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Is an Incline Dumbbell Press Better Than an Incline Bench Press?

author image Eric Brown
Eric Brown began writing professionally in 1990 and has been a strength and conditioning coach and exercise physiologist for more than 20 years. His published work has appeared in "Powerlifting USA," "Ironsport" and various peer-reviewed journals. Brown has a Bachelor of Science in exercise physiology from the University of Michigan and a Master of Science in kinesiology from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Is an Incline Dumbbell Press Better Than an Incline Bench Press?
Dumbbells at gym. Photo Credit hammett79/iStock/Getty Images

The incline bench press and incline dumbbell press are both exercises for developing the chest (especially the upper chest), shoulders and triceps. Both function in a similar manner, yet give slightly different results. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, but one is not superior to the other. Each is a tool that you should use appropriately to achieve your goals. Consult your physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.

Incline Bench Press

The incline bench press is a basic barbell exercise performed by pressing the bar up in a straight line while lying on your back at an incline of 15 to 60 degrees, with 45 degrees being average. This exercise heavily works the chest, shoulders and triceps and allows you to use a great deal of weight in comparison to dumbbells. You need a spotter when performing this exercise, as the bar gets pressed directly over your face. (The starting position is the upper chest.)

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

The incline dumbbell press works the same muscles as the incline bench press, but allows you to train through a greater range of motion. This can allow a better stretch at the bottom of the repetition. An advantage of dumbbells is that you have to work harder to stabilize the weight, so some of the smaller muscles of the shoulder and chest work a bit harder and develop better. A disadvantage in comparison to the incline bench press is that the dumbbells do not allow you to use as much weight, which means you can not stress the larger muscle fibers quite as heavily.

Using Exercises In Your Program

You do not need to do one or the other, you can perform both exercises. You can focus on one exercise for three or four weeks, then switch, rotating exercises regularly. You can perform both in the same workout, too. If your goal is strength, you should perform the incline bench press first, as you can use more weight on this exercise, training in the five to eight repetition range. You can follow this with dumbbell incline presses performed in the 10 to 12 repetition range. If your goal is to simply build size, you can perform dumbbell inclines first to pre-exhaust your chest followed by the incline bench press.


When performing the incline bench press, you can narrow your grip slightly, which increases the range of motion and the workload on the triceps. You can pause the bar on your chest for two seconds before pushing it to full extension, which causes the muscles responsible for the initial drive off of the chest to work harder. When performing the dumbbell incline press, you can rotate your hands slightly and tuck your elbows in to your sides. This will make it slightly easier on your shoulder joint but you may not be able to use as much weight.

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