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Dumbbell Chest Press vs. Barbell Bench Press: Which is Better?

Athletes in Motion
Athletes in Motion
September 25, 2017
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[video width="640" height="360" mp4=""][/video]Chest prominence – you either have it or you don’t! If you have it, you need to keep working those pecs to continually strengthen and grow them. If you don’t, you need to build them. An efficient way to work your pecs is with the dumbbell chest press exercise. So, why would anyone use dumbbell chest press instead of barbell chest press? Let’s compare:

Benefits of Dumbbell Chest Press

  • Dumbbell chest press is an effective alternative or variation for the infamous bench press. It offers you a way to work each side of your chest evenly because the weight is distributed evenly when you have a dumbbell in each hand. Your dominant arm literally can’t assist you with as it would be able to in barbell presses.
  • You will have a greater range of motion when compared to barbell bench press. Dumbbells allow for your arms to move more freely. For example, at the top of the motion your hands can move more closely together. They are not in a fixed position as they would be on the barbell. Also, the lowering portion of the lift allows you to bring the weights further down unlike in barbell where you must stop when the bar is almost on your chest.
  • Because dumbbells allow for a greater range of motion, they are also going to require more stabilization. Therefore, you are going to recruit more muscles than you would for barbell chest press.

How To Do The Dumbbell Chest Press

  1. Sit down on a flat bench with a pair of dumbbells resting on your lower thighs. Use a weight that allows you to get 10 repetitions but feels heavy at number 8.
  2. Use momentum from your thighs to “kick” the weights up to shoulder height. Push the weights overhead as you lie back on the bench. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor, and that you lock your arms straight in the air.
  3. Position the dumbbells to the sides of your chest with your arms bent under each dumbbell. Your arms will be parallel to the floor.
  4. Begin the exercise by pressing the dumbbells up leading with your elbows. Push them all the way up until your arms are fully-extended.
  5. Slowly lower the dumbbells to the sides of your chest until you feel a slight stretch in your chest. Pause and begin the next repetition.

Trainer Tips:

When you press dumbbells they should move in a slightly arched pattern. When you push them up, they move slightly inward above your pecs. On the downward movement, they should be above you arms between your elbows and chest. However, keep the weights above your chest, don’t let them drift upward towards your shoulders or below your pecs. If you are drifting, drop to a lighter weight.

Sample Exercise Plan

  • Dumbbell Chest Press 3 sets of 10-12
  • Incline Dumbbell Chest Press 3 sets of 10-12
  • Pec Deck 3 sets of 10
  • Incline Dumbbell Flyes 3 sets of 8-10
  • Single Arm Incline Pushups 1 set to failure on each arm
  • Dips for Chest 1 set to failure
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