A new way to press

A new way to press

As per Sara’s request, today’s exercise of the week is reverse grip (or underhand) incline dumbbell chest presses. Aside from being a mouthful to say, it is a great exercise to change up your regular presses and feel a great squeeze in your upper chest. You can also use an underhand grip for barbell presses – whether on a flat bench or incline. But I wanted to talk specifically about my favourite variation, as it is the least stressful on your wrist and shoulder joints.

When my trainer first gave me this exercise, I found it awkward and didn’t like the fact I couldn’t press as much as usual. But after some practice I grew to love it, purely because of the better squeeze I feel in my chest – it almost feels as though I’m performing a dumbbell flye rather than a press.

Purpose: By pressing on an incline, you will be working your upper pectoral muscles as opposed to the mid and lower pecs which flat presses target. By holding the dumbbells with an underhand grip, you have a better range of motion than if you were using a barbell. Because each side has to work independently  it’s great for discovering any muscular imbalances you may have. You are also going to engage more of your shoulder – perfect for my female readers who are striving for capped shoulders and need as much shoulder stimulation as they can get!


Set-up: Set a bench on an incline of about 45 degrees and sit with dumbbells on your knees. As you lie back on the bench, kick the dumbbells up into a position where your arms are extended straight above you, with palms facing behind you.

Execution: Maintaining the underhand grip, lower the dumbbells to your chest and then raise them to the starting position with a squeeze at the top. Unlike a overhand incline press, your arms do not move out wide in the bottom position – you want to move your arms straight up and down as you press, with your elbows tucked in (like a triceps-targeted narrow bench press). This ensures the upper pecs are better isolated than if you were using a traditional overhand grip.

Out of the ordinary upper body workout:
TRX inverted rows: 3 x 8-10
Decline push ups: 3 x 10
Bent over barbell row: 3 x 8-10
Reverse grip incline dumbbell chest press: 3 x 8-10
Straight arm pulldown: 3 x 12
Parallel dips (band-assisted, if necessary): 3 x 8

Have you ever tried this exercise?

PS. For anyone who is thinking of signing up for a training and/or nutrition program, I unfortunately cannot accept any more  new clients until I’m back from my holiday on August 5. I have 14 programs to do this weekend, and I don’t know if I can handle any more before I go! But I will be happy to take you on in a couple of weeks, as well as deal with all my renewals as normal.

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