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Bench presses help you build a strong chest, and the dumbbell bench press offers some benefits not available with other chest exercises. You challenge the muscles of the chest and shoulders, and dumbbells allow greater range of movement and activate numerous stabilizing muscles.
The dumbbell bench press strengthens the fronts and tops of the shoulders, the triceps at the back of the upper arms and the pectorals, or chest muscles. During the press, your rhomboids at the upper back, the backs of the shoulders and the serratus anterior along the ribs also help to execute the move. These muscles help you perform any action that involves pushing. You also utilize these muscles in athletic activities that require swimming, throwing a ball or tackling. Strong pectoral and shoulder muscles also keep men looking fit and helps prevent sagging breasts in women.
Using dumbbells for the chest press requires you to engage a greater number of muscles than you engage using a chest press machine. In a machine-based chest press, the primary mover is the pectorals alone. Your triceps and shoulders act only as stabilizers. Using dumbbells better simulates real-life lifting and promotes whole-body stabilization, explains Dr. Edward R. Laskowski on MayoClinic.com.
Compared with Barbells
The dumbbell chest press activates the lower fibers of the chest press better than a barbell press, according to a study sponsored by вЂњMuscle and FitnessвЂќ magazine. When researchers measured the muscle activation of 10 athletes during each exercise, they found the barbell press to be more effective at working the upper chest muscles and the fronts of the shoulders. The lower pecs get a better workout with the dumbbell press because your hands are free to move across your body when you use dumbbells, rather than remaining in a fixed position on a bar as in the barbell press. Using dumbbells also forces each side of your body to bear equal weight -- your dominant side cannot compensate for the weaker side as with a barbell press.
To perform a dumbbell press, lie on a weight bench with your arms extended over your chest, holding the dumbbells with an overhand grip above your eyes. Bend your elbows out at your sides to lower the weights down in a slight arch pattern. Your upper arms should finish parallel to the top of the bench, and the weights should be as wide apart as your armpits. Gently touch the dumbbells to your chest. Extend the elbows to return to start to complete one repetition. For basic strength training, perform eight to 12 repetitions with a weight that makes the last few repetitions challenging to do with proper form. One set is fine for beginners, but more advanced exercisers may perform two or more sets depending on your goals. Leave a day between chest workouts to allow your muscles to recover and repair.
Include the dumbbell press and barbell press for a well-rounded chest routine. You also can perform the dumbbell press at an incline and a decline to vary the way you target your muscles. An incline press provides greater activation of the lower pectorals, and the decline press provides slightly more activation of the fronts of the shoulders and upper pectorals. Performing the dumbbell chest press on a stability ball allows you to target the abdominal muscles more than performing the press on a weight bench.