The incline shoulder press uses free weights to work the muscles on your shoulder, chest and upper arms.
Unlike the flat bench press, this movement shifts the focus of the exercise entirely to the upper portion of your chest and the front part of your shoulder.
This is made possible by the fact that you do it on an exercise bench that has been inclined to specifically target your upper body muscles.
Since it is designed to increase shoulder and chest strength, it is usually included in intermediate strength training programs.
There’s so much to learn about the incline shoulder press but before we get to the nitty-gritty, how about we talk about how to do it first?
For starters, you’ll need two dumbbells for this exercise.
Then, you will find an incline bench or in the alternative, an adjustable one that you can set to an incline of about 30-45 degrees.
The greater the angle of the incline, the more the movement will engage your shoulders.
Once you have assembled everything you need, follow these steps:
- Sit on the inclined bench, and lean back on it.
- Hold the two dumbbells, one in each hand.
- Position your hands at your shoulders.
- Bend your elbows, angling them below your ribs.
- Let your neck relax against the bench, and keep both feet flat on the floor.
- Tighten your core and press the weights over your chest while exhaling. Your wrists\should be straight and not bend backward.
- At the top position, the weights should be almost touching each other and your arms perpendicular to the ground.
- Reverse the movement by slowly lowering the weights to the top of your chest as you breathe in.
- As you are lowering the weights, your elbows should be at a 45-degree angle to your upper body. Don’t let them splay out to the sides.
- Do 8-12 reps per set. You can start with one set and increase the number over time as you develop more strength.
WHAT MUSCLES DOES THE INCLINE SHOULDER PRESS WORK?
The deltoid is the largest muscle on your shoulder, and it is responsible for enabling you to lift your arms up and out to your sides.
It is split into three different muscles: the anterior deltoid, lateral deltoid and posterior deltoid.
The anterior deltoid does most of the heavy lifting when you are doing the incline shoulder press while the other two deltoids only help a little.
As you press the weights overhead, your deltoid contracts and causes movement at your shoulder joint, and your arms go from resting by your sides to being extended towards the ceiling.
The pectoralis major in your chest is divided into two distinct muscles; the clavicular head and the sternal head.
The sternal head is the larger one, but in this exercise it is the clavicular head that does most of the work.
The clavicular head helps bring your arms towards the center of your body as you push the dumbbells over your head.
The triceps brachii muscle is also a primary mover in this exercise.
It is located at the back of your upper arms and it runs from the back of the shoulder to the elbow bone.
During the incline shoulder press, this muscle contracts to help extend your elbow joint and straighten your arms.
BENEFITS OF THE INCLINE SHOULDER PRESS
TARGETS THE UPPER CHEST
Most common chest exercises such as the traditional bench press, chest fly and incline pushups tend to ignore the upper chest, leaving it almost entirely unengaged.
Not the incline shoulder press, though.
This exercise goes out of its way to make sure the pectoralis major in your upper chest is completely engaged as you press the weights overhead.
CORRECTS STRENGTH IMBALANCE
The dumbbell version of this exercise can help correct strength imbalances between the two sides of your body.
It is common for one arm (usually the dominant one) to be stronger than the other.
By using dumbbells to work the target muscles in this exercise, each of your arms will work independently, which prevents your dominant arm from doing all the heavy lifting so that both of your arms get to be engaged.
ALTERNATIVES TO THE INCLINE SHOULDER PRESS
MACHINE SHOULDER PRESS
The machine shoulder press allows you to focus and maintain tension on your shoulder and chest muscles throughout the exercise.
- Position yourself on the shoulder press machine.
- Place your hands on the grips.
- Extend your arms overhead, ensuring you go through the full range.
- In a slow and controlled fashion, take your hands back to the starting position.
- Repeat as many times as you desire.
INCLINE SHOULDER PRESS MISTAKES TO AVOID
USING TOO MUCH WEIGHT
When you are doing the incline shoulder press with dumbbells, you should use relatively lighter weights than you would in most other presses.
This is because this particular press requires that you use each of your arms to lift a dumbbell independently, which requires more strength.
Using lighter weights will ensure you complete your reps with a minimal chance of injury.
BENDING YOUR WRISTS
Bending your wrists backward as you are holding the dumbbells puts a lot of unnecessary strain on your wrists.
Keep your wrists straight at all times so that they are perpendicular to the floor. This will prevent you from hurting your joints.
WRONG ANGLE FOR THE BENCH
The key to getting the most out of the incline shoulder press is setting your bench at 30-45 degrees.
This is the only way you will get to hit more of your pecs and shoulders.
Having learnt everything the incline shoulder press has to offer, there’s little doubt you will add it to your upper body routine.
Just make sure that before you do, you ask your doctor if it is safe for you especially if you have a history of upper body injury or pain.
Also, be sure to maintain the correct form for the best results and stay consistent with it.