Dumbbell Bench PRESS
How to Do the Dumbbell Bench Press | In-Depth Guide [VISUAL LEARNERS]
Proper Form & Common Mistakes| Home Strength Training
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MAIN MUSCLES WORKED IN THE Dumbbell Bench Press
OTHER MUSCLES WORKED:
- Anterior deltoid
WHAT & WHY
BENEFITS OF TRAINING THE Pectoralis Major
WHAT WE'RE DOING TODAY
This is a simple movement and one can often use heavier weight, as long as form is correct.
ALL WE'RE DOING:
Lying down face up (oh the bliss), press your arms straight up and in towards each other.
This exercise focuses on strengthening the muscles on the front of the chest. The pectoralis major is the large chest muscle, it covers a large area and is spread out like a fan. The shape of the muscle and where it attaches to, allows it to pull the arms in towards each other, lift them up and pull them down. The Chest Press exercises focus mainly on pulling the arms in towards the midline or breast bone. These exercises are done by pulling your upper arms in against resistance.
In Chest Presses the body is positioned on an elevated surface, like a bench, foam roll, or ball. This allows the elbows to drop down past the torso. When the elbows drop down, the pectoralis major muscle is active through a larger range of motion and is stretched before it is activated. Some believe that stretching the muscle just before activating it leads to greater strength gains.
Although it has benefits, the chest press should be done with caution. When the elbow drops down below the torso under a load (holding a dumbbell), it can put quite a bit of stretch on the connective tissue (anterior capsule) of the shoulder joint. Make sure that you listen to your body during the exercise and after the exercise. If you have discomfort, try lowering the weight you are using, a band instead of the dumbbells, or a floor press - which limits the range of motion.
WHY DO WE EVEN CARE?
CAN HELP GIVE A LIFTED APPEARANCE TO THE BREASTS
I read this in several places. Things really started to go downhill or should I say, HANG, after breastfeeding my son at 29. Things were just never the same after that, sigh. Building muscle beneath the breast tissue can actually give a more lifted appearance to the breasts, who knew?? And all without expensive surgery. I think this is the case for me - I mean I still need the help of a supportive bra people, we're not talking miracles here, but I feel all the pushups I did in the past several years makes my whole upper chest area and into my shoulders, what you see when I wear say a scoop neck top, look firm and taut and healthy, which I think gives a more youthful appearance. So we don't need to shy away from chest exercises anymore!
HELPS WITH MANY ARM MOVEMENTS
The pectoralis major is basically THE chest muscle, it is large and broad, it can move the arm in, up, and pull it down when it is up. The pectoralis major helps to move and position the shoulder blade when the arm moves. This muscle is similar to the latissimus dorsi on the back of the body. It can help with a lot of different arms and shoulder blade movements, and to help stabilize the arm.
Its main function is bringing the arm in towards the middle of the body - towards the midline, for reaching across the body. You may not think that you use this muscle very much but if you start paying attention you will find that even little things like pushing a grocery cart, require you to hold your arm pulled in.
It is true that you rarely use this muscle for any powerful movements on its own, except maybe if you are a tennis player or flyfisher (which of course probably at least 75% of us are flyfishers right?? ;)), this muscle helps out all day long when you use your arms.
WORKING SEVERAL MUSCLES AT ONCE
Many exercises that work the chest work other important muscle groups as well like the triceps, shoulders, and biceps. This is great because you accomplish more in less time as well as......
BURN MORE CALORIES
The chest muscles are one of the larger sets of muscles on the body, and that combined with the fact that other muscles are also working like we just discussed, means training in this way can burn more calories and help build metabolism. So we can eat more. Which I'm sure I've said before is one of my main goals in life.
NOTE: DO CHEST OPENERS WITH THESE TO KEEP IT BALANCED.
The pectoralis major is frequently tight because of poor posture - sitting with a rounded upper back and forward rounded shoulders. Strengthening the chest muscles should be accompanied by some nice chest opening exercises, like rear deltoid exercises, or pec stretches. We don't want to exacerbate our already tight front right?
CHEST OPENER IDEAS:
Reaching behind your back with both arms and joining hands (holding the wrist of one arm, or clasping the hands work well)
Pulling the shoulders back and opening the chest, push the hands down and back - and holding for at least 20 seconds is an easy to do pectoralis major stretch that can be done after chest presses.
EVERYDAY LIFE &
HOW WE USE OUR Pectoralis Major IN EVERYDAY LIFE
1. BRINGING THE ARM TOWARDS THE MIDLINE OF THE BODY (ADDUCTION)
- Reaching across to fasten a seat belt
- Lifting objects directly in front of the body with both hands
- Carrying heavy objects in front: grocery bag, child
- Picking up your pet chicken (other pets may qualify)
- Tennis forehand stroke
2. UPPER FIBERS BRING THE ARM UP AND ACROSS
- Touching the opposite ear - putting on an earring
- Using a blow dryer on the opposite side of the head as hand
3. LOWER FIBERS BRING THE ARM DOWN AND ACROSS
- Reaching the opposite hip
4. MEDIAL (INTERNAL) ROTATION OF THE ARM (ROTATING THE UPPER ARM INWARDS)
- Rotating arm down to empty a can (like that half can of garbanzo beans I left open in the fridge too long).
5. CAN HELP MOVE THE SHOULDER BLADE DOWN THE SPINE (DEPRESSION), DOWNWARD ROTATION, & MOVING FORWARD AROUND THE RIBCAGE (PROTRACTION), & STABILIZATION OF THE SHOULDER BLADE & SHOULDER JOINT
- Control during all arm and hand activities that require strength and/or precision - writing, knitting, using a screwdriver
HOW THE Dumbbell Bench Press SHAPE OUR BODY
Defined chest muscles.
This is the classic bench press exercise using dumbbells instead of a bar. Lying on a bench, the torso is held very stable as the arms press the dumbbells straight up over your chest. Pay attention to the movement of the upper arms. The arm moves in as you press the weights up - coming in towards each other. This is the action of the pectoralis major - pulling the upper arm in towards the sternum.
Remember that one of the important jobs of the pectoralis major muscle is to stabilize the shoulder joint. Pay attention to the steadiness of the movement, try to control any wobbling.
The nice stable position of this exercise usually makes it easier to use heavier weights, but it can also be a vulnerable position for the shoulder joint. If the elbows move back/down towards the floor too far it can stress the front of the shoulder joint. Be mindful of any discomfort while you are doing the exercise and afterwards. If you find this exercise is too hard on your shoulders try the Svend Press or Floor Press exercises to target the pectoralis major muscles.
How to Feel What Muscle is Working
Place your right hand over your left chest. Straighten your left arm and pull it in across your body. You should feel your pectoralis major muscle under your hand. Try pulling the arm across and up - you should feel the muscle activation close to your collarbone. Pull across and down and you should feel the lower part of the muscle contract.
PROPER FORM: Dumbbell Bench Press
EQUIPMENT, SETS & REPS
Bench: the bench should be long enough to support your head and with your knees bent, support the feet; It should be narrow enough to allow the elbows to pass the sides of the bench. If the bench is too short see variations for options
SUGGESTED STARTING WEIGHT FOR WOMEN:
10 -14 lbs
SETS & REPS:
2 sets of 8 reps
Can be quicker up and slow controlled down.
BODY POSITION FOR THE Dumbbell Bench Press
Holding one dumbbell on each thigh (at the hip crease). Lying faceup on the bench.
BODY STANCE: Neutral spine position. Stabilize your upper body by pulling your shoulder blades in and down your back. This provides a good stable base to work off of - the intent is to have the weight on the shoulder blades as opposed to the more flexible - and smaller bones of the rib cage.
FEET: Knees bent, feet flat on the bench.
HAND/GRIP: Pronated grip (palms facing forward) - this should feel comfortable, it can be angled in if it feels better.
ARM: Your upper arms should be about halfway between being straight down to your sides and straight out in line with the shoulders (45 -60 degrees from your side). Bend your elbows and move the weights to mid-chest. Lift your weights off of the chest by moving the hands out so that they are almost over your elbows. Lower your elbows behind you until the weights gently touch your chest.
HOW TO DO
HOW TO DO Dumbbell Bench Presses
CUE: As you press up, think about squeezing your upper arm in, rather than just pressing the arms up. Concentrate on your chest muscles pulling your upper arms in towards each other.
Keeping the back of the shoulders blades in contact with the bench, press the dumbbells up towards the ceiling.
Your upper arms move in so that it ends up in line with the front of your shoulder or a bit further so your hand is lined up with the middle of your collar bone.
As your arm moves in, your elbows straighten.
The ends of the dumbbells can be close together at the end of the movement.
Squeeze your pec at the end of the movement.
Slowly return to the starting position by bending your elbows and moving the arms back out to the side.
Repeat to complete the reps.
HOW TO SAFELY GET OUT OF THE EXERCISE
Care must be taken when setting the weights down, this is more crucial the heavier the weight. Bend your elbows and rest the weights on the chest, move them down to the creases of your hips. Straddle the bench with the legs, and bring your chin towards your chest, curl up into sitting. Alternatively, place a chair or a small table on the side of the bench. Move one weight onto the table, roll to your side and set the other weight on the table.
WHAT TO AVOID WITH THE Dumbbell Bench Press
Guess what? Good news! Many avoids are the same for most movements. Once you learn the basics, there's really only a few extra avoids for each individual movement.
1. Avoid Arching Low Back
AVOID: Arching your low back.
- Maintain a neutral spine position to prevent low back joint injury, muscle strain or damage over time.
WHAT TO DO:
- If your ribs are lower, ribs flare upwards, or your belly is lifted up - this indicates you are arching your low back. Your pubic bone and front hip bones should be in one plane - you can check by placing fingertips on your pubic bone and set the base of your palm on hip bones - your hand should be flat.
- This can happen because you are taking the arms up too far overhead.
- move arms down, they should be mid-chest level, the hands below the shoulders.
2. Avoid Flattening Low Back
AVOID: Flattening your low back.
- Maintain a neutral spine position to prevent injury or muscle strain.
WHAT TO DO:
- You should not be able to feel your low back pressed onto the floor, you should be able to slip your hand between the floor and your lower back.
- This can happen when:
- Your upper body is not providing a stable base for your arms to work off of: pull the shoulder blades down and back.
- Low back is trying to stabilize the torso: Make sure your feet are flat on the floor to help stabilize the torso.
3. Avoid Hunching Shoulders
AVOID: Hunching the shoulders up towards the ears.
WHAT TO DO:
- Keep the space between the ear and the shoulder during the entire rep - this opens up the shoulder to avoid tendon irritation and decreases the activity of the upper traps.
4. Avoid Weird Arm Angles
AVOID: Letting your hand drift back behind the upper arm, or in front of the upper arm.
- This will put a torque (rotational force) on the shoulder joint.
- This will activate muscles other than the target muscles and will decrease the amount of chest muscle activation.
5. Avoid Getting Up with Weights on Chest
AVOID: Sitting straight up with the weights on your chest.
- This can result in straining or injuring the low back.
WHAT TO DO:
- Move the weights down to the hip creases and then lower to the floor, or hug the weights into your chest and roll onto your side to set the weights down.
6. Avoid Arm Wobbling
AVOID: Letting your arm wobble during the movement.
- This is a sign of poor stability of either: the shoulder blade, the shoulder joint, the elbow joint or the wrist. It is important to be able to control the movement in order to avoid straining/irritating the ligaments, tendons and joint surfaces.
WHAT TO DO:
- If you are gripping the arm muscles in an attempt to stabilize the shoulders:
- activate your abdominal and scapular stabilizers to provide a stable base.
- The muscles of the arm will be working but they should not be tight and gripping.
7. Avoid Shoulders Rounding Up
AVOID: Dropping your sternum and rounding your shoulders.
- This will cause you to use your anterior deltoids more and your pectoralis muscle less.
WHAT TO DO:
- Keep the sternum lifted, the chest wide.
8. Avoid Locking Elbows
AVOID: Locking the elbows when the arms are out straight.
- This puts too much force through the joint and may result in long-term damage over time.
- Decreases the muscle activity of the arms.
WHAT TO DO:
- Keep the elbows slightly bent, even at the end of the movement.
SPIFFILICIOUS FACTS ABOUT MUSCLES & MOVES
The pectoralis major muscle is a large fan shaped muscle on the chest. It attaches to the collarbone, sternum (breast bone), the cartilage of the first 6 ribs, and the upper arm. The main function of the pectoralis muscle is to move and stabilize the upper arm. The upper fibers attach on the collarbone and the humerus - so when they contract the arms move into adduction and angles up. The middle fibers come from the middle ribs 1-4 ish and the sternum and the arm - so they pull the arm straight across, the lower fibers attach to the lower ribs and sternum and arms so they would pull in and slightly down. The heavier the load the more muscle fibers will be recruited. So if you reach across to your earlobe - mainly upper and mid fibers. But if you lift a heavy object to your ear, probably all portions of the pec major will be active but the upper will be most active.
The pectoralis major muscle is usually removed during a mastectomy or at least partially removed. The muscle is very similar to the lats, involved in a lot of different movements but any of the movements can be done by other muscles. Even if the muscle is removed, with time and exercise the functions of the pec can be done by other muscles.
ALLLL MUSCLES & WHEN
ALL MUSCLES WORKING & WHEN DURING THE Dumbbell Bench Press
The scapular retractors and depressors (mid and lower traps, rhomboids, lats, pecs (minor and major), subclavius, serratus anterior) become active during set up for the exercise. The hip extensors (gluteus maximus and hamstrings) will be working to hold the hips in neutral and to keep the pelvis lifted to maintain neutral spine positioning. The muscles of the legs work to stabilize the torso by providing a stable anchor- all of the muscles of the lower leg, thighs and hips will assist to stabilize (how much is dependent on the amount of resistance used). The muscles of the torso (transversus abdominis,rectus abdominis, erector spinae, obliques, quadratus lumborum work to maintain a neutral spine position - how much they work will depend on how much resistance is used). The muscles of arms (upper - biceps, triceps, coracobrachialis, pecs, lats, teres major, rotator cuff, and forearm - [triceps and biceps], anconeus, radiobrachialis, brachialis, extensor, and flexor radial and carpal ulnaris, flexor and extensor digitorum profundus and superficialis, pronator teres, supinator - possibly others, but their contribution is minimal) work to stabilize the wrist, elbow and shoulder joints.
The pectoralis major is the prime mover, acting concentrically to pull the upper arm inward towards the midline. The anterior deltoid and coracobrachialis can contribute to this movement - how much they contribute is affected by how much resistance is being used. The triceps and anconeus work to straighten the elbow as the hand pushes upwards towards the ceiling. As the weight is pressed up, the hip extensors (gluteus maximus and hamstrings will contract to actively press down into the floor to provide more stability and allow the upper body to press more weight.
The triceps, pectoralis major work eccentrically to control the return to the starting position.