The incline dumbbell press is one of, if not the most effective exercise for targeting the upper portion of the chest. This move has been a staple in the chest routines of bodybuilders for many decades.
So, you may be asking, if it's not broke, why try to fix it?
It's not that this upper-chest exercise needs fixing, per se, but there is a way to make a good thing even better. In fact, one simple adjustment is all it takes to turn a good exercise into a muscle-growing great one.
A Minor Tweak for Major Results
The dumbbells don't have to be in a perfect parallel position, but if you turn them so your palms face each other a little more, you'll find that your shoulders and elbows also make the adjustment, allowing you to lower the weights farther on each rep. This gives you a deeper stretch in the upper pecs and helps keep tension on them longer.
As you press back up, you'll also feel an even greater contraction at the top. If you stop just short of lockout and prevent the triceps from taking over, then the tension will stay exactly where you want it to: on the chest muscles.
Weighing the Benefits of a Neutral Grip
When you try this for yourself, you'll likely have to use a slightly lighter weight than normal. Your ego will have to suck it up, though, because your chest won't be familiar with the way you're moving the dumbbells. So, using less resistance will help you grow comfortable with the movement.
Once you grow acquainted with this new grip and start getting stronger, you'll notice your shoulders won't be nearly as involved in the pressing as they were with the traditional version of this exercise. This, along with stopping short of lockout, makes the neutral-grip incline press more of an isolation exercise, which gives you better chest activation during the movement.
Applying This to Your Chest-Training Program
If you're looking for a chest exercise that works well for your warm-up and working sets alike, try this version of the incline dumbbell press. For your working sets, begin with a set of 12 reps, followed by 10 reps, 8 reps, and finally 6 reps. Add weight as the reps decrease.
You can also use this exercise if you are looking to build up your strength on the flat bench press or incline barbell bench press. Use the lowest incline on the adjustable bench and perform 3-4 sets of 5-8 reps with heavy weight while maintaining good form. The strength you'll gain from this exercise will transfer to whichever version of the barbell press you're looking to improve.