A chest press is basically like a triple espresso for your upper body: “This move allows you to press the most weight humanly possible to target your pecs, delts, and triceps, compared to other chest moves,” Matt Pippin, CSCS, strength and mobility coach at Pippin Performance in San Diego.
The most humanly possible?! Damn, I’m impressed. But yeah, it only works like that if you do it correctly so….
How To Do A Dumbbell Chest Press
How to: Lie flat on your back, or on a bench, with your feet flat on the ground. With a dumbbell in each hand, extend your arms directly over your shoulders, palms facing toward your feet. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and slowly bend your elbows, lowering the weights out to the side, parallel with your shoulders, until your elbows form 90-degree angles. Slowly drive the dumbbells back up to start, squeezing your shoulder blades the entire time. That’s one rep.
Chest presses work your chest, shoulders, and triceps.
Reps/sets for best results: If you’re aiming to build strength, repeat for five to six reps, then three sets. Rest three minutes in between each set. If you’re looking to increase muscle size, aim for three sets of 8 to 12 reps, 90 seconds rest in between. For muscular endurance, hit three sets of 15 to 20 reps, with 60 seconds of rest in between.
Form tips: Be sure to squeeze your shoulder blades throughout the entire move—this creates a more stable platform to press from, keeping the move safer and allowing you to press more weight, Pippin explains. But if you feel a pinching in your shoulders, stop at a more shallow depth.
Benefits Of Dumbbell Chest Press
Chest presses focus on exactly that—the chest muscle, called the pectoralis major. They also work the deltoids (a.k.a. shoulders) and triceps. This move is also versatile for your goals: Grab a heavier set of weights to help build max strength, or light for muscular endurance, Pippin says.
This exercise gives you the most bang for your upper-body buck since it recruits so many different muscle groups. “Plus, you’re developing horizontal pushing strength, which has a ton of practical application in the real world,” Pippin says, “like opening doors, pushing carts/strollers, or improving performance in activities like yoga.”
How To Make The Dumbbell Chest Press Part Of Your Workout
Work this move into your routine two times a week for overall wellness, and three times a week if you’re looking to increase strength, Pippin advises.
You can use it in a HIIT routine with lighter weight—since the chest press hits so many muscle groups, it works well to get your heart rate up, Pippin says.
But for the most part, chest presses are perfect for heavy lifting days: “Since you can load this move with a lot of weight it should have a higher priority in your weight routine,” he says. That means it belongs at the beginning of the workout when you have the most energy. Then, pair it with a pulling motion, like lat pull-downs and dumbbell rows. “Using the opposite muscle groups allows you to train both moves back to back, plus it helps balance out your strength,” Pippin explains.
And you’re not limited to dumbbells for your chest press: Trading them for a standard barbell will allow you to stimulate the most muscle, since you’re lifting a single object instead of two, he says.
Make the dumbbell variety more challenging by pressing just one lighter dumbbell at a time, which will work your core, too. Or, if you’re using a bench, change the angle to between 15 and 45 degrees to challenge slightly different parts of your upper body. “The body loves variety,” Pippin adds. “And you should always change the angles you’re hitting in your routine.”
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