Dumbbell Press: How-to, Common mistakes + FAQ

Best chest workout at home with dumbbellBesides the bench press, the dumbbell press is probably the most well-known exercise for the chest muscles. Not unjustly, because the exercise is effective, easy to learn, and safe to perform. In this exercise, you use two dumbbells to train your chest, where you lie on a bench.

On this page, you will find information about the muscles you train with this exercise, step-by-step explanations about the dumbbell press, the most common mistakes, and frequently asked questions. All the information you need to enter the gym is well prepared.

Which muscles do you train with the dumbbell press?

The most important muscle group that you train with the dumbbell press is of course the chest. Pretty much everyone who does this exercise does it for stronger and bigger chest muscles. In addition, other muscles are of course also used. This way you will also use the muscles in your shoulders, especially the front part. You also use your triceps while pushing.

As you start using heavier dumbbells, you will notice that balance during the dumbbell press is very important. To remain stable on the bench, you (unconsciously) also tense quite a lot of muscles around your waist. You will not get a six-pack from it, a strong core can certainly be a result of this exercise.

best chest workout at home with dumbbell press

Performance of the dumbbell press

Fortunately, the dumbbell press tutorial is very easy and even beginners can learn it easily. You need a bench and a set of dumbbells, then you can start. You can also perform the exercise at home if you have access to it. View the explanation of the dumbbell press below.

1. Lie down in the starting position

Grab a horizontal bench so you can lie straight. Sit on the bench and place both dumbbells on your thighs. Lower your upper body back together with the dumbbells. Try to do this in a controlled manner by lifting your knees up to guide the dumbbells back, or explosively pop the dumbbells up as you lie down. Make sure you keep tension in your upper body and arms so you don't lose your balance. Once lying down, hold the dumbbells along your torso at the height of the bottom of your chest.

2. Push the dumbbells up

Place your feet firmly on the floor, push your shoulder blades in, and your chest forward. Make sure your upper arms are at a 45-degree angle to your torso and push the dumbbells up in a straight line. Make sure the dumbbells don't touch at the top of the movement to keep maximum chest tension and avoid using your shoulders.

3. Lower the dumbbells

Once your arms are straight, move them down again in a controlled manner until the dumbbells are at chest level. Focus on tightening your chest and making sure you keep pushing your shoulder blades in. Once at the bottom, you should feel a slight stretch of the pectoral muscle.

4. Repeat

Repeat the above steps for the desired number of reps.

When you follow these steps, you will find that it is quite easy to learn the dumbbell press. Start with a weight that you can perform about 12 reps with and focus on the technique. Once it feels comfortable enough, you can choose to use heavier dumbbells.

Most common mistakes

Overusing Shoulder Muscles

One mistake many people make is overusing the shoulder muscles. The last part of the pushing motion often gets tricky, causing people to use their shoulders. They then push their shoulders forward or pull them up like a shrug. This can lead to strain and eventually injuries to the shoulder.

It is therefore important that you keep pushing your shoulder blades inwards throughout the exercise and that you push your shoulders towards your buttocks, as it were. This should give you a slight bulge in your lower back.

The wrong angle of the upper arms

In addition to the previous mistake, many people hold their upper arms at the wrong angle. Some keep their elbows level with the shoulders, overusing the shoulder muscles. Others just keep their elbows against their torso, putting much of the load on the triceps, which is basically a close grip press.

Either way, both situations ensure that the chest muscles are not optimally stimulated. Typically, your upper arms should form an angle of about 45 degrees with your torso. For most people, this means that the dumbbells are at the height of the lower part of the chest.

Using too much weight

The last common mistake is using too much weight. Unlike the barbell bench press, the dumbbell bench press starts with the pushing part of the exercise, which sometimes makes the first repetition a bit difficult.

Instead of wasting all your energy pushing the dumbbells up yourself on the first rep, it's okay to ask for assistance here. However, do you also need help with the rest of your reps? Then you are lifting too heavyweights. Be sure to pick up weights that will test yourself, but still maintain control and correct technique.

Frequently asked questions about the dumbbell press

To complete the explanation about the dumbbell press, we will discuss a number of frequently asked questions here. If you have no more questions and everything is already clear, you can get started. If you still have questions, read on. Perhaps your question is listed here.

Is the dumbbell press better than the bench press?

No, the dumbbell press is in principle not better, but simply different. You should not see both exercises as competitors, but as exercises that you can simply train both. With the normal bench press, you push into a fixed position, while this is not the case with dumbbells. People can of course have a preference, but in principle one is not better than the other.

Can you press a dumbbell from the floor?

Yes, this can certainly be done from the floor. This is also known as a dumbbell floor press. When you do this variation, you put more emphasis on the second part of the movement. In this part of the exercise, you push a little more from your triceps. Do you find that you can always push the bottom part fine, but get exhausted faster in the last part? In that case, you can try doing the dumbbell floor press for a few weeks.


Can you replace the bench press with the dumbbell press?

You can in principle replace any exercise with another, but the question is whether you should want this. Bench presses and dumbbell presses can be performed in succession when you are training the chest muscles.

Will the dumbbell press improve my bench press?

When you get stronger in the performance of one exercise, it does not mean that this will also be the case in another exercise. However, you will get stronger chest muscles by doing the dumbbell press. So it is certainly possible that this has an effect on your strength during the bench press, but this is not a certainty. What is certain is that if you just keep doing both in a structured way, you will automatically become stronger in both exercises.

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