What Are the Benefits of a Decline Dumbbell Press?

bench press isolated on white background
Use a decline bench for presses. (Image: sUs_angel/iStock/Getty Images)

Turning the dumbbell bench press upside-down, literally, might be just what you need to kick up your chest routine. The lower portion of your chest gets more stimulation, while working with a dumbbell, as opposed to a barbell, provides balance between the sides of your body. Your shoulders and triceps also benefit from the decline dumbbell press.

How To Decline Press

Before getting into the specifics of the decline dumbbell benefits, understand how to do it properly.

Step 1

Set a weight bench at a 30 percent decline. A greater declination has the potential to be too extreme. If possible, use a decline bench with a leg brace to secure your position.

Step 2

Lie back on the bench kicking the dumbbells back with you or have a spotter hand the weights to you. Bring the dumbbells just outside of your upper chest to start.

Step 3

Press the dumbbells up to almost touch right above your chest. Lower the dumbbells to the start position with control.

The Muscles Trained

The primary chest muscle is the pectoralis major. Although it's just one muscle that fans over your chest, it does have a lower and upper region to develop. If you're looking to build shape in the lower, or sternal region, the decline dumbbell press is your move. For body builders and figure competitors, definition in this lower region gives distinction between your chest and ab muscles.

You'll also get the benefits of shoulder and triceps activation, which are the muscles targeted in most chest press movements.

Change To Your Routine

Bench Press Workout With a Personal Trainer.
If you're stuck in a bench press rut, mix it up. (Image: fotorezekne/iStock/Getty Images)

It's easy to get into a weight-training rut, in which you do the same moves over and over hoping for different results. If you're committed to a flat bench dumbbell or barbell press, but aren't seeing much in terms of strength or size change, the decline dumbbell chest press might be just what you need to challenge your muscles from a different angle and see change.

Use it to supplement your flat-bench presses, or as a substitute for several weeks to add variety.

Function and Balance

Using dumbbells, instead of a bar, allows you to master the move, which can feel aggressive on your shoulders.

Muscular men exercising with weights. He is performing dumbbell bench press for chest muscles.
Dumbbells make both sides of your body work equally hard. (Image: mdphoto16/iStock/Getty Images)

In addition, dumbbells force each side of your pecs, shoulders and triceps to do equal work. When you use a barbell for presses, your stronger side often compensates for the weaker one. With dumbbells, you get more even development in your chest muscles.

Contributes to Form

When pressing heavy weights on a flat bench, some people arch their back to hoist the weight up. The decline press makes this compensatory action less possible due to the angle of the body, possibly saving you back pain or injury.

Who Should Avoid the Decline Press

Novice exercisers should develop strength using an incline or flat bench press to begin. The movement of pressing weight up when you're declined requires mastery of the basic chest press exercise.

Anyone suffering from a shoulder injury, such as tendinitis or impingement, should also avoid the decline press. Discuss other shoulder and chest exercise alternatives with your doctor.

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