The bench press is one of the most effective and popular exercises used by weight lifters and powerlifters, as well as athletes in various sports.
This is because bench press develops immense power and is a compound exercise, meaning it develops strength and power in various muscle groups simultaneously, as well as building strength and endurance in connective and supportive muscles that are important for all forms of exercise.
The drawback of this popularity is that it can be hard to get access to the bench press due to how busy the equipment can get, or if you prefer to work out from home you may not have access to a full bench in order to do bench press effectively.
Luckily there is an alternative, dumbbell bench press. Dumbbell bench press has many advantages and disadvantages and is a great replacement or alternative to bench press for people who want to avoid busy equipment, work out from home, or want to build the chest evenly.
In this guide, we’re going to look at how to do a dumbbell bench press effectively to ensure you’re using the exercise properly and doing it safely.
We’re also going to look at the benefits and drawbacks of dumbbell bench press to convince anyone with any doubts about the exercise of its validity and usefulness.
What is Dumbbell Bench Press?
The dumbbell bench press is a variant of bench press, but instead of using a barbell to lift the weight, dumbbells are used instead.
This exercise can be done on a standard workout bench and often doesn’t use a rack or spotters due to the fact there is less danger of a lifter dropping the weight onto their chest, as the dumbbells can simply be dropped to the floor relatively safely in the event of a failed lift.
This exercise is a great alternative to standard bench press, and can also be adapted to incline or decline to target the same areas as the barbell deadlift in its decline and incline variants.
How To Do It
Dumbbell bench press is mechanically very similar to standard bench press, but there are some key differences to be aware of to ensure you’re getting the best performance and efficiency out of each lift.
The first thing to do is to pick up your dumbbells and sit down on the bench, resting the dumbbells on your thighs.
From here you can lie back in a controlled manner so that your back is flat on the bench and your feet are still flat on the floor.
Allow the weights to move back with your body and as you do so lift them up beside both your shoulders, with the dumbbells oriented perpendicular to your body or shoulders.
From here, you can adjust to a comfortable position to start the bench press set.
With the weights held out beside your chest a few inches, push the weights up until your arms are almost locked out, but don’t actually fully lock out the elbows.
Some people like to touch the dumbbells together at the peak of the lift, but this isn’t necessary and is mostly an affectation in technique.
From here you can begin to lower the weight back towards the starting position, lowering in a controlled manner to avoid injury.
Whether or not you decide to do alternating or simultaneous repetitions is a matter of preference, but most people do simultaneously as the weight in each hand creates a balance that allows you to lift the weight safely and stay on the bench more easily.
Complete 6 to 10 reps depending on your program and preferences.
You can then either drop the dumbbells safely to the floor after the set is completed or raise them in a controlled manner as you sit forward, placing them on the floor in front of you ready to be used again.
It’s important to ensure that with each repetition you are keeping the arms level and pushing at the same rate to stay balanced and use the same amount of force in each arm.
It’s also key to keep your back totally flat to the bench and your feet flat on the floor, as a movement in these areas will not only risk injury but reduce the efficiency and effectiveness of your lifts.
You can lift the bench and do this exercise in an inclined position to target the upper pectoral muscles more effectively or raise the seated area of the bench to do the exercise in a declined position to target the lower area of the pecs more effectively.
The Benefits of Dumbbell Bench Press
There are many benefits to using a dumbbell bench press.
- It allows you to develop each pec independently and progress them evenly, instead of one pec and arm dominating the other, which can and does lead to uneven progress for people who exclusively rely on the barbell bench press.
- This exercise doesn’t often require a spotter or special equipment such as weight racks above the bench, which makes it accessible and easy to do anywhere, even at home with very basic equipment.
- This exercise is adaptable and can do everything that the barbell bench press does in terms of incline, decline, and other variations.
The Drawbacks of Dumbbell Bench Press
While there are many benefits to using a dumbbell bench press, there are important drawbacks to consider also.
- Oftentimes, the dumbbell bench press doesn’t allow you to lift as much as the barbell bench press, meaning the total resistance you can use to progressively overload your muscles is less, which can lead to slightly lower improvements in strength and appearance.
- Dumbbell bench press can be harder to control and requires a more strict form, and not managing this can increase the risk of injury due to the fact your arms aren’t supporting each other and creating a frame.