Workout Tips

The Lift Doctor: Incline Presses and Back Protection

The Doc's workout prescription for improving training performance and results.


“What exercise can I do to replace the incline dumbbell press?” – Carlton Legall

I feel your pain. The incline dumbbell bench press can leave your shoulders sore for days. That's because most lifters flare their elbows out during the press and this can cause a lot of stress on the front of the shoulder.  Also, most lifters can’t get the dumbbells all the way down until they touch the chest, because they don’t have the shoulder mobility or stability. So they end up cutting the reps high. 

Change the Angle

My suggestion is to try to experiment with the angle of the bench. This can be a HUGE shoulder-saver for guys who have beat up shoulders. Lower the angle from 70 degrees to 45 degrees and the whole exercise will change. It can become much more effective, because you’ll be able to use heavier weights, move through a great range of motion, and not have sore shoulders for days afterwards.

Change the Equipment

On the other hand, if you want to find a replacement for the incline press, because you don’t have an incline bench, feet-elevated push-ups is a great substitute. You can overload the movement by raising the feet to a higher bench or put on a weight vest.