Dumbbell chest presses are my favorite multi-joint exercise for the chest. I find that it’s much more comfortable for my shoulders than a barbell bench press AND there are a variety of ways to use them.
These moves work the chest, front of the shoulders and the triceps (back of the upper arm). This page will discuss proper form for dumbbell chest presses and some of their variations.
I have asked two friends of mine to give some specific advice on performing these moves. Brendan Cameron and Albert Pierce both have a BS in Exercise Physiology. Brendan also has a minor in biology. Both are working towards a career in physical therapy. Descriptions and pictures are provided – click on the videos for even more info!
Dumbbell Chest Press
Works the chest (pectoralis major), front of shoulders (anterior deltoid) and the triceps (back of the upper arm). “This move is great because each arm has to move independent from the other, bringing more muscles into play to keep balance”, Brendan says.
• Lie face up on a horizontal bench, with feet flat on the ground for stability and elbows bent. Hold the dumbbells with an overhand grip at chest level.
• Inhale and extend the arms vertically as you exhale while rotating the forearms so that the palms face each other.
• Once the hands face each other, squeeze the chest muscles.
Like me, Albert and Brendan both prefer dumbbell chest presses over barbell bench presses.
Variations: Execute the exercise without rotating the forearms. Dumbbell presses can also be done by lifting them, alternating one then the other in a "see-saw" fashion.
One variation I really like...
is using one arm at a time – also known as a “unilateral movement”. When doing a one arm dumbbell press, your core muscles have to tighten differently because all the weight is on one side.
I can really feel my abs and obliques tightening up when doing dumbbell presses this way! There have been times when I have done heavy single arm dumbbell presses and my abs were sore the next day!
Incline Dumbbell Press
Works pectoralis major and anterior deltoid. “This is my favorite chest exercise,” says Brendan.
• Sit on a bench with an angle of no more than 60 degrees, with elbows bent. Grasp the dumbbells with an overhand grip.
• Inhale and then extend the arms vertically as you exhale, bringing the dumbbells together.
Variations: beginning the press with the hands in an overhand grip rotating the wrists halfway through the movement so that the dumbbells face each other. Dumbbell chest presses can also be done on a decline bench.
There are also a lot of great combination exercises. Using these chest exercises with other exercises can have a great cardio effect AND save you time! What a concept!!