Dumbbell exercises can supplement most modern lifting programs to great benefit and can even be the sole backbone of a workout to engage many different muscle groups.
Any gym worth its merit is going to have a dumbbell section and dumbbell sets can be acquired from retailers such as Amazon and Walmart at an affordable price.
A popular type of dumbbell lift is the dumbbell bench press and many lifters, novices and intermediates alike, use the vanilla, as well as other variations, in order to increase muscle mass in the chest, shoulders, and triceps regions.
In this article we will discuss whether or not the dumbbell bench press is an effective exercise and how to benefit most from this and other dumbbell lifts.
Yay or Nay
The simple answer to the query of effectiveness is a resounding yes; the dumbbell bench press is a worthy inclusion in just about anyone’s workout program.
The reason that the db bench press is an effective lift is because just like the barbell bench press it is a compound movement. What this means is that, unlike isolation lifts, it involves multiple joint movements and works out multiple muscle groups.
One downside of the db bench press is its limiting nature when it comes to lifting large amounts of weight. It is certainly beneficial but when working up to a lot of weight, bringing the dumbbells up and setting them down can put excessive tension on the shoulders. This can make serious progression harder.
In the case of a standard dumbbell bench press the muscle groups stimulated include the sternal pectoralis major, clavicular pectoralis major, anterior deltoids, triceps brachii, and biceps brachii. In other words this movement works out your chest, shoulders, triceps, and to a lesser extent, your biceps.
The standard barbell bench press works out the exact same muscle groups so in theory they are accomplishing the same exact thing. When performed correctly you are going to see the most gains in your chest with both movements.
By taking the above into consideration it’s easy to see that benching with dumbbells is effective when it comes to increasing muscle mass in the chest but it’s also important to utilize the movement in such a way that provides the most benefit.
Gain the Most Benefit From Dumbbells
To gain the most benefit from this movement you need to first identify what you’re personal goals are. Do you just want a bigger chest? Do you want a bigger upper body in general?
If you’re only after a bigger chest then incorporating the db bench press on the same day as your barbell bench press is a safe bet. Alternatively, if you only have access to dumbbells then doing multiple variations of the bench press should be included in your workout.
There is the standard bench press, incline variation, decline variation and dumbbell fly’s. The standard/decline variation and fly’s will target the sternal pectoralis major while the incline variation will target the clavicular pectoralis major.
If you’re a beginner weight lifter then sticking to 3 sets of 8 reps is a good starting point. You’re simply not going to have the capacity for excessive volume (total amount of repetitions) when just starting out.
Bigger and More Balanced
A goal of having a bigger and more balanced upper body physique is going to require you to implement exercises other than the dumbbell bench press. This movement does hit the shoulders and triceps in addition to the chest but the pecs are the target and that’s where you’ll see the most growth.
If you’re ultimate goal is more muscle mass and a balanced physique then you can’t go wrong with one of the many proven weight lifting programs. A few great options include StrongLifts, Starting Strength, and Coolcicada’s PPL program.
For your shoulders and triceps you’ll want to do press movements such as the overhead press and arnold press as well as as skullchrushers and overhead tricep extensions. Each of these exercises can be done with dumbbells.
For your back you’ll want to do dumbbell rows, deadlifts, and shrugs. Including all of these exercises, or exercises similar to these, in one single program is a must if you want a more defined upper body.
The dumbbell bench press is an excellent way to hit your chest and there’s a suitable dumbbell exercise for just about every muscle which is why this type of free weight is so versatile.