imbalances. As previously mentioned in the benefits of incline dumbbell pressing above, the dumbbells will make it easier for you to find and address any side-to-side differences in strength.

All in all, the incline dumbbell press is a great exercise for developing your chest, front delts, and triceps, while simultaneously feeling easier on your shoulders than many other pressing exercises.

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