Dumbbell Bench Press: How to Perform, Benefits & Expert Tips 

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The dumbbell bench press is a great exercise that can accelerate your chest, shoulder, and tricep growth when done properly.  

Unfortunately, this also happens to be a movement that many people unknowingly perform incorrectly, reducing its effectiveness and increasing the chances of injury. 

Let’s take a look at how to perform the dumbbell bench press, the benefits that come from performing the dumbbell bench press, and some expert tips.  

Dumbbell Bench Press Overview 

When it comes to sculpting a strong and chiseled upper body, the dumbbell bench press is a tried-and-true exercise that deserves a place in your workout routine.  

This versatile compound movement engages your chest, shoulders, triceps, and even your core, giving you a comprehensive upper body workout.  

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned lifter, the dumbbell bench press can be tailored to your fitness level, making it an excellent choice for anyone looking to build strength and definition. 

Dumbbell Bench Press Video Exercise Guide 

Link: How To: Dumbbell Chest Press – YouTube 

Dumbbell Bench Press Instructions 

To reap the full benefits of the dumbbell bench press, it’s crucial to execute the exercise with proper form. Follow these step-by-step instructions to perfect the dumbbell bench press form: 

Set up your bench: Position yourself on a flat bench with your feet firmly planted on the ground. Maintain a natural arch in your lower back, keeping your core engaged for stability. 

Grab the dumbbells: Hold a dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip, palms facing forward. Lift the dumbbells to shoulder level, keeping your wrists straight. 

Lower the dumbbells: Slowly and with control, lower the dumbbells towards your chest, maintaining a slight bend in your elbows. Your elbows should be at approximately a 45-degree angle from your torso. 

Press the dumbbells up: In a controlled and explosive motion, push the dumbbells back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms without locking your elbows. 

Repeat and breathe: Aim for a smooth and continuous motion, exhaling as you push the dumbbells up and inhaling as you lower them down. Maintain a steady rhythm throughout your repetitions. 

Dumbbell Bench Press Tips 

  1. Start with lighter weights: If you’re new to the exercise or trying a different weight range, begin with lighter dumbbells to ensure proper form and prevent strain. Gradually increase the weight as your strength and technique improve. 
  1. Focus on stability: Maintain a stable and balanced position throughout the exercise. Engage your core, keep your shoulders back, and avoid excessive arching or bouncing of the weights. 
  1. Mind-muscle connection: Concentrate on contracting your chest muscles throughout the movement. Visualize pushing through your chest rather than just moving the weights up and down. 
  1. Avoid excessive wrist movement: Keep your wrists straight and stable throughout the exercise to minimize strain and maintain control. 
  1. Utilize a spotter: When lifting heavier weights or pushing yourself to new limits, having a spotter can provide an extra level of safety and support. They can assist with unracking and re-racking the dumbbells, and ensure your form stays on point. 

Dumbbell Bench Press Sets and Reps 

Strength and muscle building: If you’re aiming to build strength and increase muscle mass, opt for heavier weights and lower reps. Perform 3-5 sets of 6-13 repetitions, allowing yourself ample rest between sets. 

Endurance and toning: To improve muscular endurance and achieve a more toned physique, choose lighter weights and higher reps. Aim for 2-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions, keeping the intensity and tempo steady. 

Common Dumbbell Bench Press Mistakes 

Starting Too Heavy 

One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is selecting weights that are too heavy for them.  

It’s important to start with a weight that allows you to maintain proper form and complete the exercise with control.  

Gradually increase the weight as you build strength and confidence. 

Alternating Your Arms 

While it’s tempting to alternate your arms during the dumbbell bench press, especially if you’re used to doing so in other exercises, it’s actually not the most effective technique.  

This can lead to an imbalance in your strength development and compromise the stability of the movement.  

Instead, focus on pressing both dumbbells simultaneously for better overall muscle engagement. 

Pressing Too Shallow 

Another mistake people often make is not fully extending their arms during the upward phase of the bench press.  

It’s essential to complete the full range of motion, extending your arms fully at the top of the movement.  

This ensures that you’re engaging your chest muscles fully and getting the most out of each repetition. 

The Rules of Bench Pressing 

Feet Flat on the Floor 

First things first, make sure your feet are planted firmly on the ground throughout the exercise.  

This provides a stable base and helps you maintain balance and control. Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart, allowing your toes to grip the floor.  

By keeping your feet flat and grounded, you’ll have a solid foundation to generate power and maintain stability during the bench press. 

Shoulder Position 

Proper shoulder positioning is crucial for a successful dumbbell bench press.  

When lying down on the bench, retract and depress your shoulder blades.  

This means squeezing your shoulder blades together and pulling them down towards your lower back.  

This position helps stabilize your shoulders, protects the joint, and improves overall pressing mechanics.  

Maintaining good shoulder position will also help you engage the chest muscles more effectively. 

Elbow Position 

Next, let’s talk about your elbow position during the dumbbell bench press.  

As you lower the dumbbells towards your chest, aim to keep your elbows at around a 45-degree angle from your body.  

This position allows for optimal engagement of the chest muscles and reduces unnecessary strain on the shoulders.  

Be mindful not to flare your elbows out too wide, as this can place excessive stress on the shoulder joint.  

Keeping the elbows slightly tucked helps maintain a safe and efficient movement pattern. 

Hand Position 

Your hand position plays a significant role in the effectiveness of the dumbbell bench press.  

Grab the dumbbells with an overhand grip, palms facing forward. Position your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, ensuring that your wrists are aligned with your elbows.  

This grip width allows for a full range of motion and targets the chest muscles more effectively. Experiment with different grip widths to find what feels most comfortable and natural for you. 

Dumbbell Bench Press Variations 

To keep your workouts interesting and continually challenge your muscles, incorporating variations of the dumbbell bench press is a great idea. Here are some exciting variations to consider: 

Dumbbell Floor Press 

The dumbbell bench press on floor is an excellent variation that focuses on the bottom portion of the bench press movement.  

By performing the exercise on the floor, your range of motion is limited, making it a great option for targeting the chest and triceps.  

Plus, it can be gentler on the shoulders, making it suitable for those with shoulder issues. 

Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press 

While we mentioned earlier that alternating arms during the bench press is not ideal, the alternating seated dumbbell press is an exception.  

In this variation, you press one dumbbell at a time while keeping the other arm extended.  

This technique challenges your stabilizer muscles and can help identify and correct strength imbalances between your arms. 

Single-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press 

The single-arm dumbbell bench press is a fantastic way to increase core engagement and develop unilateral strength.  

By pressing one arm at a time, you place additional demand on your stabilizer muscles and can help address any imbalances between your left and right sides. 

Incline Press 

If you want to target your upper chest more intensely, the incline dumbbell bench press is the way to go.  

Set your bench at an incline (around 45 degrees) and perform the dumbbell bench press as usual.  

This variation shifts the emphasis to your upper chest, shoulders, and triceps, providing a well-rounded upper body workout. 

Eccentric-Focused Mixed-Style Incline Press 

This variation combines eccentric-focused training with the incline bench press.  

Start with both dumbbells at the top of the movement and slowly lower one dumbbell while simultaneously pressing the other one up.  

This technique places emphasis on the eccentric (lowering) portion of the exercise, which can lead to increased muscle growth and strength gains. 

Single-Arm Incline Double-Explode Press 

For advanced trainers looking for a challenge, the single-arm incline double-explode press is a great option.  

With this variation, you explosively press one dumbbell up while the other one is held at the bottom position. This technique develops power, speed, and overall upper body strength. 

Dumbbell Bench Press Alternatives 

Overhead Press 

The overhead press, also known as the standing dumbbell press, is an excellent exercise to add to your routine.  

It involves pressing a barbell or dumbbells overhead from shoulder height, engaging your deltoids, triceps, and upper chest muscles.  

By performing the Overhead Press, you not only strengthen your upper body but also enhance your stability and core strength. 

Barbell Bench Press 

While the Dumbbell Bench Press is highly effective, the Barbell Bench Press offers its own unique advantages.  

This compound movement involves lifting a barbell while lying on a bench, engaging your chest, triceps, and shoulders.  

The Barbell Bench Press allows you to lift heavier weights, stimulating greater overall muscle growth and strength development. 

Muscles Worked by the Dumbbell Bench Press 

Chest 

One of the main dumbbell bench press muscles worked is the chest. The Dumbbell Bench Press is renowned for its ability to sculpt and strengthen the chest muscles, including the pectoralis major and minor.  

It helps create a well-defined and muscular chest, giving you that impressive, chiseled look. 

Triceps 

While the primary focus may be on the chest, the Dumbbell Bench Press also engages the triceps muscles as secondary movers.  

These muscles, located at the back of your upper arms, play a crucial role in pressing movements, assisting in extending the elbows during the exercise. 

Deltoids 

The deltoids, commonly known as the shoulder muscles, are also activated during the Dumbbell Bench Press. They assist in stabilizing and controlling the weights as you press, helping you achieve a well-rounded upper body. 

Benefits of the Dumbbell Bench Press 

More Muscle and Strength 

The Dumbbell Bench Press is a compound exercise that recruits multiple muscle groups simultaneously.  

This results in greater overall muscle and strength gains, helping you build a well-rounded upper body. 

Freedom of Positioning 

Unlike the Barbell Bench Press, the Dumbbell Bench Press allows for a greater range of motion and individual arm movement.  

This freedom of positioning helps address muscle imbalances, strengthens stabilizer muscles, and prevents strength disparities between your dominant and non-dominant sides. 

Increased Unilateral Strength 

Performing the Dumbbell Bench Press with two separate dumbbells requires each side of your body to work independently.  

This promotes equal strength development and helps overcome any muscle imbalances that might exist between your left and right sides. 

Longer Range of Motion 

Compared to the Barbell Bench Press, the Dumbbell Bench Press allows for a longer range of motion.  

This increased range challenges your muscles through a wider stretch, leading to improved flexibility, mobility, and muscle activation. 

Who Should Do the Dumbbell Bench Press 

Powerlifters 

For powerlifters, the dumbbell bench press can be a valuable addition to their training regimen.  

It helps build overall upper body strength, particularly in the chest, shoulders, and triceps.  

By using dumbbells instead of a barbell, powerlifters can improve their stability and balance, which are crucial during heavy lifts.  

The dumbbell bench press also allows for a greater range of motion, helping powerlifters strengthen their stabilizer muscles. 

Strongmen and Strongwomen 

Strongmen and strongwomen who compete in events that require upper body strength can benefit from the dumbbell bench press.  

This exercise helps develop raw pressing power and stability, which are essential for various strongman disciplines like log press and axle press.  

Incorporating dumbbell bench presses into their training routine can lead to improved overall strength and performance in these events. 

Weightlifters 

Strongmen and strongwomen who compete in events that require upper body strength can benefit from the dumbbell bench press.  

This exercise helps develop raw pressing power and stability, which are essential for various strongman disciplines like log press and axle press.  

Incorporating dumbbell bench presses into their training routine can lead to improved overall strength and performance in these events. 

Bodybuilders 

Bodybuilders, who aim to sculpt and develop their muscles for aesthetic purposes, often incorporate the dumbbell bench press into their workouts.  

This exercise allows for a greater range of motion compared to the barbell bench press, which can target the chest muscles from different angles.  

By using dumbbells, bodybuilders can also engage stabilizer muscles more effectively, leading to enhanced muscle development and definition in the chest, shoulders, and triceps. 
 

The 2 Barbell Bench Press Styles 

The Powerlifting Style 

The powerlifting style of bench pressing focuses on maximizing the amount of weight lifted.  

Powerlifters typically adopt a wider grip, placing their hands farther apart on the barbell.  

This wider grip shortens the range of motion and emphasizes the recruitment of the chest, triceps, and front deltoids.  

Powerlifters also tend to arch their backs, using leg drive to generate momentum and increase their pressing power. 

The Bodybuilding Style 

In contrast to the powerlifting style, the bodybuilding style of bench pressing places more emphasis on muscle isolation and hypertrophy.  

Bodybuilders typically use a slightly narrower grip, which places more stress on the chest muscles.  

They also tend to keep their feet firmly planted on the ground, reducing the use of leg drive.  

The focus in the bodybuilding style is on controlling the weight and achieving a full range of motion, allowing for a better stretch and contraction of the chest muscles. 

Which Should You Pick? 

The choice between the powerlifting and bodybuilding style of bench pressing depends on your specific goals and preferences.  

If you’re aiming to maximize your strength and lift heavy weights, the powerlifting style may be more suitable.  

On the other hand, if your primary objective is to develop well-defined chest muscles and promote hypertrophy, the bodybuilding style might be a better fit. 

Do You Need to Barbell Bench Press? 

When it comes to chest exercises, the barbell bench press is often hailed as the king of upper body workouts.  

Many people swear by it as a staple in their training routine, and it’s certainly a great exercise for building strength and muscle mass.

However, the question remains: do you really need to include barbell bench pressing in your workout regimen? 

The answer depends on your individual goals and preferences.  

If your primary focus is on building overall strength and power, the barbell bench press is hard to beat.  

It allows you to lift heavier weights, engage multiple muscle groups, and target your chest, shoulders, and triceps effectively.  

Additionally, the barbell offers stability and balance, making it easier to track progress and increase the load over time. 

Why You Should Build Around Barbell Press 

If you’re aiming to maximize your bench press strength, the barbell should be your go-to choice.  

It provides a solid foundation for developing your upper body strength and can be a valuable tool for powerlifters and athletes who need to excel in activities requiring pushing movements. 

Moreover, the barbell bench press allows for progressive overload, meaning you can gradually increase the weight lifted over time.  

This progressive overload is key to stimulating muscle growth and strength gains.  

It’s a compound exercise that engages the pecs, deltoids, triceps, and even your core muscles, leading to a more balanced upper body development. 

Why You Should Build Around Dumbbell Press 

While the barbell bench press has its merits, the dumbbell press offers a range of unique benefits that make it a worthwhile exercise to include in your training routine. 

Firstly, using dumbbells provides an increased range of motion compared to a barbell.  

This greater range of motion allows for a deeper stretch at the bottom of the movement, resulting in improved muscle activation and flexibility.  

It also helps in developing stabilizer muscles, as each arm has to work independently to control the weights. 

Furthermore, dumbbells offer a more natural and joint-friendly pressing motion, reducing the risk of imbalances or injuries.  

They allow for a more neutral grip, which can be advantageous for individuals with shoulder issues or discomfort during barbell pressing. 

In addition, dumbbell exercises allow you to target muscle imbalances more effectively.  

Since each arm works independently, you can address any strength discrepancies between your left and right sides. This can be especially beneficial for those looking to correct muscular imbalances or prevent injuries caused by muscle asymmetry. 

Workouts 

To incorporate both the barbell bench press and dumbbell press into your workout routine, you can follow a well-rounded approach.  

Begin with the barbell bench press to focus on overall strength development and heavy lifting.  

Perform three to four sets of eight to twelve repetitions, gradually increasing the weight as you progress. 

After completing your barbell bench press sets, transition to a dumbbell bench press workout to target muscle imbalances, enhance stability, and promote a greater range of motion.  

Aim for three sets of eight to ten repetitions, focusing on controlled and smooth movements. 

Remember to maintain proper form and technique throughout both exercises. Warm up adequately before each session and listen to your body’s signals to avoid overexertion or injury. 

Build bigger pecs, stronger shoulders, and switch up your training with this classic chest exercise. 

There you have it – you now know everything you need to know if you want to master the dumbbell bench press. 

If you want to get dumbbell bench press forearms, arms, pecs, and shoulders, then you will want to include this exercise in your routine right away. 

While it might not be as popular as the traditional bench press, it definitely deserves a spot in your arsenal when you take into consideration its many benefits. 

So, get out there and start working on your dumbbell bench press! 

Dumbbell Bench Press – FAQs 


How Low Should I Go In The Dumbbell Bench Press? 

You should try to lightly touch your upper rib cage/lower chest when doing the dumbbell bench press.  

It’s also okay to stop just above the chest if using spotter arms.  

How Should I Dumbbell Bench Press To Minimize Shoulder Pain And Discomfort? 

To minimise shoulder pain and discomfort when doing the dumbbell bench press, you should try to wrap your shoulders around the bench press by trying to squeeze your clavicles together throughout the entire movement.  

How Heavy Should I Lift During The Dumbbell Bench Press? 

You should pick a weight that you can lift for 8-12 reps with good form when performing the dumbbell bench press.  

If your main goal is strength and not muscle growth, you can lower the rep count to 2-5. 

We hope this article will be of some use to you.  

The dumbbell bench press is an extraordinary exercise, and you now know everything you need to know to make the most out of it. 

If you would like more help performing the dumbbell bench press or just want access to more fitness content in general, feel free to check out our other articles on MovingForwards

See you next time!