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Dumbbell Chest Press Incline Reduction (Incline to Flat to Decline)

By RealJock Staff

This exercise provided courtesy of Billy Polson, founder and co-owner of DIAKADI Body training gym, voted best personal training gym in San Francisco by CitySearch in 2006.

These monster sets of chest presses will work your pecs from top to bottom, and then bottom to top. Use the adjustable incline bench for a circuit of presses, going from incline to flat to decline. On your second set you'll reverse the order, starting at the decline and ending where you first started with incline dumbbell presses.

Muscles Worked
Chest (all levels)

Starting Position
Set an incline bench at 45 degrees above horizontal and sit on it with your back against the bench and a dumbbell in each hand. Engaging your center to prevent your back from arching and extend your arms straight toward the ceiling, with your palms facing your feet and your hands shoulder-width apart. Retract your shoulder blades and keep your chest high and back flat throughout the entire set (see Photo 1).


  1. From the starting position, begin bending your elbows as you lower the weights down toward your chest. Lower the dumbbells until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle and are level with your back; your hands will be beside your chest, with your palms still facing your feet, and your elbows bent at more than a 90-degree angle. Remember to bring your hands down in a vertical line, rather than following the angle of your upper body (see Photo 2).
  2. Reverse direction and press the dumbbells back up to the starting position. Keep your chest engaged at the top of the lift. It is important on all chest presses to keep the flexion in your chest throughout the movement instead of allowing your chest to turn off or rest at top of motion (see Photo 3). Repeat the incline press for the recommended number of reps, and then sit up and lower the back rest of the bench until it is horizontal.
  3. Do the same number of flat bench presses as you did incline presses (see Photos 4 and 5).
  4. After you have completed your chest presses on the flat bench, once again adjust the back rest of the bench until it is slightly to moderately below horizontal (the bench will be less than 45 degrees below horizontal). Repeat the exercise, doing the same number of chest presses in the decline position as you did in the incline and flat position. Again, your arms should travel in a vertical line toward the ceiling, rather than along the angle of your upper body (see Photos 6 and 7).
  5. On your second set of this exercise, reverse the order: Do decline presses to start, followed by flat bench presses, and complete the set with incline presses.
About Billy Polson: Billy Polson is the founder and co-owner of DIAKADI Body training gym, which was voted the best personal training gym in San Francisco by CitySearch in 2006. A competitive swimmer and triathlete in his own right, Polson has over 15 years of experience working as a coach and trainer, and was recently named by Men's Journal Magazine (December 2005) as one of the Top 100 Trainers in America.