For those seeking to augment their pectoral musculature, dumbbell exercises may be the better alternative to barbell training, as the risk of injury is decreased and results may be more expedient. The following workouts and dumbbell exercises may prove effective for developing the chest from top to bottom. Incorporating these exercises into one’s regimen may result in increased musculature and improved strength.
Consequently, this exercise is beneficial to gymgoers of varying proficiency levels, in addition to augmenting one’s barbell bench press capability.
What Are The Benefits of Working My Chest With Dumbbells?
#1 Dumbbells afford a greater range of motion. The barbell, however, prevents full stretching of the pectoral muscles when doing a bench press due to its early contact with the chest. To lift the heaviest weight possible, this is not an issue. Dumbbells are superior to barbells for building size and strength due to their capacity to lower the weight beyond chest level. This maximally elongates the pec muscles while activating more muscle fibers. A study found that lifters who increased the range of motion of their bench press by 10% experienced more substantial muscle growth than those who didn’t.
#2 Dumbbells are advantageous for reducing joint stress levels, as the human body is inherently asymmetrical, and each joint is different from side to side. Subjecting the body to symmetrical force can lead to an unequal amount of stress being applied to the joints, potentially resulting in discomfort if done frequently.
Dumbbells enable users to identify the most efficient form of exercise for their body. By adjusting their grip and following the path of motion that best suits their elbows and shoulders, they can manipulate the workout to target their muscles specifically rather than their joints.
#3 Weight training with dumbbells allows for balanced muscle development and strength. This builds upon the previous point: though you may think you are pushing with equal force on a barbell bench press, an individual’s body can often compensate by exerting more effort on their stronger side while allowing their weaker side to rest. When using dumbbells, both the right and left arms must work equally to avoid any muscular imbalances. This ensures that the number of repetitions for each side remains equal and allows for any weaker side to build up strength.
#4 The use of dumbbells when bench pressing is more effective in engaging the pectoralis major, the main chest muscle, than other methods. With dumbbells, the chest muscles must contract to keep the weights from moving outward, which leads to a greater workout of the pecs. Compared to barbells and Smith machines, dumbbells provide a higher intensity exercise for the chest.
Dumbbell vs. Barbell Bench Press
The barbell bench press is a popular exercise people typically include in their workout routine to build a more muscular chest. However, it can be challenging on the joints. An alternative is the dumbbell bench press, which can be a beneficial substitute.
How to Do the Dumbbell Bench Press
Dumbbells offer a different shoulder and elbow position than barbells, increasing your range of motion and making the exercise more effective in building muscle.
Step 1 — Get into the Pressing Position
Place a pair of dumbbells on a flat bench and lie back with the dumbbells on either side of your chest and your hands facing each other. Pull your shoulder blades back into the bar. Stand with both feet firmly on the ground, directly under your knees.
It would be best to have your glutes, head, and shoulders touching the bench at about 90 degrees. To correctly complete this exercise, you should rotate your arms until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle.
Place your feet slightly away from your body and allow your hands to point toward your knees.
To maintain stability, ensure that your feet, tailbone, shoulders, and head are all in contact with the ground or bench. If you follow these tips, you will be in an excellent position to start exercising.
Step 2 — Drive the Weights Up
Grip the dumbbells with your palms facing your feet and wrists above your elbows. Raise your elbows to the ceiling straight until the dumbbells are above your pecs. Do not let the dumbbells touch at the top of each repetition.
When doing a push-up, stack your elbows directly under your wrists before driving up. If you let your wrists and weights go past the level of your elbows, you’re more likely to hurt yourself.
Step 3 — Lower into a Stretch
Lower the dumbbells slowly while maintaining tension in your shoulder blades. Your elbows should be pointing outwards at an angle between your feet and your shoulders. As you lift the dumbbells, feel your pecs stretch and come to a position outside your chest.
When you are performing the dumbbell flye exercise, you should imagine that you are pulling the dumbbells toward you while also reaching your chest up toward the ceiling. This will help you maintain the correct form for the exercise and benefit from it.
Dumbbell Bench Press Mistakes to Avoid
When using dumbbells for exercise, one has more freedom of movement in the shoulder joints, thus requiring greater control and coordination. To ensure an effective dumbbell bench press, it is recommended to avoid making a few common mistakes.
Having an Unstable Body
It is common to see lifters place their feet in the air and cross their ankles, sprawl their legs away from the bench, or raise their head, neck, and upper back during the exercise.
The less contact you have with the bench and ground, the more unstable you are, and if you lack leg drive, you won’t be able to produce much force.
It’s best to avoid driving your legs into the ground while trying to maintain balance with your torso and generate more force with your upper body. All of your leg muscles should be tight and working. Keep your back pressed against the bench to ensure your upper back is tensed.
Some people who can lift heavy weights with a barbell think they should also be able to lift heavy weights with dumbbells.
They don’t realize that dumbbells work the smaller shoulder muscles more, which can strain the shoulder joint and decrease chest muscle recruitment.
When working out with dumbbells, don’t bring your ego with you. That’s right; your warm-up weights are way too heavy. It would be best if you reduced the weight of your barbell bench press by half and removed an additional 5-10kg (10-20 pounds). It would be best if you started with a weight that is half your total weight goal. So, if you want to lift 50-pound dumbbells in each hand eventually, begin by lifting 25-pound dumbbells.
Benefits of the Dumbbell Bench Press
Incorporating dumbbells into the bench press is a great way to diversify your workout routine and facilitate improved muscle growth and strength development. The unique stimulus provided by using dumbbells can lead to improved results compared to using a barbell.
Greater Range of Motion
Dumbbells allow the weights to move in a wide arc, with the bottom position relatively wider than the top position. A barbell limits your range of motion, whereas this allows you to lengthen your muscle with a deeper stretch, potentially increasing your muscle-building ability.
Reduced Joint Strain
Dumbbells offer more versatility in terms of the angle of your upper arm and elbow and the rotation of your hands. This allows you to customize your pressing angles to reduce joint strain.
You can reduce stress on your elbow and shoulder joints by adjusting your hand and elbow position without compromising muscle recruitment.
When someone overemphasizes barbell training, it can cause problems with muscular discrepancies. This is because most people have a natural preference for using one side of their body more than the other. Because you cannot focus on each side of the barbell equally, you may not notice the subtle differences in your unilateral strength.
Dumbbell Bench Press Variations
Coaches and athletes can maintain a varied, progressive, and tailored training program to meet individual needs through various methods.
Dumbbell Floor Press
The dumbbell floor press is a move that targets your chest muscles and is performed without a bench, only using dumbbells. The range of motion is limited in order to prevent the weights from going past the chest. If you have shoulder discomfort due to restricted mobility, this is the ideal solution.
Top-half of the range of motion is emphasized, which can help to train the triceps and improve lockout strength.
Dumbbell Foam Roller Press
The foam roller provides a more stable surface than a flat bench, which allows your shoulder blades to move more freely and improve your upper back and shoulder health.
The mechanics of this movement are surprisingly similar to a push-up, which optimizes your natural scapulohumeral rhythm – the way your shoulder muscles and shoulder blades coordinate during movement. This improvement can lead to increased shoulder joint health and increased engagement of the muscles.
Single-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press
This exercise variation improves stability and strength in your whole body and engagement in your core. Use one dumbbell and perform the exercise with one arm, then switch sides.
The muscles in your core will be worked harder because you are using them to stop your torso from twisting too much to one side. You should start with a weight you’re comfortable with and gradually increase it as you gain confidence in your ability to stay stable.
Can the dumbbell bench press and barbell bench press be incorporated into a single workout routine?
Affirmatively, the barbell bench press is most effective as a strength lift involving substantial weight and reduced repetitions. Conversely, the dumbbell bench press is advantageous for hypertrophy due to its use of lighter to moderate weight with higher to extra-high repetitions. This provides the user with increased range of motion that better targets and fatigues muscle fibers.
At what depth should I lower the weights?
For optimal results when performing this exercise, lower the weights to the level of your chest, with your elbows just beneath the bench. While it may be tempting to push your limits, ensure that you focus on your active range of motion rather than your full potential range of motion, and limit your range if you experience discomfort or if you are not as flexible.
If you cannot lower your dumbbells far enough to feel a stretch in your pectoral muscles, or if you experience any pain, stop. You should strive to find a balance between tension and comfort. Remember to warm up and prepare your muscles before beginning the exercise. You may find that a thorough warm-up will help you use a larger range of motion.
Expand your typical Bench Days
The dumbbell and barbell bench press exercises are incredibly effective for building strength and size in the chest but should not be the only part of your upper body routine. Both exercises are indispensable for comprehensive upper body development, regardless of whether you opt for a barbell or dumbbell variation, but considering these and other chest-centric options will help you avoid plateaus and support your mental game because boredom can lead to lackluster results by sapping your motivation.