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Dumbbell Bench Press Guide: Benefits, Performance, and Variations

FitnessVolt Article

If you’ve ever had a chat with a fellow gym-goer about your workouts, invariably, the discussion will turn to the bench press. Why? Because it’s probably the most popular upper body exercise on the planet. Even non-lifters want to know how much you can bench press!

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Most of the time, people are talking about the barbell bench press. After all, it’s a classic chest exercise, and it’s also the second lift contested in the sport of powerlifting.

However, despite its popularity, the barbell bench press is not without disadvantages. Lifting a bar with both hands means it’s all too easy to press more with one arm than the other, and a failed rep could leave you badly injured.

Also, bench pressing with a bar means you are limited to how far you can lower the weights. If you have short arms, you won’t get much of a stretch in your chest, and that can limit muscle growth.

None of this means the barbell bench press is a bad exercise, but doing bench press with dumbbells gets around all of these drawbacks. In addition, adding dumbbell bench presses to your workouts will increase exercise variety. Studies tell us that variety is just as important as, sets, reps, and weight for building muscle and strength (1).

Muscles worked in the dumbbell bench press

The dumbbell bench press is a horizontal pressing exercise. That means the arms are pressed outward and perpendicular to your body. The main muscles used in this exercise are:


  1. With this variation, you use just one dumbbell and work each arm separately. As well as being a good chest exercise, this version also increases core activation. You’ll need to brace your abs hard to keep your body stable and straight.
    How to do it:
    1– Grab one dumbbell and set up for the dumbbell bench press as normal. Plant your feet firmly on the floor and brace your abs hard to keep your body tight.
    2– Without twisting your shoulders or your hips, press the weight up to full arm extension and then lower it again.
    3– Do the same number of reps on each arm.
    This exercise can be done using a flat, incline, or decline bench as preferred.
    No bench? No problem! Dumbbell bench presses can also be done on the floor. This is a good option if lowering the weights to your shoulders causes shoulder-pain.
    How to do it:
    1– Lie on the floor with your legs bent, feet flat on the floor. Press your dumbbells up to arms’ length over your chest.
    2– Bend your arms and lower the weights until the back of your arms lightly touch the floor. Push the weights back up and repeat.

    To get the most from this (or any other) exercise, you must do it properly. Doing the dumbbell bench press with incorrect form will make it less effective and could increase your risk of injury. Always do this exercise properly for the best results.
    1– Sit on the end of an exercise bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Rest the weights on their ends on your thighs.
    2– Lie back and use your legs to help you lift the weights. Position yourself, so your back is flat on the bench, your arms are bent, and the dumbbells are in front of your shoulders. Your feet should be flat on the floor. Brace your abs and arch your lower back slightly. Think about lifting your chest up toward the ceiling.
    3– Press the weights up to arm’s length above your chest. The dumbbells should come together at the top of each rep. Straighten your arms, but don’t lock your elbows. Locking your arms means your joints are supporting the weight rather than your muscles.
    4– Bend your arms and lower the weights back down. Lower them as far as your flexibility allows. A good stretch at the bottom of each rep makes this exercise harder and more productive. However, do not bounce out of the bottom of each rep. That’s a recipe for injury.
    5– At the of your set, either lower the weights to the floor or, with your arms bent, just sit back up and return to your starting position. Alternatively, if you have spotters nearby, allow them to take the weights from you.

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