What Do Incline Dumbbell Workouts Do?

What Do Incline Dumbbell Workouts Do?

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An inclined bench and dumbbells can add a challenge to your workouts.

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Switching up your workout is an effective way to keep your muscles from adapting to exercises and your workouts fresh. An effective variation that can add challenge to your workout regimen is to work on an incline with dumbbells. Both the incline angle and the dumbbells present specific obstacles by isolating the biceps or the upper pectorals, depending on which exercises you choose to perform. The incline also forces your right and left side to work independently, which provides an challenge to each exercise.


Certain dumbbell exercises on an incline maximizes isolation of a certain muscle group, forcing it to work on its own. Isolating a single muscle helps increase intramuscular coordination, recruiting more muscle fibers and motor units to do this. The more motor units that fire within a single muscle, the stronger the movement will be and the more densely developed the muscle will become.

Dumbbell Benefits

One of the key benefits of working with dumbbells is the element of instability. Dumbbells allow the arms to move independently, so more muscles are recruited to maintain stability and to keep an even movement between both arms. Working with dumbbells can also help improve “weak-side” training when one arm is stronger than the other. Incline presses and biceps curls with dumbbells ensure that your weaker side continues to pull its own weight to develop matching strength levels.

Incline Biceps Curl

Using an incline bench with dumbbells for biceps curls changes the starting position of your arms. Your arms normally rest straight down by your sides when doing curls in a standing or upright sitting position. Starting on an incline naturally draws your arms further back behind your body, isolating the biceps completely. Additionally, the incline position holds the rest of the body completely steady and doesn't allow for any other muscle groups to help “cheat” the weight up during the curl. When performing biceps curls on an incline with dumbbells, curling straight forward in line with the body targets the long head at the outside of the biceps. Angling the arms outwards slightly will target the short head at the inside of the arm.

Incline Chest Press

Performing dumbbell chest presses on an incline focuses on development of the upper region of the pectoralis major closer to the collar bone. Traditional, flat bench chest presses work more of the center region of the pectoralis major originating from the sternum. Working on an incline creates an angle that shifts the weight-bearing stress toward the clavicular head of the muscle. Setting the incline on the bench between 30 and 40 degrees helps ensure you're targeting the upper pectorals without overstressing the shoulders. Be sure to move the dumbbells above your chest as opposed to above your neck. The inclined angle can have a tendency to draw your arms back toward your head.