The barbell bench press is a staple strength exercise that has benefits for all levels of fitness and desired physiques. Targeting the pectorals, deltoids and triceps, chest pressing exercises help to build upper body strength and increase muscle mass.
Performing a chest press with dumbbells instead of a barbell has a number of additional benefits. The use of dumbbells evenly distributes the weight to each arm, negating the tendency to use your stronger arm to do more work than your weaker arm. Dumbbells also require more muscle activation to maintain balance throughout the entire range of motion.
Another major benefit of chest pressing with dumbbells is that it allows for different variations to be programmed to prevent plateaus and ensure positive adaptations continue to occur.
Give some of these variations a go:
Muscles Worked: Upper chest, anterior and lateral deltoids, triceps
Benefits: Utilising an incline will allow you to better target the upper portion of the chest and deltoids
- Adjust a flat bench to about a 45 degree incline
- Pick up the dumbbells and bring them to the starting position at shoulder height with a neutral wrist position
- Press the dumbbells overhead until the elbows are fully extended
- Flex the elbows to lower the dumbbells back to the starting position
Muscles Worked: Lower chest, triceps, anterior deltoids
Benefits: The decline targets more of the lower chest muscles and allows you to lift more than you do with a regular chest press.
- Adjust a flat bench to about a 45 degree decline
- Pick up the dumbbells and get into position by laying back and keeping the weights close to your chest
- With your feet flat and hinged under the foot pads, press the dumbbells straight up in a slow and controlled motion
- Lower under control back to starting position
Muscles Worked: Inner chest, triceps
Benefits: Promotes more muscle recruitment in the triceps and is less shoulder predominant so can be used if shoulder discomfort is an issue.
- Lying on your back on a bench, hold a pair of dumbbells directly above your sternum, palms facing each other
- Pull your shoulder blades together, and slightly stick out your chest. Raise both dumbbells to until arms are extended
- Pause, and then bring the dumbbells back to the starting position.
Muscles Worked: Chest, triceps
Benefits: decreasing the range of motion allows more focus on the triceps. You should be able to lift more than you can with a regular chest press.
- Sit down on the floor with a dumbbell in each hand resting on your thighs
- Slowly lay back while keeping the dumbbells close to your chest and bend your knees to roughly 45 degrees with your feet on the floor
- Press the weights to full extension by contracting your triceps and chest
- Slowly lower the weight until both elbows touch the floor then press both dumbbells back to the starting position
Muscles Worked: Chest, deltoids, triceps
Benefits: This variation builds endurance and promotes stability and muscular balance in the chest, triceps and shoulder muscles
- Lie on your back on a flat bench, and hold the dumbbells a few inches above your chest
- Press one dumbbell upward until your arm is fully extended
- Pause and slowly retract extended arm to start position
- Complete the same motion on the opposite side and continue in an alternating manner
Muscles Worked: Chest, deltoids, triceps, core, and deep shoulder stabilizers
Benefits: Performing the exercise with a single-arm improves muscular balance on both sides of the body while also actively engaging the core
- Lie on your back on a flat bench and press the dumbbells directly above your sternum with straight arms and your palms facing away from you
- Pull your shoulders together, slightly stick out your chest, and lower one dumbbell to the side of your chest
- Pause, then press the dumbbell back to starting position
- Repeat for desired reps then change sides