There's no doubt that most athletes are passionate about the barbell bench press. It's one of the Big 3 exercises for a reason: The barbell bench press, with its stability and relatively fixed range of motion, allows the lifter to lift as much weight as possible. But due to injury or limited mobility, not everyone is able to maximize the bench press. This is where the dumbbell bench press comes in.
You can't train as hard with this variant, but the dumbbell bench press has some advantages over the barbell variant. When you lift two dumbbells, each arm works independently, increasing the imbalance between the sides.
Big deal they say, but wait, there's more: strengthening imbalances leads to better muscle development of the chest and triceps for better mobility.
And dumbbells give you more range of motion than your barbell grip and higher intensity with less weight. It's a great standalone exercise and an excellent add-on exercise to the barbell bench press.
But to get the most out of your dumbbell money, it's best to stop falling prey to these common dumbbell bench press mistakes. Here's how to properly perform the dumbbell bench press exercise and how to fix common mistakes so you can gain chest weight every day.
How to do the dumbbell bench press
- Sit upright on a flat bench and place a dumbbell on each knee.
- Then lie down and bend the dumbbells back toward you with your knees while pushing the dumbbells up.
- Lower the dumbbells and keep your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your torso.
- Once your elbows are about level with your torso, push the dumbbells back up, reset, and repeat the process.
It doesn't seem complicated, but the devil is in the details.
What you need for good dumbbell bench press form
If you're going heavy, having an observer is ideal for safety reasons, but this isn't always the case. Therefore, proper setup and finishing of this lift is essential. Here are a few other things needed for good form.
- Decent grip and wrist strength: The dumbbell bench press requires more grip strength than the usual press variant due to the freedom of movement of the dumbbell compared to the barbell.
- anterior shoulder pain: This variation is gentler on the shoulder, but caution is advised if pain occurs in the anterior shoulder area.
- Opportunity to build and complete without a spotter: Getting the dumbbells in the right position with Body English might be easier, but your shoulders will hate you. And dropping the dumbbells on the floor when you're done isn't cool, no matter what anyone says.
- Correct upper arm angle: You can press parallel to your shoulder with your arm bent at your side or elbow, but this is not ideal. To get the most out of the dumbbell bench press, use a 45-degree arm angle.
3 common dumbbell press mistakes
Perfect form is rare, especially when the dumbbell weights increase. Minor glitches can occur, but these technical flaws should be addressed no matter how much weight you're moving. Otherwise, these mistakes will affect your safety and your ability to properly build muscle and strength with that lift.
Remember that the most common mistake is that your ego prevents you from lifting too heavy a load. But you should know that by now, right?
Improper construction and termination
It might seem cool and easier to drop the dumbbells and feel that "bang" after completing the set, but not only is it lame, it can be unsafe for you and others. First, the dumbbells could bounce and hit someone nearby, and second, the dumbbell could break. However, if you do this too often, especially with heavier weights, it can ultimately lead to injuries to your shoulder joints.
Fix it: Try not to drop the dumbbells as the video shows. Please ask your training partner or someone at the gym to recognize you if you have to.
Too much or too little freedom of movement
There is a time and place where you can shorten or add range of motion, but the dumbbell bench press is not one of those exercises. Reducing ROM means leaving potential gains on the bench since the muscle is exposed to less muscle-building tension. Increasing range of motion by lowering your elbow under your torso puts the front shoulder in an compromised position, potentially leading to pain and injury.
Fix it: When clients perform this exercise, I place my hand under their torso and ask them to touch my elbow. My hands give them a point of reference; After a few reps, they'll know how deep to go. Have a partner do this, or if you're having trouble judging your own range of motion, do dumbbell floor presses instead.
upper arm angle
Extending your elbow too far puts the shoulder in an compromised position, making it less of a chest exercise. Also, the triceps are slightly more emphasized than the chest when the elbow is out to the side. To make the dumbbell bench press an equivalent strength workout for chest and triceps, an arm angle of 45 degrees works best.
Fix it: This is as simple as knowing the position of your upper arm when you press. If you feel your upper arm touching your side, it's too close; If you "see" it too much in your front shoulder, you're too big.