Neutral Grip Dumbbell Press: How To Do, Benefits & Variations

If you are interested in learning more about neutral grip dumbbell presses for developing your chest, triceps, and shoulders to achieve a more defined upper body, then you should read the whole blog.

The barbell bench press is one of the most popular chest-building exercises, but many lifters suffer from shoulder pain when using the traditional barbell bench.

The neutral-grip dumbbell press is a great bench press alternative because it emphasizes chest and triceps without causing shoulder pain. Because your palms are facing each other, it reduces the strain on your shoulders.

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about how to perform the neutral grip dumbbell press correctly. You will also learn its benefits, how to avoid common mistakes, and what are the best variation of it and how to do them.

You will also learn some of the best alternatives of it.

Neutral Grip Chest Press Muscles Worked

The neutral grip dumbbell press primarily works the pectoralis major and Tricep muscles.

It has the involvement of several synergist muscles, these muscles include,

A handful of other muscles worked or play the role of stabilizer muscles, including your

How To Do Neutral Grip Chest Press

The neutral-grip dumbbell press is a variation of the dumbbell press that can help decrease stress on your shoulders and increase loading on your chest and triceps.

To perform the neutral-grip dumbbell press, follow these steps:


  • Start by setting up a flat bench in an open space.
  • Sit down on the bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Use a weight that’s challenging but allows you to maintain good form.


  • Lie back on the bench. Use your knees to help kick the weights up, one at a time, so you can hold them at chest level with your arms bent.
  • The palms of your hands should be facing each other in a neutral grip.
  • Position the dumbbells directly above your chest with your arms fully extended. This is your starting position.


  • Inhale and slowly lower the dumbbells towards the sides of your chest.
  • Keep your elbows at about a 45-degree angle to your body.
  • Once the dumbbells are about even with your chest or slightly below (ensure your shoulders feel comfortable), pause for a brief moment.

Pressing Up

  • Exhale and push the dumbbells back up to the starting position, contracting your chest muscles as you do so.
  • Your arms should be fully extended at the top, but don’t lock out your elbows.


  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, and then carefully lower the dumbbells to your sides or use your knees to assist in dropping them safely to the ground.
Neutral Grip Chest Press

Tips and Form

  1. Spine Position: Maintain a natural arch in your lower back, but don’t exaggerate it. Your head, upper back, and buttocks should remain in contact with the bench.
  2. Grip: Hold the dumbbells with a neutral grip, palms facing each other. Ensure a firm but not overly tight grip.
  3. Elbow Position: Keep your elbows at about a 45-degree angle relative to your torso during the movement. Avoid flaring the elbows out excessively or tucking them too close to your body.
  4. Full Range of Motion: Lower the dumbbells until they are level with your chest. Press them back up to full arm extension without locking out the elbows.
  5. Controlled Movement: Ensure smooth and controlled motion both during the lowering and pressing phases. Avoid using momentum or bouncing the weights.
  6. Breathing: Inhale as you lower the dumbbells and exhale as you press them up.
  7. Warm-Up: Start with a light set to warm up the muscles and prepare the joints. This can prevent injury and improve performance.
  8. Engage Your Core: Keep your core engaged throughout the movement. This adds stability and protects the spine.
  9. Avoid Excessive Weight: If you can’t maintain proper form, the weight is likely too heavy. It’s better to perform the exercise correctly with lighter weight than to risk injury with heavier weight.
  10. Mind-Muscle Connection: Focus on squeezing and contracting the chest muscles as you press up. This enhances muscle activation.

Neutral-Grip Dumbbell Press Sets and Reps

When strength building, it is recommended to choose a heavier weight that makes the last rep of each set very challenging but still maintainable with proper form.

For muscle building, use a moderately heavy weight.

Strength Building3-54-62-3 minutes between sets
Muscle Building (Hypertrophy)3-48-1260-90 seconds between sets
Endurance and Toning2-312-2030-60 seconds between sets
General Fitness or Maintenance38-1060-90 seconds between sets

Neutral Grip Dumbbell Press Benefits

There are several reasons why you might be motivated to do neutral grip dumbbell press exercises, and below I’ve mentioned a few of them.

  • Many lifters use the neutral-grip dumbbell press to build a strong chest, especially when recovering from surgery or shoulder injuries.
  • Neutral grip chest press requires more muscular control than barbells, enhancing kinaesthetic awareness.
  • It allows for greater joint safety and stabilization and allows the joints to move naturally within their range of motion.
  • The variety it affords prevents physical and mental exhaustion.
  • The neutral grip can lead to greater triceps engagement compared to the standard grip.
  • Dumbbells variations allow for a greater range of movement (ROM), which leads to an increased number of muscle fibers recruited.
  • Hammer press with dumbbell allows unilateral training (training one limb at a time), increases core stability, and improves muscular imbalances.
  • Neutral grip press workouts are perfect for the at-home exerciser with the limited space.

Best Variations Of Neutral Grip Dumbbell Chest Press

The neutral grip dumbbell press can be done in different ways to suit your fitness level.

If you are new to performing a neutral grip bench press, you may want to apply a few modifications to make the exercise easier. One way is to use a lighter weight.

If you are looking for a more advanced variation to stimulate different muscle fibers in the chest, then you should try incline and decline neutral grip dumbbell press. You can make it more difficult by using heavier weight. But focus on form while doing the same.

1. Neutral grip Incline Dumbbell Press

Doing presses with a neutral grip on an incline bench can help develop the upper pectoral muscles and add some pressing variety to your program.

You also increase the range of motion at your elbow joints when you perform it on an incline bench.

Incline neutral grip dumbbell press

How To Do Neutral Grip Incline Dumbbell Press

  1. Lie on an incline bench with a dumbbell in each hand and in neutral grip.
  2. Hold the weights above you at shoulder height.
  3. Now extend the weights to the top overhead, feeling a good chest muscle contraction.
  4. Lower the dumbbells to the starting position and feel a good stretch in your pecs.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps.


  • Do not lock out your elbows during the concentric (Positive) phase of the exercise.
  • Perform them before triceps in any workout.

2. Decline Neutral Grip Dumbbell Press

The decline neutral grip chest press is a compound exercise which primarily targets the lower chest. But the triceps and shoulders are secondary movers during the exercise, and they get a lot of work as well.

Using a neutral grip is a safe alternative to the pronated grip as it protects the shoulder joints, and this is a great advantage. So, include the decline hammer-grip dumbbell bench press in your chest routine for great results.

Decline neutral grip dumbbell press

How To Do Decline Neutral Grip Dumbbell Chest Press

  1. Grab a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral/hammer grip and lie on a decline bench.
  2. Hold the weights above you at shoulder height.
  3. Now extend the weights to the top overhead, feeling a good chest muscle contraction.
  4. Lower the dumbbells to the starting position and feel a good stretch in your pecs.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps.


  • Do not lock out your elbows during the concentric (Positive) phase of the exercise.
  • Perform them before triceps in any workout.

3. Close-Grip Neutral-Grip Dumbbell Press

The close-grip neutral-grip dumbbell press is executed exactly the same way as the original. As you press, you will squeeze the dumbbells together. When you do this, you will start to feel your triceps and inner chest muscles engage even deeper.

Best Alternate Of Neutral Grip Dumbbell Press

Before, we take a look at the best neutral grip dumbbell press alternatives. We must keep in mind that a good alternative to the neutral grip chest press will be able to satisfy the following criteria:

  • Activate the chest muscle groups, which are trained in the neutral grip bench press.
  • Isolate the muscle groups during execution.
  • Train the chest muscle through a longer range of motion

1. Dumbbell Squeeze Press

The dumbbell squeeze press is one of the most effective chest pressing exercises which target the middle chest. You can perform to induce functional hypertrophy in the middle body, particularly the pectorals.

During the squeeze press, the dumbbells are kept in contact with each other at all times, and you’re actively squeezing them inward (against each other) as hard as possible.

2. Close-Grip Bench Press

The close grip bench press is a variation of the bench press and an exercise used to build muscle and strength in the triceps. This position places emphasis on building strength and size of the chest muscles, as well as the tricep

The close grip bench press is a superior movement when talking about exercises that will pack mass onto your triceps.

3. Close Grip Push-Ups

If you’re looking for a bodyweight alternative to the neutral grip dumbbell press exercise that helps you build inner pecs, then the close grip push-up is a great staple exercise to get you started.

Narrow Grip Push-Ups is the best exercise to build inner pec. Take a narrower push-ups stance than you normally do, which is similar to a close-grip push-up that helps in building the inner chest.

4. Cable Crossover

If you have access to a cable setup, I recommend you try it as an alternative to the neutral grip dumbbell press. Cable Crossovers are the best exercises for really focusing tension on the inner chest.

It is the best exercise to build massive chest. It provides constant tension to build massive pecs. Standing cable crossover exercise helps to develop and define the inner chest muscles.


The neutral-grip dumbbell press is a great alternative to the bench press for shoulder health. Whether you are a strength sport athlete or a regular gym goer, I recommend adding the neutral grip chest press to your chest training. You will feel the results for yourself.


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