Chest Training – Dumbbell Press

The dumbbell press is highly effective chest exercise for your workout program. Using dumbbells instead of a barbell forces you to stabilize the weights, therefor taxing your muscles to a greater degree than the barbell bench press. Learn the correct exercise technique and lift heavy!

Muscles Exercised

The dumbbell press focuses on your chest, and as with the flat bench press, it also exercises your shoulders, lats, and triceps. Since you must control each dumbbell individually, dumbbell presses help you improve your stability.

Exercise Technique

  • Grip the dumbbells so that the weight is centered. If the dumbbell starts to twist away from you, you will be unable to lift as much weight or complete as many repetitions.
  • The dumbbell should rest on the base of your palm, with the force of the weight driving down through your wrists and forearms. Resting the dumbbell higher in your palm will place unnecessary strain on your wrists.
  • Lie on the weight bench with your head, shoulders and buttocks in contact with the bench. Your feet should be planted flat on the floor. Retain this position throughout your lift – none of your contact points should shift during the press.
  • If you don’t have a spotter hand you the dumbbells once you have set up on the weight bench, start with the dumbbells resting on your thighs, and bring them to your chest as you lie back. Keep the dumbbells perpendicular to your body throughout the lift.
  • Keep your lats and chest tight, stabilizing the dumbbells. Drive down through your feet keeping your legs tight. Maintain this position keeping your entire body tight and stable throughout your lift.
  • Press the dumbbells off your chest explosively toward the ceiling using your chest and lats. Press them up until your elbows are locked out, but be sure to keep your shoulders planted on the bench.
  • Avoid touching the dumbbells together at the top, since this allows you to relax your body slightly
  • Pause briefly while locked out, then bring the dumbbells down quickly, but smoothly and controlled
  • Pause briefly with the dumbbells lightly touching your outer pecs before pressing them back up
  • The dumbbell press is not the same as a dumbbell fly. Your forearms should remain perpendicular to the floor throughout the exercise, bending at the elbow. Press the weight straight up. With the dumbbell fly, you bring the weight out wide, keeping your elbows slightly bent throughout the lift.
  • Select a weight that you can perform all of your repetitions using proper technique. On your last 1-2 sets, your last repetitions should be very difficult.
  • You will likely find that you cannot press as much weight with dumbbells as you can on the flat bench press, since you have to expend more effort to stabilize the weights


  • Incline dumbbell presses: performed similarly to the incline bench press
  • Decline dumbbell presses: performed similarly to the decline bench press

Additional Chest Exercises: Consider adding the following exercises to your chest routine

  • Bench Press: core chest exercise, targets the chest, but also exercises also your shoulders, triceps, and lats.
  • Incline Bench Press: targets the upper portions of the chest and shoulders.
  • Decline Bench Press: engages more of the pectoral muscles and has a shorter range of motion – you may find you can lift more on the decline than other benches.
  • Dips: exercises the lower portion of your chest and your triceps.
  • Push-ups: a simple chest exercise you can do anywhere.

Building Chest Strength:You don’t have to be a 500lb bench presser to benefit from powerlifting techniques. The articles below may give you some tips on increasing your bench press, and therefore your chest strength:


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