#WeekendWorkout - The ‘slightly’ incline dumbbell bench press

#WeekendWorkout -  The ‘slightly’ incline dumbbell bench press

In this instalment of our #WeekendWorkout series, we are going to focus on our favourite exercise to help you build a bigger, stronger chest and give you a nice, short, but effective workout to implement with some of our other favourite chest building exercises.


Chest exercises come in two main forms of exercise which can be used to stress the pectoral muscles in a number of different ways. These can be loosely defined as pressing movements and flying movements and here we will describe how to perform our favourite pressing movement to build strength and size quickly, consistently and in the safest way possible using the ‘slightly’ incline dumbbell bench press.


Although we all love a barbell bench press, dumbbells allow us a bit more freedom of movement across the wrist and through the shoulder so we can create movement patterns that really work with our own structure and mechanics. The use of dumbbells also has a great benefit over barbells as they can be more safely used, especially when training on our own, as there is always a way to bail out when we reach failure.


How to set up for your exercise

Unlike a classic incline press which may have a setup angle of 30-45 degrees, here we are going to set the bench with a much smaller incline than is typical at around 15 degrees. Why? Well the greater the incline the more likely we are to start recruiting our front deltoid into the exercise, not that this is a problem as such, but in this exercise we really want to focus on creating as much tension and focus on the pecs as possible. So why not use a flat bench? Honestly, there won’t be that much difference, however in our experience, the slight incline actually creates a situation which allows a better range of motion on the lift and a slightly safer position for the shoulder which will allow more freedom of movement (meaning more muscle recruitment), less impingement and a reduced risk of injury.


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How to execute your exercise

With our feet flat on the floor, creating a stable base, we want to start the movement with a grip where our thumbs, and in turn the dumbbell handles are almost pointed in towards each other in a straight line, in effect creating an imaginary bar between the hands. With this position we can, and is often beneficial to slightly rotate the wrist inwards, this creates a more comfortable position for many people and is especially useful for those who are prone to elbow pain when pressing. When we press the dumbbells we are looking for a 1-2 second explosive concentric (lifting phase) and a 3 second, controlled, eccentric (lowering phase), with very little pause at the top or bottom of the movement to really maximise the time the muscle is under tension.


The ‘classic’ motion would be to bring the dumbbells together at the top, however for a slightly ‘new school’ approach to the lift, try pressing whilst keeping the hands just outside the line of the shoulders throughout the entire movement, even at the top. This creates stress on the pecs at all times. We can then use bringing the dumbbells together at the top of the movement as a chance to take the load off the pecs, rest and recover when we near fatigue to help squeeze out those few extra reps which is an awesome tool for those who train on their own without a spotter to get those extra forced reps!


At the bottom of the movement we should feel a good stretch throughout the entirety of the pec, from the inner to outer regions, but without going so deep that we are hinging on the shoulder and placing all the stress on the tendons and transferring the load entirely onto the front deltoid which is then likely to fatigue and fail first, thus potentially restricting the amount of work that we can make our pecs perform and not working them to full effect.


As a simple guide, if we were to draw a line through the handles of the dumbbells, then we want this imaginary line to come down to an inch or two away from the chest. This should allow a full active range of motion for the pecs without overloading the shoulders and bringing in too much of the front deltoid.


How many reps should you do

Aim for 8-12 reps initially, for 3-4 sets to get used to the movements then you can work with more load and lower reps to build strength or start to employ a ‘rest-pause’ element to the exercise, squeezing those extra few reps out and really work to stress the muscle and force it to grow.


How to combine this exercise with your workout

Obviously, it makes sense to combine this movement with other angles and flying exercises to attack all regions of the chest and really optimise its growth. However the guiding principles of creating tension throughout the movement, using the correct tempo, having complete control of the weight and focusing on using correct form that works with your own mechanics is something to consider for every exercise you perform. Although there might be ‘textbook’ ways described to perform a certain lift, don’t be afraid to experiment a little with different angles and setups in order to get them to work best for you.


CSN's 30 Minute Pec Blasting Workout

1. Slightly incline Dumbbell bench press: 4 sets, 8-12 repetitions. Two minutes rest between sets.

2A. Machine Chest Press: 3 sets, 8-12 repetitions, superset with…

2B. Dips: As many reps as possible. Two minutes rest between sets.

3A. Cable Fly: 3 sets, 12-15 repetitions, superset with …

3B. Push ups: As many reps as possible. Two minutes rest between sets.


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