Hi Dr. Bell, what is the best degree angle to use on a Dumbbell Press?

If you are referring to the Shoulder Dumbbell Press, and you mean the angle of the humerus to the torso. Imagine your torso is the center of a clock and you are facing the 12. If you raise your humerus so that the arms are 90 degrees to your Torso, your left humerus is pointing at the 9 and your right humerus is pointing at the 3. This position provides a sufficient stretch to the Lateral Head of the Deltoid to provide maximal fiber activation. Unfortunately, for many people this puts an excessively high degree of stress on the rotator cuff structure and could result in damage and ensuing pain.

To prevent this from happening, you can move your arms forward approximately 30 degrees so the elbows are now at 10 and 2 on the clock. This position takes a little stress off the Lateral Head of the Deltoid and a lot of stress off the rotator cuff structure.

If you or your client are still experiencing some degree of discomfort, you can again angle the arms forward another 30 degrees to 11 and 1. Again, less stress on the Lateral Head of the Deltoid, but this position negates most of the stress on the rotator cuff structure.

If you are referring to the angle between the forearm and the humerus. With the humerus parallel to the ground in the Shoulder Press, the elbow should form a 90-degree angle. Throughout the Dumbbell Shoulder Press, the wrist/fist must remain directly above the elbow.

Just in case you are asking about an Incline Dumbbell Chest Press: research shows an angled Incline Bench of 28.9 degrees places most of the stress on the Clavicular portion of the Pectoralis Major. This stress will create optimal development of your upper chest. Above 28.9 degrees, the stress moves to the shoulders.

If you are meaning a Decline Dumbbell Press: a decline angle greater than 15 degrees increases negative stress to the Rotator Cuff Structure that could lead to severe injury. You may be able to handle a lot of weight in the deep decline position, but you may also severely damage your shoulder in this position.

In any Chest Press the Dumbbell, fist, and/or wrist must remain above the elbow throughout the movement.

During the Dumbbell Chest Press, the optimal angle of the humerus is 45 degrees to the torso or less. Some prefer the humerus “pinned” to the side of the torso. While this position negates stress on the shoulder capsule, it also decreases the stretch and therefore stress to the Pectoralis Major. Increasing the angle beyond 45 degrees increases the stretch and therefore stress to the Pectoralis Major, but also increases risk to the shoulder capsule. Women typically have a greater Range of Motion (ROM) than most males in most joints including the shoulder joint.

For you guys out there that typically hold your humerus 90 degrees to the torso religiously and brag that your shoulders never hurt, mine did not hurt either back then! But, now I wish someone had warned me. Because I did not know better, when I was a teenager, today I can reach the wrong way for something above my head and I feel a flash of pain that feels like someone poured fire from my shoulder, down the inside of my arm to my fingertips. You can do a lot of damage that occurs BELOW the Pain Threshold and you don’t know it.

All the IFPA Safety Guidelines, Joint-Safety and Key Teaching Points for the major exercises have been developed to provide you the safest and most effective way to make excellent exercise gains, without damaging your joints or skeletal-muscular system.

One of the major benefits of a Dumbbell exercise over a Barbell exercise is the Dumbbell enables a lot more work for the stabilizer muscles. Dumbbells will not enable you to move as much weight, but can be healthier for your shoulder joints.

Please review your IFPA Personal Trainer Certification Course text and other materials to make sure you do every exercise as safely and effectively as possible.

You should also look into the many Advanced and Specialist Certification Courses developed by the IFPA such as the IFPA Advanced Personal Training Specialist to build your Scope of Practice so you can become a true Master of Your Craft!

Good Luck,

Dr. Jim Bell

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