Dumbbell Bench Press Benefits, Mistakes to Avoid and Workouts

Pick up some dumbbells and start working on your bench press as this exercise has many benefits and will sure get your chest fired up.

Having a dumbbell at home is always helpful to build muscle any time of the day. There are countless exercises one can do with a single dumbbell. If you are looking to strengthen your chest, then one of the best movements you can do is the dumbbell bench press.

Unfortunately, the bench press is often overlooked in CrossFit training, but you are not like most people and want to incorporate the dumbbell bench press in your weekly routine.

So, how exactly do you do this exercise? What are the muscles targeted, what are the benefits, mistakes to avoid, and who should do it?

Continue reading to find out more. In the end, we threw in 3 workouts with dumbbell bench press to get you started.

How To Dumbbell Bench Press

Lie down horizontally with your back touching a bench and hold two dumbbells, one in each hand, at the level of your chest, just below the nipple line. Hold the dumbbell with palms facing your feet and arch your back by putting your chest out.

When doing dumbbell bench press, breath out when lifting the weights and breath in when lowering them back.

Benefits of Dumbbell Bench Press

The dumbbell bench press is a unilateral movement, which helps improve your form and correct muscle imbalances. In comparison, a barbell could make your work one side of your chest more than the other, but the DB press corrects that possible mistake.

Utilizing the dumbbell will also allow for a greater set of motion, compared to a barbell press. This, in turn, allows for a bigger muscle stretch and better contraction at the top of the movement.

The exercise also engage stabilizing muscles and as a result you will recruit and activate more muscle fibers.

Working with dumbbells allow for wrist rotation, and a free movement of elbows and arms, making the exercise less stressful on your joints.

How Much Weight Should I Lift?

Since the dumbbell bench press utilizes more muscles to stabilize and perform the movements correctly, you should lift lighter weights compared to the barbell press. One advice is to lift 70% of the weight that you normally would do in a bench press.

For example, if you can press 100 pounds normally (around 10 repetitions) with a barbell, then you should use a total weight of 70 pounds when performing a dumbbell bench press, meaning a 35-pound dumbbell in each hand.

fraser crossfit games 2019
DumbbelllSource: BOXROX

Muscles Targeted

  • Pectoralis major (the bulk of the chest muscles)
  • Anterior deltoids (front shoulder muscles)
  • Lateral deltoids
  • Triceps
  • Rotator cuff (a small group of muscles responsible for stabilizing your shoulder)

Mistakes to Avoid

At the top of the movement, do not let the dumbbells collide, as this can cause instability within the shoulder.

It is imperative that you avoid using heavier weights compared to what you can normally bench press with a barbell. Bigger weights in a dumbbell bench press increase the risk of shoulder injuries and also limit the range of motion of the exercise.

Not arching your back seems like something natural, but in this case, it provides a base for your back which you can use to help during the press, taking away the motive of the exercise which is to build a bigger chest.

If you paid attention to the instructions, especially arms and elbows positioning, you know that you should not hit the dumbbell too high on the chest, as this will leave you with joint pain and put extra pressure on the shoulder. Keep your shoulders back and down at all times.

Variations of Dumbbell Bench Press

There are two easy-to-make variations of the DB press. The first is regarding the bench in which you are laying down. You can perform the inclined dumbbell bench press or go the opposite way and do declined dumbbell bench press.

The inclined variation sees you sitting on the bench at an angle between 20 and 45 degrees. In the declined press, you will sit upside down, with feet dangling in the air, in the same inclination.

On both variations, the chest continues to be the major muscle worked, but in the inclined press you target the upper part of your pecs, while the declined dumbbell bench press engages more the lower part of your chest.

You may also decide to add wrist rotation to the dumbbell bench press. This variation requires more muscle activation and coordination while strengthening your wrist movements. It is slightly harder than the common exercise.

Another different approach to the workout is to change to a natural grip, by holding the dumbbells with your palms facing each other, instead of facing towards your feet. This exercise forces you to keep your elbows closer to the body, which engages the triceps more than the normal grip.

It is possible to execute the DB press with just one piece of equipment, known as the single dumbbell bench press. Make sure to plant your feet on the ground, as this variation abuses the stability of your core.

Dumbbell Bench Press Workouts


For time:

  • 1 mile Run
  • 27 DB Bench Presses
  • 27 Handstand Push-Ups
  • 27 Dumbbell Thrusters
  • 27 Knees-to-Elbows
  • 27 Deadlift
  • 1 mile Run

Score is the time on the clock after finishing the last 1-mile run.


5 rounds for time:

  • 7 left-arm dumbbell rows
  • 7 right-arm dumbbell rows
  • 21 dumbbell bench presses
  • 500-m row

Men: 50-lb dumbbells

Women: 35-lb dumbbells

Read everything you need to know about the dumbbell row here.


4 rounds of:

  • 10 close grip dumbbell bench press (50/35 lb)
  • 15 dumbbell bent over rows on each side (50/35 lb)
  • 20 strict presses (empty barbell)
  • 25 banded pull aparts

Also check out these other 6 tough chest workouts to build strength, muscle and mass.

Improve your body and training with the DB Floor Press, DB Hammer Curl and Dumbbell Shrugs.

Image Sources

  • CrossFit Games 2019 sprint triplet: BOXROX

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