Dumbbell Bench Press

How To Do Palm In Dumbbell Bench Press
By Alli McKeeFebruary 19, 2016

Dumbbell Bench Press Exercise

The flat dumbbell bench press is a great exercise to strengthen the musculature of the chest, shoulders, and triceps. This exercise is a great option for women who want to progress to doing the barbell bench press, or perhaps women who aren’t able to bench press with the barbell due to shoulder issues.

Equipment needed:

A pair of dumbbells should be used for the flat bench dumbbell press.

Ability level:


The flat bench dumbbell press may be too advanced for women who are just beginning to strength train. Some great bench press exercise alternatives for beginners include the band resisted bench press, dumbbell floor presses, Landmine press variations, and push-ups (perform the modified version if need be).


The dumbbell bench press is a great option for lifters with an intermediate level of experience who have mastered some of the bench press alternatives for beginners that are listed above. If an upper body pushing workout is being performed, lifters should place the dumbbell bench press somewhere in the first half of their workout when their body is fresh. If a full-body workout is being performed, the dumbbell bench press can be paired with a lower body compound movement, or an upper body pulling movement. You can also make it part of a conditioning circuit. Intermediate lifters might perform 2-4 sets of 6-12 reps of the bench press.


Women who are comfortable with the dumbbell bench press may choose to use this variation as well as increase their weight/resistance for multiple sets (2-4+) of fewer repetitions (3-6). The dumbbell bench press may also be used as part of a conditioning circuit. Women can also make this exercise more challenging by performing negative bench presses and lowering the bar in 3-5 seconds as this increases the eccentric component of the movement, they can perform pause bench presses where they pause for 3-5 seconds part way down, or at the bottom of the lift, or they can add band resistance to the dumbbells.

Benefits of Dumbbell Bench Presses:

How a woman chooses to use a dumbbell bench press is highly dependent on her overall technical ability and experience, how much weight is being used, the set/rep scheme used, where it falls in the workout, what it’s paired with, and what the rest periods are. In general dumbbell bench presses can be used to do any or all of the following:

  • increasing upper body strength, primarily in the chest, shoulders and triceps
  • increasing upper body strength in the biceps and the musculature in the upper back
  • increasing core strength
  • building muscle
  • fat loss (if your diet and exercise routines are conducive to fat loss)
  • conditioning (if used as part of conditioning circuits)

How to perform a Dumbbell Bench Press:

  • Lie on a flat bench. Your feet should be in a shoulder width stance, and should be flat on the floor.
  • The easiest way to get the dumbbells into the starting position is usually to place them on your thighs, and then give yourself a little kick, or a boost up.
  • Before you boost up dumbbells into the starting position, take a deep breath into your belly (360 degrees of air around your spine), brace your core (I like to pretend that I am about to block a soccer ball with my stomach), lightly tuck your rib cage towards your hips (close the space in your midsection), and squeeze your glutes.
  • After you’ve pressed the dumbbells up to the starting position, they should be directly over your shoulders, and your elbows, forearms and wrists should be in a vertical position.
  • Your shoulders should remain packed (keep your arms in their sockets).
  • Tighten the muscles in your upper back and draw shoulder blades together and down (towards the opposite back pocket in your pants). This will provide your upper body with much needed stability.
  • Before you lower the dumbbells down in a controlled manner (you can think of it as a rowing motion rather than letting the weights drop), take another deep deep breath into your belly, brace your core, lightly tuck your rib cage towards your hips, tighten your upper back, squeeze your glutes, and lower the dumbbells.
  • Keep your elbows somewhat close to your body at about 30 degrees, and your forearms should remain in a vertical position.
  • Once the dumbbells are at chest height (or possibly slightly higher than chest height) press the dumbbells away from your body so they return to the starting position (just over your shoulders), and lock your elbows at the top (but do not hyperextend them).
  • Drive your feet into the floor for the duration of the exercise as this helps engage the muscles in the lower body, and also provides additional stability to your entire body. The bench press is a full body exercise.
  • Do not allow your hips to leave the bench.
  • If you are looking to develop your triceps, you will adopt a slightly narrower grip. You can also perform a neutral grip dumbbell press.
  • Reset before each rep.

Video Transcription: 

To perform a dumbbell bench press properly there are a few things you need to keep in mind. First and foremost is to keep your whole body really stiff and tight throughout the entire exercise. The second thing is, and this is the thing that I see a lot of people missing when they are in the gym, you actually want to take your shoulder blades and pull them back and down a little bit.  This will keep your shoulder blades nice and stable.  You also want to keep your core really tight.  For most women I like them to take a palm in grip, or maybe rotate out somewhere between 15 and 30 degrees.  You want to keep your elbow somewhat close to your body as well somewhere about 30 degrees.  So this is 90 and this is 0 - so keep them here at 15-30.  Keep your shoulders happy.  

You are going to grab the dumbbells, and the easiest way to do it is generally put them up on your thighs and then you can give yourself a little kick, or a boost up.  So you are going to lie on your back. I'm showing the palm in version. I usually take a big deep breath before I go. Keep my rib cage down and brace my core, my glutes are tight and my feet are being driven into the floor.  I am almost going to throw the weights down with my lats, keeping my elbows close to my body. Then I am going to drive the weight up. Row it down, drive it up, row it down, up,row it down, drive it up.  When you are down think about rowing the weights down and popping them up and bringing them back to your legs and putting them back on the ground.


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About the author:  Alli McKee

Alli is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. She's contributed to and modeled for a number of major publications including Oxygen magazine and the New Rules of Lifting: Supercharged. You can find out more about Alli on her personal blog at www.allimckee.com.

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