Exercise Of The Week: Dumbbell Flat Bench Presses.

The main benefit of dumbbell presses, as opposed to barbell presses, is using dumbbells in this manner also allows for a greater stretch at the bottom and more efficient peak contraction at the top than a barbell press do.

Dumbbell bench presses can be performed at the three various angles and they are the flat bench version, decline, and at an incline. But, we are mainly focusing on the flat version for now.

The main benefit of dumbbell presses, as opposed to barbell presses, is using dumbbells in this manner also allows for a greater stretch at the bottom and more efficient peak contraction at the top than a barbell press do.

They say that it is an advantage or benefit, well, that depends on who you are talking to and how far one goes down with the dumbbells. Also, a different item to note is that at the point of contraction, you can add a slight twist by turning your palms inward at the top, providing for a better contraction. You are not able to do that with barbell presses.

Dumbbell presses are a more effective chest developer then barbell presses are especially for a bodybuilder as they develop chest mass in the middle and outer pectoral muscles. Dumbbells are also more difficult to balance so your stabilizer muscles will develop better.

How To

First, grasp the dumbbells and place them on-end on your knees or mid quad. Lean back slowly into the bench, heave the dumbbells up to your shoulders then at arm's length over your chest, place your feet flat on the floor, and make sure your butt, hips and upper back and head are pressed hard into the bench. Don't squirm. Don't arch. Well, maybe very slightly—that's is OK.

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The dumbbells should face forward slightly turned inward at about a 35 degree angle, not straight across like you have a bar in your hands. The latter way is mechanically wrong when using dumbbells. It seems like a lesson on bench pressing technique always consists of more "don'ts" than the "do's." Don't bounce.

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OK, lower the dumbbells so they go to your outer chest armpit area. Maker sure that you are keeping them balanced and under control on the eccentric and concentric movement. Slowly bend your elbows below the level of your chest placing the dumbbells in line with your chest and shoulders. Not any lower.

Drive the weights back up and lock your arms straight overhead. Then repeat till you've finished your set for the desired number of repetitions. Sets can range from 2 sets all the way up to 10 sets. Repetition range can be mixed up too. I sometimes go as low as 3 reps per set. Yep, three-reps.

Remember: These are presses NOT flyes! We are pressing NOT hugging.

Sample Sets and Rep Ranges:

  • 10 sets of 10- reps
  • 6 sets of 6 reps
  • 5 sets of (heavy) 3-4 reps

Movement/Exercise Tips: Force the dumbbells to come together (Without banging them together, you dummy!). This will help you get the better flex contraction at the top in which is where you're looking on getting the most effect from this movement.

If you have a training partner he or she can give you a few forced reps at the end of each set. That means you do the first number of reps on your own, so if you have 8 reps to do you do them on your own and then have your partner force you to do 3-5 more. This is done by your partner either grabbing your wrists or under your elbows. The latter is the way everyone spots and gives forced reps but by grabbing your partners wrists you can avoid the dumbbell crashing down on their pretty face allot quicker and easier then if you had their elbows.

Also, DO NOT THROW or DROP your dumbbells. I don' care who you are or what level, if my wife can lower to her knees a pair of 80 pound dumbbells without throwing them to the floor so can you. To some of us in the gym we view dumbbell throwing as a sign of needing attention to your self. You'll definitely get mine as I'm laughing at you.

Here are a few different dumbbell bench press variations that you should try. A few alternatives that will help you develop the ever-important pectoralis major.

Alternate Dumbbell Presses

Same as above flat bench dumbbell but instead press one dumbbell at a time, like a punching movement. (see above)

Dumbbell Floor Presses

These are very difficult and for a more advanced lifter. As you do not have base and the floor stops the dumbbell with your triceps/elbow area touching the floor first.

Note: Do not bounce off the floor.

You might flat dumbbell press those 120's but try floor pressing those 120's. Aaagh! I thought so you're not as strong as you thought. To do them, just lye flat on the floor. Have your partner hand you the dumbbells one at a time or have two partner/spotters each hand you a dumbbell. Lower the weight VERY slowly. When the back of your arm touches the floor pause the weight and then explode with everything you have. Repeat the movement.

Dumbbell Exercise Ball Presses

This is another advanced movement. You must have a serious base (Feet firmly on the ground), and strong balance to accomplish dumbbell pressing off of an exercise ball. Sit on the ball, and slowly lie back onto the ball.

Hammer-Grip Flat-Bench Dumbbell Presses

Again, these are not flyes you just change your grip to a punch instead of supinated. A Hammer-grip is palms facing in-ward and punch or press upward the same way, just make sure not to go into a fly movement.

Incline Dumbbell Presses

These can be done at either a 35 degree or 45 degree angle.

Decline Dumbbell Presses

Same as above do not get to steep into your decline for effectiveness try a 45 degree angle.


Push-ups, especially in high quantities, are a great exercise for hitting the chest. These are great to add after any dumbbell pressing routine. At the end of your chest workout put your feet up on a bench, and then your hands on another bench (Yep, you need three flat benches).

Crank out a set of push-ups and your chest will really feel it. To hit the upper portion of your chest, put your hands onto the floor while leaving your feet on a bench. These do not necessarily have to be performed as part of a superset.

Sample Workouts

  • Dumbbell bench press: 5 sets 6-8 reps
  • Incline dumbbell presses: 5 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Push-ups: 2 sets of failure
  • Dumbbell floor presses: 5 sets of 5 reps
  • Dumbbell incline presses: 4-5 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Dumbbell single-arm presses: 2 sets of 10, each arm
  • Dumbbell flat presses: 4-5 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Parallel bar dips: 3 sets of 15-20


In this exercise of the week we have discussed the flat dumbbell press, its movement, technique and some of its variations. I have given you some pec-building exercise routines that incorporate the dumbbell flat press and its variations.

So, try using dumbbells for a while instead of the bar for your chest pressing movements. Try those dumbbell floor presses if you dare, they're not as easy as you might think and the soreness you'll feel the next day is brutal.

Good luck and give me one more rep!