Bench Press Incline Reverse Grip

Start Position
End Position

Starting position:

  1. Grasp two dumbbells with a closed, neutral grip.
  2. Sit up straight at the end of an inclined bench (angled 45 degrees) and rest the dumbbells vertically on your upper thighs.
  3. Lie backward allowing your hip flexors to assist with leveraging the dumbbells as your torso leans back toward the bench.
  4. Position dumbbells with a neutral grip, close to your body and with elbows bent.
  5. Ensure you have a five-point body contact with the bench. This includes the back of the head, the shoulder blades/upper back, glute region/lower back, and both feet.
  6. Push the dumbbells upward. As the dumbbells travel upward, rotate your wrists so they are in a reverse grip position as they reach the top.
  7. Fully extend elbows (without locking elbows).

Downward movement/eccentric phase:

  1. In a controlled fashion, allow the elbows to bend while rotating your wrists back to a neutral position.
  2. Lower the dumbbells until the upper arms reach the level of your torso. Keep your elbows close to your sides.
  3. Maintain the wrists rigid and directly above the elbows throughout the entire movement.
  4. Maintain the five-point body contact throughout the entire movement.

Upward movement/concentric phase:

    1. Push the dumbbells upward. As the dumbbells travel upward, rotate your wrists so they are in a reverse grip position as they reach the top.
    2. Fully extend elbows (without locking elbows).
    3. When your set is complete, sit up and return the dumbbells to a vertical position on your upper thighs and stand up. If the dumbbells are heavier, flex your hips toward your torso before sitting up, touch the dumbbells ends to your upper thighs, and allow the weight of the dumbbells to gradually leverage your body as they push downward on your upper thighs. Use the momentum of the weight to position you upward to a standing position.
Do not lift feet off of the floor or arch back throughout the lift and descent. Do not bounce the dumbbells at the bottom of the movement when proceeding to the next repetition/concentric phase.
Do not hold your breath. Exhale during the concentric/phase phase and inhale during the eccentric/lowering phase.


Exercise Data

  • Primary Muscles: Pectoralis major (upper region)
  • Synergists: Triceps brachii, anterior deltoid, biceps brachii, anconeus, coracobrachialis
  • Stabilizers: Wrist flexors and extensors, rotator cuff muscles, abdominal muscles
  • Type: Strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance
  • Mechanics: Shoulder flexion and elbow extension
  • Equipment: Two dumbbells and an inclined bench
  • Lever: 1st class lever
  • Level: Intermediate to advanced
  • FAQ'S & FACTS ABOUT Bench Press Incline Reverse Grip

    What Is A Dumbbell Reverse Grip Incline Bench Press?

    A reverse grip dumbbell incline bench press is a resistance exercise, which involves the primary horizontal shoulder adductor, the pectoralis major. It is a variation of the incline dumbbell bench press in which the wrists are rotated, switching to a supinated grip as opposed to pronated.

    The concentric portion of the lift is shoulder flexion and elbow extension, which involves the lifting of the weight. The eccentric portion is shoulder extension and elbow flexion, which involves the descent of the weight.

    The purpose of the reverse grip dumbbell incline bench press is to strengthen the upper portion of the pectoralis major while promoting hypertrophy (increases in size) of this muscle.

    Why Do A Dumbbell Reverse Grip Incline Bench Press?

    Reverse grip dumbbell incline bench presses increase the size and strength of the upper (clavicular) and lower (sternocostal) heads of the pectoralis major. The supinated grip and inclined position, however, activates the upper (clavicular) heads. Therefore, the reverse grip dumbbell incline bench press serves to develop the upper chest. The triceps brachii and anterior deltoid are also activated in this movement. The supinated grip also activates the biceps brachii.

    Performing reverse grip incline bench press with dumbbells allows the lifter to extend both elbows independently, resulting in higher muscle fiber activation of the right and left pectoralis major. In addition, dumbbell presses may identify weaknesses of either side, if present.

    Reverse grip bench press with dumbbells also provides an alternative to the barbell that is easier on the shoulders and wrists.

    Reverse grip bench press with dumbbells are easier for the lifter to initiate compared to the barbell reverse grip bench press as the process of unracking the weight is more complex with a barbell.

    The reverse grip bench press serves as a valuable exercise to improve aesthetics of the pectoral muscle.

    Anatomy Of A Dumbbell Reverse Grip Incline Bench Press

    The pectoralis major is a large, fan-shaped muscle that spans across the chest, forming the front portion of the axillary fold (arm pit). It is divided into two parts: clavicular and sternal. Its origin is located at the sternal end of the clavicle, the sternum, rib cartilage (ribs 1-6 [or 7]), and the aponeurosis of the external oblique. The fibers of the pectoralis major converge at the point of insertion located at the greater tubercle of the humerus. The pectoralis major aids in pushing movements as the shoulder adducts the arm against resistance. The supinated grip minimizes horizontal shoulder adduction on the concentric phase and replaces it with shoulder flexion and elbow extension to lift the dumbbells. Shoulder flexion activates the upper fibers of the pectoralis major.1

    The inclined positioning of this exercise induces greater activation of the clavicular head of the pectoralis major.2 Both the reverse grip and inclined position of the bench promote activation of the upper chest.

    The triceps brachii is located on the back of the upper arm, originating at the shoulder and inserting in the elbow joint. It consists of three heads, the long, medial and lateral head. The medial head lies beneath the long and lateral head. The long head origin is located at the infraglenoid tubercle of the scapula (shoulder blade). The original of the lateral head is located at the posterior shaft of the humerus. The medial head origin is located at the radial groove of the posterior humeral shaft.

    The long and lateral heads make up the “horseshoe” portion of the triceps. All three heads merge, sharing insertion into the olecranon process of the ulna, located at the elbow joint.
    The triceps brachii extend the elbow joint.

    The deltoid is a thick, multipennate muscle that forms a curtain around the shoulder. It is the primary muscle involved with arm abduction and the anterior fibers are a primary shoulder flexor. The anterior deltoid is a primary synergist of the pectoralis. When developed, the deltoids give the shoulder their round shape. The origin of the deltoid is located at the insertion of the trapezius, lateral third of the clavicle and the acromion spine of the scapula. Its insertion is located at the deltoid tuberosity of the humerus.

    The biceps brachii consists of two heads, the long head and the short head. The biceps brachii assists with shoulder flexion as a weak shoulder flexor.

    The anconeus is a short, triangular muscle located at the elbow joint. Its origin is located at the lateral epicondyle of the humerus, inserting at the lateral aspect of the olecranon process of the ulna.
    The coracobrachialis is a synergist of the anterior deltoid and pectoralis major, assisting with shoulder flexion. It is a small muscle originating at the coracoid process of the scapula and inserting half way down the shaft of the humerus.

    1. Paton ME, Brown JM. (1994). An electromyographic analysis of functional differentiation in human pectoralis major muscle. J Electromyogr Kineseol. 4(3): 161-9.

    2. Trebs AA, Bradenburg JP, Pitney WA. (2010). An electromyography analysis of 3 muscles surrounding the shoulder joint during the performance of a chest press exercise at several angles. JSCR. 24(7):1925-30.

    Variations Of A Dumbbell Reverse Grip Incline Bench Press

    Reverse grip dumbbell bench press (flat bench), reverse grip barbell incline bench press.

    How To Improve Your Dumbbell Reverse Grip Incline Bench Press

    Strategically alternating reverse grip between incline to flat bench may also complement overall activation of the upper pectoralis major fibers.

    Focus on the concentric portion of the contraction, concentrating on “squeezing” as wrists are rotating as you push the dumbbells upward.

    Emphasis on eccentric contractions, prolonging the eccentric portion of the contraction, may also be incorporated in a training program focused on increasing strength. This should be implemented accordingly and with adequate muscle recovery as eccentric contractions cause substantial damage to muscle tissue.

    In order to improve pushing performance through “sticking points”, partial repetition ranges may be implemented to improve full range of motion of the reverse grip dumbbell incline bench press.

    Overall, varying your bench press angles (e.g. decline bench, incline bench press) and hand positioning (supinated grip, pronated grip) can optimize fiber activation of all portions of the pectoralis major.

    It is important to note that your repetition and set volume will depend on your goals (e.g. strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance). It is also important to allow adequate recovery days in between chest and triceps training to allow muscles to repair.

    Common Mistakes When Doing A Dumbbell Reverse Grip Incline Bench Press

    When initiating the lift to assume the starting position, swinging the dumbbells upward may compromise the biceps tendon if the dumbbells are heavier. When the set is complete, extending the shoulders to lower the dumbbells to the floor can compromise the shoulder joint. Dropping the dumbbells is also inadvisable as it is frowned upon and can damage the dumbbells and the facility. Using the leverage from your hip flexors/upper thighs to get in starting position and to stand up from the lift to re-rack weights is conducive to the safety (and reputation) of the lifter.

    It is very common to observe an individual arching their back in efforts of lifting the weight with more ease. This technique should only be performed by weightlifting professionals and can compromise the safety of lifters.

    Injuries Or Ailments & Their Effects Regarding A Dumbbell Reverse Grip Incline Bench Press

    If proper technique is not adhered to (e.g. arching of the back, dropping the weight quickly instead of controlling the descent on the eccentric portion of the lift), the likelihood of injury increases.

    If proper technique and recovery are not adhered to, impingement syndrome, rotator cuff injuries, biceps tendonitis/biceps tendinosis, pectoralis major tears and glenoid labrum tears may result. It is best to avoid bench press exercises when addressing impingement syndrome/rotator cuff injury unless advised by a physical therapist.