How to do a Dumbbell Chest Press

There are several exercises that are set in stone in just about everyone’s workout.  Squats, bench press, lat pull down, dumbbell curls just to name a few.  Another of course is the dumbbell chest press.   The dumbbell chest press is a great exercise that will increase size, strength, power and endurance of the chest and anterior shoulder depending on how you perform the exercise. Just like any other exercise there are many progressions and variations to the dumbbell chest press.  Lets look at the basic and the some progressions of the dumbbell chest press.

The basic dumbbell chest press or flat dumbbell chest press is performed by lying supine (face up) on a bench with hands in a prone (palms down) position pressing the dumbbells upward.  That’s pretty straight forward.  A variation of the exercise would be an incline dumbbell chest press.  It is performed the same as a flat dumbbell chest press except for you would use a incline bench instead of a flat one.  You can also perform a decline dumbbell chest press.  You would then just use a decline bench.   All these variations are changing the angle of which the force is produced.  Now lets look at some variations that change the contraction range of motion.  The pectoral muscle perform horizontal adduction and internal rotation.  This means the chest pushes away and rotates the arm inward.  If you perform the dumbbell chest press with your palms facing inwards, the pectorals are not contracting through a full range of motion.  Rotating the hands from facing inwards to facing downwards during the pressing motion will contract the pectorals through the full range of motion.  You can use this variation with the basic, incline and decline dumbbell chest presses.

Changing the tempo of the exercise will also change how the muscle will react.  The tempo is the speed at which you perform the exercise.  A slower tempo will recruit small stabilizing muscles and force the prime movers to contract slowly building endurance and stabilization.  A medium tempo will build maximum force production.  Power will be the adaptation of a fast tempo.  The medium and fast tempos should be performed on a stable surface like a bench.  Yet the slower tempo can be performed in an unstable environment like a stability ball.  A stability ball dumbbell chest press is performed by lying in a supine position on top of a stability ball.  Your head and shoulders should rest on  the stability ball with your feet hip width apart and your hips pushed up so your body is parallel with the floor.  Core should be contacted to stabilize the body.

Flat, incline, decline, with rotation, on a stability ball and with varying tempos.  The are many variations to the dumbbell chest press with many desired results.   Stability, strength or power; no matter what your training for the dumbbell chest press has a variation that can work for you.  So, pick the one that fits your goals and start pressing.


[stextbox id=”grey” caption=”About the Author”]Josh Morrison is the owner of Optimum Performance Training in Mt Zion, IL. He has a M.S. in Performance Enhancement, B.A. in Physical Education, certified as an NASM-PES, NASE-CSSE, NASM-CPT, NESTA-CPT, Human Kinetics-Advanced Exercise Nutrition and APEX-FitPro. [/stextbox]

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