Frustrated with Incline Dumb Bell Press

I have been lifting religiously now for over 9 months. There have been a number of other episodes in my life in which I lifted regularly for a period of months, but this is the longest I have been able to continue without an injury or something else ending it.

For at least the past 4 to 5 months, my incline dumb bell press has not improved at all. I can reliably always press 2 x 80 lbs., but sometimes fail, sometimes succeed with 2 x 85 lbs.

I’ll give some more information below, and would appreciate any advice.

The truly frustrating thing is that I either can do at least 10 reps with 2 x 85 lbs., or fail getting the first rep up. Once both dumb bells get past a certain point, performing another 10+ reps is simple.

The problem seems to be getting both dumb bells from the tops of my thighs / knees to the point the tip of my elbow and shoulder form a straight line (or another way of saying this is the point at which my upper and lower arm are bent at a 90 degree angle). It seems a balance and stability issue, and a weakness issue at certain points of the initial lift. Sometimes one dumb bell or the other will fly out at an angle (painful and frightening with heavy weights), or I succeed with one dumb bell but not the other. Or I simply succeed with both.

I do not have this issue with the dumb bell flat press, or the dumb bell military press. It’s the angle that gets me on that first rep for the incline bench press.

If I have a spotter to help with the first rep, I can use up to 2 x 100 lbs., something I did 5 months ago. I currently do not have a training partner, and cannot reliably get a trusted spotter at my gym.


My training regimen is well-rounded. Chest, shoulders, abs, intense cardio Monday; back, tri’s, bi’s, cardio Tuesday; core training (stability, balance, muscular endurance, abs / obliques with lots of Swiss ball/ small exercise ball/ bosu pad / body weight exercises such as push-ups ) and intense cardio Wednesday; chest, bi’s, cardio Thursday; back, shoulders, tri’s, intense cardio Friday; Legs, abs, cardio Saturday; rest Sunday.

Exercise sessions are between 2-4 hours in length 6 days a week. In virtually every lift and exercise besides incline dumb bell press, I have continued making steady improvement.

On the flat bench using a 45 lb. barbell, I rep 275 lbs x 8 for sets. Military press with a 45 lb. barbell and a spotter, 250 lbs. x 4 for one set. Using a dual axis plate loaded bench press, where shoulder stability is not an issue (see below), I have pressed 445 lb. x 3. I can perform 125-136 consecutive push-ups (resting for a few seconds with back arched at progressively shorter intervals after 90 straight), and 32 straight pull-ups with good form palms-in.

I suffered a right shoulder injury of moderate severity about 15 years ago, and at times feel unhealthy pain in my shoulders during certain lifts. For this reason, I have generally avoided dropping my elbow below the tip of my shoulder blade when performing presses (bench, military, etc.).

Two protein shakes daily, plus a host of other supplements.

Why don’t you just switch to Barbell Incline Press until you have access to a good spotter?


It’s dumbbell.

[quote]brancron wrote:
It’s dumbell.[/quote]

dumbbell

i used to have the same problem, but i figured out a way to lift the dumbells by lifting my thighs to get the weight up.

however you did say that you only do the press from the elbows no lower than your shoulder blades, this is the stronger portion of the lift so when you use weights that you cannot lift in the lower, or weaker portion you might not be able to get the first rep.

The best way to solve this is just to use lighter weights in the lower portion of the lift, remember, it is form that is important, not the amount of weight you can lift.

[quote]jehovasfitness wrote:
brancron wrote:
It’s dumbell.

dumbbell [/quote]

How embarrassing. I post a dumb picture of a bell just to make my point and I spell dumbbell wrong.


.

[quote]Der Candy wrote:
.[/quote]

you’re

jesus, we all make mistakes, but to make a whole poster and misuse “you’re” lol

I lean forward and put the db on my knee and thrust them up together or 1 at a time (I just switch occasionally) while thrusting them up I lay back. This normally gets them into position.

If you are down and have the DBs almost touching your chest and cant move them, then ur doing to much weight. I am weakest in this position so when I want to go heavy I use a spotter or do BB. I know you mentioned you dont go a spotter anymore, but thats my two cents…lower the weight and dont risk injury

[quote]jehovasfitness wrote:
Der Candy wrote:
.

you’re

jesus, we all make mistakes, but to make a whole poster and misuse “you’re” lol [/quote]

I didnt make the poster.

Thanks for the replies! And thanks for the spelling correction. In the future, “dumbbell” always, thanks to T-Nation. I think it was the only typo in my OP, though (?).

The suggestion I liked best was to change my routine a bit by adding a few additional sets to my incline db press workout using lower weights for the bottom/beginning portion of the lift, and focusing on that range of motion for those sets. I’ll see if that helps.

As regards just doing the incline barbell press, I do that lift already (I alternate between the exercises on the two days per week I do chest, one on one day and one on the other). I don’t want to give up on the incline dumbbell press, as it is clearly a weak spot for me, and my focus isn’t simply on bodybuilding but developing greater functional strength as well.

As far as dropping weight for every set goes, I’m already easily able to do at least 12 reps w/ 80 lb db’s, the heaviest weight I can always press the first rep. If I did all my sets using 75 lb db’s or less, I’d have to do 15+ reps per set to work to exhaustion, and that number exceeds the ideal number for anything but training muscular endurance.

stop bitching and keep lifting

Why do you do dumbell presses in the first place?
There are many way of doing them, angle of palms, distance from torso, moving the hands in vertical lines or angled lines or in a curve etc.

My suggestion is that since you are interested in overall strength, you perform the press in a manner that creates same stress from start to finish each rep. Then you wont have this problem.
Doing the top-half of a full press has merits, but if I were doing that I would use a barbell.

One way to press that creates these conditions for me is the way Dave Tate describes when you press narrow with palms facing each other. Which he recommends in one of his benchpress articles.
I like it this way. Its not a chest workout though.

It seems pretty obvious, but make sure you’re really digging those shoulders in… sometimes I’ll miss on the setup because I forget

I’m going to piggyback on this post, because I have some problems with dumbbell (a lot of spell-check programs don’t recognize “dumbbell”, which is annoying, btw), press as well.

Flat dumbbell press is fine, I rock back in one motion and flip my elbows under, and have no problem getting in position on my heavier sets. Granted, I am probably doing some bad stuff to my shoulders/back, but w/e.

On the incline press, I can’t get the same motion because of the limited “rock back”(and I really feel it wrenching my shoulders as well, because the initial “flip” puts me in a poor position until I get that first rep up), and have trouble ever doing any of my high intensity/low rep workouts with this exercise. Even with the spotter, how do you guys get set up for a heavy set? If someone hands me a 100+ lb. dumbbell one one side, I feel like I’m going to be flipping off the side of the bench.

Jesse

[quote]machiajelly wrote:
It seems pretty obvious, but make sure you’re really digging those shoulders in… sometimes I’ll miss on the setup because I forget[/quote]

Again, thanks for the replies (or at least, almost all of them).

Machiajelly, I’m not sure what you mean by “digging your shoulders in.”

Do you mean pulling the shoulder blades back so as to keep most of the stress on your pecs (and off your shoulders), or something else?


Someone else asked why I do dumbbell presses in the first place, and not barbell incline instead. As I’ve said, bodybuilding is not my only goal, and I do barbell incline already (not on the same day I do incline db presses). Keep in mind I lift 2-4 hours daily 6 days a week, and as a general rule try never to repeat the same exercise twice in a week.

The fact incline db is the most difficult lift for me to improve indicates to me it’s highlighting a weakness in my upper body, and therefore is something I need to work hard on improving.

[quote]Tianzi wrote:

Machiajelly, I’m not sure what you mean by “digging your shoulders in.”

Do you mean pulling the shoulder blades back so as to keep most of the stress on your pecs (and off your shoulders), or something else?


Someone else asked why I do dumbbell presses in the first place, and not barbell incline instead. As I’ve said, bodybuilding is not my only goal, and I do barbell incline already (not on the same day I do incline db presses). Keep in mind I lift 2-4 hours daily 6 days a week, and as a general rule try never to repeat the same exercise twice in a week.

The fact incline db is the most difficult lift for me to improve indicates to me it’s highlighting a weakness in my upper body, and therefore is something I need to work hard on improving.

[/quote]

  1. He means tucking your shoulder blades back. When your reach up make sure to slide your shoulders blades tucked back and together. Keep them this way and keep the arch in your back. I find it hard to do with a spotter to give a lift off thou. It allows you to push more weight using your pecs instead of ant. delt. Powerlifters do this as should most ppl who bench press. Practice using just and empty bar on a flat bench. Also try to feel the difference with tucked and untucked not only on ROM but also on the muscle. Do this with an empty barbell and you will know what we are talkin bout.

  2. Why are you training 4 hrs daily? Aren’t you burning out from all this? What ARE your goals or what support you training for?

  3. Upper pecs are a normal weakness (just like calves and rear delts). Don’t sweat it, just put more focus on them

I’ve seen a lot of trainers who can press heavy dumbells because their chest muscles can handle it, but for whatever reason (maybe their arms haven’t caught up yet), have trouble ‘getting them up’.

I’ve seen people use the ‘kick up’ method, which works great most of the time. What I try to do, is more of a rolling motion. Just before I kick 'em up, I partially stand up, then in one motion, sit back down, rolling the dumbells right up into the air with the momentum of my body. Of course, there’s always the chance you’ll throw one off to the side and drop it, but it’s just an adjustment period. Dumbells involve a lot more body mechanics than simply pressing a barbell.

I’ll start my own chest session with Inc DBs every few weeks. Other times, I’ll start with inc BB, or flat, or even Cables. DOn’t get so caught up in the weights you’re lifting as anything other than how strong you are ‘that week’. There are a lot of intangibles (and even some tangibles -lol) that can affect how strong you are on a certain day. If you’re a little weaker, go with it, and bust your ass with a slightly lower weight.

S

[quote]Tianzi wrote:
Do you mean pulling the shoulder blades back so as to keep most of the stress on your pecs (and off your shoulders), or something else?
[/quote]

Yeah, as mentioned, tuck them back - making an effort to really press them against the bench. If you don’t have a solid foundation on that bench and you’re tossing heavy DBs up there, it’s a great way to harm your shoulders.

[quote]The Mighty Stu wrote:
I’ve seen people use the ‘kick up’ method, which works great most of the time. What I try to do, is more of a rolling motion. Just before I kick 'em up, I partially stand up, then in one motion, sit back down, rolling the dumbells right up into the air with the momentum of my body. Of course, there’s always the chance you’ll throw one off to the side and drop it, but it’s just an adjustment period. Dumbells involve a lot more body mechanics than simply pressing a barbell.
[/quote]

The OP never mentioned what angle he’s at… kicking the weight up would probably be really awkward if he’s at 30*.

To be completely honest I experience the exact same problem. To get the weight up I powerclean the Dbs., rest it on my shoulders, then sit down. Probably not the safest way to go about doing this, but it works for me.