The incline bench press is a great exercise for those who want to target the upper chest muscle for strength and size.

If you don't have access to an incline bench with a barbell, there are some great alternatives for you to try.

In this guide, I will introduce you to some of the best incline dumbbell press alternative exercises so you can build a strong chest wherever you are.    

Training your upper chest is not only important for aesthetic reasons, it also carry's important functionality and will increase your lifts in the bench press, and in any push or pull exercise. 

If you are serious about adding size and strength to your chest muscles, here are 6 of the best include dumbbell press alternatives to try at your next chest workout.

1. Reverse Grip Rotational Dumbbell Press 

Man Doing Reverse Grip Rotational Dumbbell Press

This substitute incline bench press exercise involves rotating your wrist while moving the dumbbell.

By doing so, it allows you to engage smaller muscle groups in your arms and shoulders, improve your grip strength, and work your forearms. 

The reverse grip incline dumbbell bench press is a similar movement patter and also strengthens the upper chest, just like a traditional incline dumbbell presses.  


  • Reduces momentum and keeps form strict.
  • Strengthens the upper chest.
  • Adds variety to your workout routine. 

How To do A Reverse Grip Rotational Dumbbell Press:

  1. Start by lying back on the bench, holding both dumbbells upwards using a reverse grip, palms facing towards you.
  2. Bring the dumbbells down towards your lower chest, and as you reach the bottom of the movement, rotate so that the dumbbells are now in a neutral position.
  3. Pause for a second, then push back up, rotating back to the reverse grip position.  
  4. Repeat for 8-10 reps. 

Tips From A Trainer!

The rotational nature of this exercise really activates your forearms and other small muscles in the chest and arms. 

2. Incline Chest Press With Bands 

Man Doing Incline Chest Press With Bands At Home

Not everyone has dumbbells at home, but resistance bands are really affordable, so this alternative is perfect for those with limited equipment.

The movement with the bands completely isolates your upper chest, putting all the focus on developing greater muscle mass in this area and improving your mind-muscle connection.  


  • Easy to do at home and cheap option for those without dumbbells. 
  • Resistant bands are great for beginner or those who are rehabbing injuries. 
  • The resistance can easily be modified by moving closer or further from where the band is anchored. 

How To Do A Incline Chest Press With Bands:

  1. Find a sturdy door and shut your anchor resistance band in it near the bottom. 
  2. Lock the door to hold this band in place. Thread another resistance band through the anchor band and attach handles if you have them.
  3. Holding one side of the band in each hand, pull it up to shoulder height and press it out in front of you.
  4. Pause for a second, and then bring the band back towards your body.
  5. You may need to step forward slightly so that the resistance bands are taut throughout the movement. 
  6. Aim to complete 8-12 reps of these, and you should start to feel it on your upper chest immediately.

Tips From A Trainer!

During the incline chest press, focus on squeezing only your chest. I found that doing resistance band exercises greatly increases my mind-muscle awareness. 

3. Decline Explosive Push-up 

Man Doing Decline Explosive Push-Up

The decline push up is an excellent incline dumbbell press alternative because you don't need any equipment at all.

You can perform it at home, in the gym, or on the road, and all you need is a slightly raised platform to rest your feet on. You should be able to do push ups for reps before trying this one.

This exercise fires up your whole chest and triceps, giving you all the benefits of an incline press without the dumbbells.  

If you find the explosive movement off the ground too challenging, then you can just do a regular decline push-up with a controlled up and down motion. 


  • Advanced calisthenic exercise that develops full body power and strength.
  • Increases body awareness and balance.
  • Can easily be modified to be made easier and you can work towards the decline position as your strength increases. 

How To Do A Decline Explosive Push-up:

  1. Find a raised platform, bench, step, or chair, and start in the push-up position with your feet on the edge of it. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart on the floor and bracing your upper body. 
  2. Keeping your body straight, lower yourself down so that your chest is almost touching the floor.
  3. Pause for a second, and then in one explosive movement, push yourself up hard until your whole upper body and hands come away from the floor.
  4. Brace yourself and land gently on the palms of your hands, ready to start the next rep.  

Tips From A Trainer!

This decline push up variation might be difficult for beginners. To make this exercise easier, only elevate your feet slightly at first. 

Suggested Equipment - Best Push Up Bars Rated

4. Incline Swiss Ball Dumbbell Press 

Man Doing Incline Swiss Ball Dumbbell Press In The Gym

An inflatable exercise ball is much cheaper than a bench and perfect for performing an incline dumbbell press at home.

Doing chest exercises on a Swiss ball will force your body to stabilize itself and engage your core. 


  • Higher core engagement than on the floor or a bench.
  • Engaged more stabalizer muscles than flat bench presses.
  • Increases chest muscle size and strength. 

How To do A Incline Swiss Ball Dumbbell Press:

  1. Start by sitting on your inflatable Swiss ball with a dumbbell in each hand in an overhand grip (palms facing forward). 
  2. Slide forward so that your hips are just off the floor, keep your feet flat on the floor and your shoulders are braced against the ball.
  3. Keep your elbows at a 60-degree angle, and raise them straight upwards until your arms are almost fully extended.
  4. Pause for a second, and then lower your arms back down to the starting position.
  5. Aim for 8-12 reps per set, and if you find that too easy, you can use heavier dumbbells.

Tips From A Trainer!

You can change this exercise up to do alternating dumbbell presses, which allows you to activate your core more. 

5. Incline Dumbbell Fly 

Man Doing Incline Dumbbell Flys

The incline dumbbell fly exercise is really beneficial for your chest, and it engages your core throughout the movement.

Incorporating a incline dumbbell fly into your workout will help you develop a broader upper chest and challenge your body to improve your overall upper body strength.

You’ll need an incline bench and some dumbbells for this exercise. 


  • Effective exercise for increasing strength of the upper chest. 
  • Excellent exercise for targeting the upper pecs and builds a full chest making it more aesthetically pleasing. 
  • Provides a stretch on the muscle as the arms extend. 

How To Do A Incline Dumbbell Fly:

  1. Start with your bench at a 30-degree angle and a dumbbell in each hand in an overhand grip with palms facing towards each other. 
  2. Lie back, and stretch out your arms to either side with a very slight bend at the elbow.
  3. Keep your arms straight and pull them up above you until they meet in the middle above your body.
  4. Pause for a second, and then lower back down to starting position. 
  5. Aim for 8-10 reps and increase the weight as it get's easier.

Tips From A Trainer!

This may not be the best exercise for people with pre-existing shoulder injuries, so keep that in mind.  Always ensure you keep a slight bend in the elbow, not a large bend. 

6. Underhand Front Raises

Man Doing Front Raises For Chest Exercise

Underhand front raises are a killer incline dumbbell press alternative that isolates the upper part of your pecs so you can get a great pump on.

It can be challenging to get the form for this right at first, so make sure you're starting with a manageable weight until the movement becomes natural.

It should only really engage your chest, so if you feel it elsewhere, your form may be off. You’ll need a pair of dumbbells for this move and some space to perform it.  


  • Increases flexibility of the shoulders. 
  • Enhances the functionality of the shoulders and help keeps them healthy.
  • Targets your upper chest and increases strength and size. 

How To Do A Front Raises for Chest:

  1. Start by standing tall with a dumbbell in each hand in a supinated grip. 
  2. Keep your arms straight and raise your arms up and into the center of your body.
  3. Pause for a second when your hands reach your shoulders and then slowly lower back down to starting position.
  4. Repeat for 8-10 reps and increase weight as you get stronger. 

Tips From A Trainer!

This is a very versatile exercise. If you use a supinated grip and focus on squeezing your pecs, you'll activate your upper pecs. If you use a pronated grip, you'll activate your anterior delts. 

Muscles Worked With Incline Dumbbell Press Alternatives

An incline dumbbell press, like most press movements, is designed to grow your chest. The focus is on your chest, with some secondary muscles in your arms, shoulders, and back.

The substitute exercises mix up the routine with different movements which engage some of the smaller muscle groups which aren’t worked in a regular incline press. The focus is on the lower and upper chest exercises, but you’ll get additional benefits from incorporating them.  

Your chest is made up of two main heads of the pectoralis major: the clavicular head and the sternal head.[1]

The clavicular head is at the top of your chest and the sternal is at the bottom. A traditional incline dumbbell press focuses on the clavicular head and develops a strong upper chest.

It's the same with most dumbbell press alternatives, but some variations in movement actually help you stimulate the upper and lower pec muscles in one motion, so you get more even growth across your entire pectoralis major.  

The dumbbell press alternative exercises also help grow strong deltoids in the shoulders, particularly at the front. This not only makes your whole upper body look and feel bigger but also improves your overall stability and makes it easier to perform other exercises.  

If you're performing a range of these alternatives regularly, you should see good muscle growth across your upper body.  

Primary Muscle Groups: 

  • Pectoralis Major 
  • Anterior Deltoids 

Secondary Muscle Groups: 

  • Triceps Brachii 
  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids 
  • Abdominals

Benefits Of Substitute Exercises Over The Incline DB Press?

An incline dumbbell press is an effective exercise that has been used for decades, but it's not always practical at home unless you have a range of dumbbells and an incline bench.

These alternative exercises offer a range of alternative movements which allow you to grow a strong upper and lower chest even if you have little or no equipment at home. It also means you can perform them if you’re on the move or away from the gym for a while.  

The real benefit to these substitute exercises is the variety. Your body needs to be shocked and challenged to grow muscle mass and can quickly get used to the standard incline dumbbell press routine.[2]

By incorporating a mix of these exercises into your workout, you'll quickly become stronger and notice a real difference in your physique after a few months.  

Adjustable Bench Alternatives (Easy DIY Solutions For Home Gyms)

A good weight bench can be expensive, and you might not have the budget or space for one; however, that doesn’t mean you can’t perform bench exercises at home and make your own DIY bench press. Here are some creative ways to get your body into the right position for an incline press:

A Stack Of Towels

The simplest solution is to get a stack of towels that will sit underneath your back. You should make sure you have enough freedom of movement to lower your elbows underneath your back and that it keeps your body at 45 degrees from the floor. This is a cheap and effective alternative, and it's easy to adjust the number of towels as needed.

A Reclining Chair 

Any chair which can be tilted backward will work for an incline press. Tilt it backward until you're at a 45-degree angle, and then you should be able to press the weights upwards. Make sure the chair remains stable because if it's too light, it could topple over.

Slanted Bed Slats 

Bed slats can be propped up against a sturdy chair or wall to give you a sloped surface. You can then lie back and perform the incline press on top of it.  

Edge Of A Kitchen Chair 

By placing a towel or cushion over the edge of a regular kitchen chair, you can position yourself so your back is resting against the edge and your hips are slightly off the floor. This should give you the right angle for an incline press. 

A Foam Roller 

By wedging a foam roller underneath your back, you can put your body at the right angle for an incline press. Make sure the foam roller is secure, though, because if it slides during the exercise, it could cause an injury. You can also check out our article on benefits of foam rolling. 

Alternative Bench 

You might not have a gym bench in your home, but that doesn't mean you don't have anything suitable. Using a kitchen bench or a piano bench can be just as effective. Just make sure it's stable and secure before you start working out.  

Stability Ball 

Many people have a stability ball at home, but if not, you can pick one up for a fraction of the price of a weight bench. By sitting on the ball and leaning backwards, you can still perform the bench movement, and it also has the added benefit of engaging your core to keep you stable.

Incline Dumbbell Press FAQs

Is incline dumbbell press the same as incline bench press? 

Both movements are very similar, but the incline bench press typically uses a barbell rather than dumbbells. Using a barbell allows you to lift heavier weights and focuses the exercise on your upper chest, but dumbbells require more stabilization, so you get a more significant benefit across your whole body. 

Can incline bench replace a shoulder press? 

No, while an incline bench press will target your upper chest and some shoulder muscles, it won't give you the same benefits as an overhead shoulder press. Stick to the shoulder press for shoulders, and incline bench press for upper pecs.  

Why does my shoulder hurt when I do incline bench press? 

This could be because of an injured rotator cuff or incorrect form.[3] Make sure your dumbbells are equally far apart and that you keep your elbows tucked into your body throughout the movement. Lower the amount of weight you’re using, and if it still hurts, you should consult a physician before you continue training.  


Incline dumbbell presses are a key exercise to work your chest muscles and increase strength and size. If you have limited equipment, there are many ways you can mimic the movement to get even greater benefits.

Hopefully, this list of alternative incline press exercises has given you some ideas on how to grow your chest with the equipment you have at home.





Jo Taylor

Jo Taylor

Hi, I’m Jo. I love sunrise swims, cold water immersion and cats. I have been dedicated to strength training for the past 14 years. I became a qualified Personal Trainer in 2020, and am passionate about helping my clients get stronger. Visit Jo Taylors Website