The DB bench press is one of the more popular gym exercises you see. Not only a great way to build the chest, it’s also a good strength builder. It can also be an alternative for lifters with joint issues that get exacerbated by benching with a straight bar. Below are five tips that can help you get more out of the DB bench press.
How to Use the DB Bench Press as Your “Main” Chest Exercise
If you wanted to make the DB bench press your “main” chest exercise, you should do it first your workout for 4-5 sets x 5-6 reps. This would allow you to go heavy enough to build strength, as well as give you enough volume to sustain hypertrophy. From there, you could go onto your other chest exercises.
Treating the DB Bench Press as “Assistance” Work
Another great way to use this movement would be to put it second in your chest workout. Start with a different heavy compound exercise such as a barbell bench press, incline press, or weighted dips for the sets of 5-6 reps as was just described. Now do DB bench press, putting focus purely on hypertrophy by doing 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps.
Keep Your Forearms Vertical
Once you’re in proper lifting position and start cranking out your reps, your forearms should remain vertical. If you find them angling inward toward your torso, the weight is too heavy and you’re over-compensating by bringing your front deltoids into the movement. Keeping your forearms in a “straight up and down” position will ensure as much focus as possible stays on the pecs.
Supinate Your Hands for more Contraction
You often see lifters doing the DB bench press with their hands and wrists in “standard” position. This means their palms are pointing toward their feet, mimicking holding a barbell. While this is proper form, an additional variation you could try would be to supinate your hands.
At the bottom of your DB bench press, your hands would be in standard position with your palms pointing toward your lower body. However, as you contract your pecs and lift the dumbbells, supinate your hands such that your palms are facing each other at the top of the rep. Squeeze your pecs hard for an added contraction to improve muscle quality. This technique is best saved for doing sets of 8-10 reps, when you’re more interested in muscle than strength.
What to Do if You have Shoulder Issues
While the DB bench press is an excellent way to improve muscular development in the chest (even more so than the barbell bench press), it can be hard on the shoulders if you have past injuries or rotator cuff issues. However, you can alleviate this with a slight alteration in your form.
Instead of starting your reps at the bottom (as you often see lifters doing), start at the top. You’d do this by “bouncing” the dumbbells one at a time to the top position of a rep with your arms fully extended, instead of just to your chest.
As you lower the rep, instead of your upper arm lowering perpendicular to your torso, bring them down at a roughly 45-degree angle to your torso. Keep your palms in line with your upper arms. Tucking your elbows like this will engage the triceps a little more, but it can be much safer for the shoulders. And because the range of motion is more advantageous, you can generally use more weight, too.
The DB bench press is a fantastic movement that’s right at home in any lifter’s workout. It’s just as effective for getting stronger as it is getting bigger, and can even be superior to a barbell for those with joint issues. Play it smart, keep form on point, and use the right weight, and you’ll be putting new strength and size on in no time.