- The best way to set-up is with the DBs on an elevated surface such as a box or bench prior to the set. This will reduce injury risk and fatigue from picking them up from the floor. You can also have spotters put the DBs on your thighs for you.
- Once you're set and in position with the DBs sitting on the lower half of the thighs (closer to the knees), initiate the first phase of the set by kicking the DBs back. Although everyone has their own preferences for how they kick back, I've found it easier to do them one at a time with incline.
- Carefully catch each DB and get it into lockout. If you have a spotter, feel free to get their assistance with this step. Take your time here to stabilize and get the rest of your body rigid and ready for the set.
- Once you have gathered yourself and are ready, begin the second phase of the set by slowly shifting into the eccentric.
- I recommend taking a semi-pronated grip with DB presses to take stress off the shoulders so keep the elbows slightly tucked through the descent. Your chest should stay up, shoulder blades retracted and depressed, low back arched, and feet flat on the floor to provide a stable base.
- Bring the DBs down until your natural mobility reaches its end-point. You should be able to feel this as a deep stretch through the pecs or an inability for the upper arms to extend any further.
- From this position, transition into the concentric, slowly at first and then more powerfully as you ascend out of the deep stretch.
- Press all the way back up until elbow extension. The DBs should end directly over the shoulders and arms should be perpendicular to the floor.
- When the set is over, carefully rotate the DBs to neutral and direct them back to your thighs and then to the floor. If this is a struggle, you can also guide them straight to the floor from chest height, but this is a bit more risky; don't tear a biceps or get kicked out of your gym for making too much noise!
- Shoulder Pain
- Elbow Pain
- Wrist Pain
- Poor Upper Body Stability
- Breast Augmentation
- Neutral Grip Incline DB Press
- Incline Machine Press
- Incline Smith Press
- Incline Push-Ups
- Incline Barbell Press
- Incline Swiss Press
- Incline Banded DB Press
- Incline Alternating DB Press
- Single Arm Incline DB Press
- Up to 4 sets per session
- Up to 8 sets per week
- 8-15 rep range
Applicable Intensity Techniques:
- Supersets (Going from Incline DB Flyes to Incline DB Presses is one of my favorites)
- Load Drop Sets
- Mechanical Drop Sets (Notably, starting with neutral grip then moving to semi-pronated)
- Forced Reps
Knowing how to perform an exercise correctly is powerful.
It allows you to maximize the stimulus, reduce risk of injury and take advantage of subtleties in execution that are impossible to reach for those not so fortunate.
Once you know how a movement should be performed, the next logical step is to understand how to best utilize it in a program.
It's all fine and dandy to wow your gym fam with a set of ass-to-grass squats, but it starts to lose some efficacy when you're performing it after a tabata of sprints...or to try to grow your calves...or if you're recovering from a low back injury.
Nuance is the glue that binds what would otherwise be independent variables within programming. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Your goals, genetics, training history, diet, anthropometrics, strength level, and MUCH more all have effects on not only the exercises you choose but also how YOU should be performing them.
Although Incline DB presses aren't exactly foreign to most gym goers, it still shocks me how regularly I see them being implemented and used incorrectly. Let's bring it back to the basics for a second and touch on some of the good, bad and ugly that we should keep an eye out for:
1) Independent movement of each arm
2) More ROM
3) Easy to bail safely when hitting failure
1) Less stable so less total force output
2) Multiple phases (kick back then actual reps) means greater energy leak
3) Not suitable for low (<8) or ultra-high (>15) rep ranges
Using this information as a guide, we can begin to narrow down our scenarios in which DB presses would be a suitable option...
As a primary horizontal press while prepping for a powerlifting meet? Not ideal—we would need a more specific variation that can be optimized in lower rep ranges
As an accessory movement in a hypertrophy program? Ideal—we can work in moderate rep ranges while building volume-load
As a tool to reinforce the bench press pattern in beginners? Not ideal—the instability would cause more harm than good for trying to teach proper technique that carries over
As a way to work around a shoulder injury? Ideal—being able to adjust the degree of abduction at the shoulder joint allows for pressing in more comfortable positions as compared to the barbell
While I would love nothing more than to present all of the do's and don't's of DB presses in an easy-to-understand chart, the real world is far too dynamic for this to be viable. Having an instinctual feel for how to utilize exercise selection is good enough to get your feet wet, but it will ultimately fail you as the circumstances becomes more and more complex. The only way to develop this unconscious understanding is through being able to evaluate every variations strengths and weaknesses and then weigh that against individual circumstances.
There are generally no perfectly right or fatally wrong answers when it comes to programming. You just want to make sure you're at least in the right ballpark.
Primary Use Case:
- Hypertrophy of the Pecs and Anterior Delts