When most lifters make the choice to decide to the health club, the barbell bench press is usually one of many first workout routines chosen for constructing a stronger and greater chest. However, regardless of its status as a “must-do” motion, the barbell bench alone shouldn’t be going to provide the kind of well-developed chest most hope for. That requires an introduction to the dumbbell bench press.

The workout routines are comparable in setup and execution, with just a few key variations. The dumbbell bench press permits an extended vary of movement and extra freedom of motion on the shoulder joint. These can elicit a larger muscle-building response, construct higher physique power unilaterally (one aspect at a time), enhance core stability, and improve your barbell bench urgent power.

Here’s every thing it is advisable to know in regards to the ignored dumbbell model of one of the crucial widespread barbell workout routines.

How to Do the Dumbbell Bench Press

Using dumbbells as a substitute of a barbell supplies a special shoulder and elbow place, which in flip will increase the vary of movement and makes the muscle-building stimulus of this train even larger.

Step 1 — Get into Pressing Position

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As you lie again on a flat bench, carry a pair of dumbbells to the outsides of your chest along with your fingers dealing with one another. Pull your shoulder blades again into the bench. Make certain that each of your toes are positioned firmly on the bottom, along with your toes immediately below your knees.

Your hips, your head, and each of your shoulders needs to be firmly touching the bench. Rotate your arms to level your elbows at an angle barely away out of your toes and permit your fingers to level in the direction of your knees.

Form Tip: For whole stability, really feel for six factors of contact  — two toes on the bottom plus your tailbone, two shoulders, and your head on the bench. This will imply you’re in place to begin the train

Step 2 — Drive the Weights Up

man in gym pressing dumbbells during chest exerciseCredit: Jasminko Ibrakovic / Shutterstock

Hold the dumbbells firmly in a pronated (palms dealing with your toes) place along with your wrists immediately above your elbows. Drive your elbows as much as the ceiling in a straight line till the dumbbells are positioned immediately above of your pecs. Do not permit the dumbbells to the touch on the high of every rep.

Form Tip: Make certain your elbows are stacked immediately below your wrists earlier than you drive up. Allowing your wrists, and the weights, to interrupt the airplane of your elbow will improve joint pressure and improve the potential threat of harm.

Step 3 — Lower right into a Stretch

Man in gym lying on flat bench lowering dumbbellsCredit: Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock

Slowly decrease the dumbbells down whereas squeezing your shoulder blades into the bench. Keep your elbows pointed at an angle between your toes and your shoulders. Emphasize feeling your pecs stretch because the dumbbells come to a place resting simply outdoors your chest.

Form Tip: Think about pulling the dumbbells towards you whereas reaching your chest to the ceiling.

Dumbbell Bench Press Mistakes to Avoid

When utilizing dumbbells, elevated freedom on the shoulder joint additionally means the train requires elevated management and coordination. There are just a few errors to keep away from when performing the dumbbell bench press. 

Having an Unstable Body

It is quite common to see lifters place their toes within the air and cross their ankles or haphazardly sprawl their legs away from the bench through the train.

man in gym performing flat bench dumbbell press lifting headCredit: Slatan / Shutterstock

This creates an setting of instability and prevents you from having the ability to produce probably the most pressure, which compromises power manufacturing as a result of the decrease physique is an important contact level and base of help.

Avoid It: Driving your legs into the bottom will assist preserve steadiness with the torso and can help you create extra pressure with the higher physique. Your toes, calves, hamstrings, glutes, and quadriceps ought to all be tense and absolutely engaged.

Ego Lifting

Some lifters suppose that simply because they’ll bench spectacular weights with a barbell, they’re “supposed to” bench with heavy dumbbells, too.

man in gym lying on bench lifting heavy dumbbellsCredit: Pressmaster / Shutterstock

What they fail to understand is that dumbbells contain the smaller stabilizer muscle tissues of the shoulder greater than a barbell, which suggests excessively heavy weights can pressure the shoulder joint and reduce chest muscle recruitment.

Avoid it: Lean the ego at residence when it’s time to make use of dumbbells. Whatever you barbell bench press, minimize that weight in half after which take off one other 5-10kg (10-20 kilos). This gives you place to begin for the entire weight (each dumbbells mixed) when studying the train.

Benefits of the Dumbbell Bench Press

The bench press is be a staple motion in almost each lifter’s repertoire.

Man in gym performing chest press with dumbbellsCredit: wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock

Here are two large benefits that dumbbells have over the barbell.

Greater Range of Motion

With a barbell, your fingers and arms are set into fastened angles with comparatively restricted vary of movement. Dumbbells permit the weights to maneuver in an arcing path, comparatively wider within the backside place and almost touching on the high.

This supplies an extended vary of movement as you lengthen the muscle with a deeper stretch which may improve your muscle constructing potential in comparison with a barbell. (1) Dumbbells additionally permit your fingers to rotate, which may individualize urgent angles to cut back joint pressure.

Unilateral Strength

Overemphasizing barbell coaching can create muscular discrepancies, since most lifters naturally favor one aspect greater than the opposite. Because a barbell doesn’t permit either side to focus its personal share of labor, you might not discover the refined variations in your unilateral power.

Using  dumbbells will can help you construct that unilateral power and cut back any muscular imbalances from occurring whereas nonetheless strengthening your pecs, triceps, and shoulders.

Muscles Worked by the Dumbbell Bench Press

All chest presses focus the work, appropriately, on the chest. However, a number of muscle teams work collectively to carry out the train.

muscular man in gym performing dumbbell chest pressCredit: Skydive Erick / Shutterstock

The dumbbell bench press permits lifters to coach their urgent muscle tissues (chest shoulders, and triceps) with out excessively heavy weights.

Pectoralis Major 

The pec main is the large, primary chest muscle. It consists of two separate heads: the clavicular (higher chest) and the sternocostal (mid-chest). Both heads of the pecs perform to tug the higher arms throughout the chest towards the midline of the physique.

Anterior Deltoid

The shoulder muscle tissues consists of three separate heads — the posterior (rear), the lateral (aspect), and the anterior (entrance). Each head contributes to shifting the arm in its respective plan, so the anterior deltoid is closely recruited through the dumbbell bench press as a result of the arm is shifting in entrance of the physique.


The triceps encompass the lengthy, medial, and lateral heads, every enjoying a task in extending the elbows and elevating the arms. The medial and lateral heads, particularly, are emphasised through the dumbbell bench press to maneuver the burden and straighten (lock out) the elbows.

Pectoralis Minor and Serratus Anterior

These comparatively smaller muscle tissues are each discovered close to the pec main. They share comparable capabilities, serving to to manage shoulder blade motion and stability throughout urgent (and chest flye) actions.

Who Should Do the Dumbbell Bench Press

Much just like the barbell bench press, the dumbbell bench press can provide advantages to power athletes, physique-focused lifters, and common health fans.

Bodybuilders and Physique Enthusiasts

Whether it’s a 220-pound bodybuilding monster, a lean Men’s Physique competitor, or a typical lifter wanting to enhance their pec measurement and form, the dumbbell bench press generally is a key participant in any chest exercise.

The dumbbell bench press places the pecs by way of a very long time below stress with most muscle activation, resulting in extra muscle development.

Strength Athletes

With the barbell bench press being a sport-specific carry for aggressive powerlifters, utilizing the dumbbell bench press as an adjunct train permits the identical urgent muscle tissues to be skilled with out put on and tear on the joints from the barbell’s repetitive use.

Overhead power athletes, like Olympic weightlifters and CrossFitters, may also profit from the dumbbell bench presses potential to coach extra unilaterally and cut back muscle discrepancies, which ends up in enhancements in power general.

How to Program the Dumbbell Bench Press

The dumbbell bench press could be programmed utilizing quite a lot of set and rep schemes. It could be carried out as a major train at the beginning of your exercise or as a supplemental train to maximise muscle fiber recruitment throughout a session.

Heavy Weight, Low Repetition

To maximize power, three to 5 units within the 4 to eight rep vary is an efficient place to begin. Because of the dumbbell’s stability necessities, lifting excessively heavy with extraordinarily low reps to failure isn’t secure or efficient. You needs to be utilizing a weight that has you end every set with not less than one to 2 reps left “in the tank” to keep away from reaching muscular failure. A relaxation interval of three to 5 minutes between every set will make sure you carry with most effort.

Moderate Weight, Moderate Repetition

For muscle constructing functions, working for three to 4 units within the six to 12 rep vary will bump up your general coaching quantity of the pecs, which is helpful for constructing muscle. (2) The a number of units and reps additionally can help you develop your bench press approach with out extreme fatigue from heavier weights.

Low Weight, High Repetition

It might higher to make use of a machine or cable-based machine when working with the next rep goal and being in a more in-depth proximity to failure, as a result of shoulder stabilizers can fatigue earlier than the chest muscle tissues. However, working for two to a few units within the 13-20 rep vary is a good way to enhance your approach with out impacting any further stress in your joints that will come about from utilizing heavier weights.

Dumbbell Bench Press Variations

Below are a number of efficient variations that can be utilized by coaches and athletes to maintain coaching different, progressive, and extra finely tuned to a lifter’s wants.

Dumbbell Floor Press

As you’ll have guessed, the dumbbell ground press is a dumbbell bench press carried out on the ground, and not using a bench. This intentionally limits your vary of movement to forestall the weights from touring down previous your chest. This is right in case you expertise shoulder discomfort as a consequence of restricted mobility.

It may also helps to coach the triceps and enhance lockout power as a result of top-half of the vary of movement, the place the triceps are most engaged, is emphasised.

Dumbbell Foam Roller Press

Using a foam curler as a substitute of a flat bench permits the scapulae (shoulder blades) to maneuver extra freely all through every rep, which improves higher again and shoulder well being.


The mechanics of that is surprisingly much like that of a push-up and optimizes your pure scapulohumeral rhythm — the way in which your shoulder muscle tissues and shoulder blades coordinate throughout motion. This enchancment can result in improved shoulder joint well being and elevated muscular engagement.

Single-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press

This train variation is nice for bettering total-body stability and unilateral power whereas additionally bettering core engagement. You merely use one dumbbell and carry out the train with one arm in your goal variety of reps earlier than switching sides.

Your core musculature goes to be focused to a a lot greater diploma as a consequence of the truth that you’re stopping your torso from rotating to far to at least one aspect. It is finest to make use of snug weight when first taking up this variation and construct your confidence remaining secure earlier than rising weight.

Dumbbell Bench Press Alternatives

If you’re on the lookout for choices past the dumbbell bench press, there are a number of efficient workout routines that work that higher physique similarly.

Barbell Bench Press

While the dumbbell bench has many particular advantages, generally it’s acceptable to simply load some weight and bench. The key distinction with this train is its bilateral part, shifting each arms collectively, which precisely what makes it a good way to load up the burden and give attention to constructing power.

However, the barbell bench press shouldn’t be restricted to purely a power focus. It can be utilized to offer a major quantity of quantity which triggers a larger muscle-building response. Performing it later within the exercise, when the chest is fatigued from different workout routines, is one very efficient strategy.

Seated Cable Chest Press

This might seem like an unconventional train, but it surely’s very efficient when executed accurately. Much just like the dumbbell bench press, there’s a unilateral issue concerned which permits the shoulders freedom to maneuver with decreased joint pressure.

The adjustable peak of the cable pulleys permits you to practice at angles (simulating an incline or decline press) whereas remaining seated upright. Many gyms have a devoted seated cable machine, however an an identical motion could be carried out putting a seated bench within the heart of a two-pulley cable station.


Can I carry out the dumbbell bench press and barbell bench press in the identical exercise?

Yes, completely. Use the barbell bench press as a major power carry, carried out with heavy weight and low reps, and use the dumbbell bench press as a hypertrophy-specific carry with mild to reasonable weight and reasonable to greater reps. This will allow you to absolutely exhaust the muscle fibers with the will increase vary of movement that the dumbbell bench press provides.

How far ought to I decrease the dumbbells?

Ideally, you’d decrease the weights to the extent of your chest, along with your elbows barely beneath the bench. However, it’s best to give attention to utilizing your lively vary of movement, not the utmost vary of movement no matter ache or mobility.

If you can’t decrease the dumbbells to realize the deepest stretch of your pecs, or in case you really feel any discomfort that takes the emphasis off your pecs, then solely transfer the place you’ll be able to preserve stress with out ache. Regardless, all the time take your time to warm-up and bodily put together the muscle tissues getting used. Sometimes a radical warm-up of your again, chest, and shoulders permits you to use a bigger vary of movement.

Rethink “Bench Day”

You wouldn’t solely depend on the dumbbell bench press to construct an even bigger and stronger chest, similar to you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) over-focus on the barbell bench. But once you consider its advantages and flexibility, it’s time to incorporate this central train in your chest or “upper body pushing” exercises, with or with out its barbell cousin.


  1. Farias, D. A., Willardson, J. M., Paz, G. A., Bezerra, E. S., & Miranda, H. (2017). Maximal Strength Performance and Muscle Activation for the Bench Press and Triceps Extension Exercises Adopting Dumbbell, Barbell, and Machine Modalities Over Multiple Sets. Journal of power and conditioning analysis, 31(7), 1879–1887. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000001651

  2. Schoenfeld, B. J., Contreras, B., Krieger, J., Grgic, J., Delcastillo, Okay., Belliard, R., & Alto, A. (2019). Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy however Not Strength in Trained Men. Medicine and science in sports activities and train, 51(1), 94–103. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0000000000001764

Featured Image: Jasminko Ibrakovic