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Gym Shorts: The Dumbbell Press

New to the dumbbell press or looking for a quick technique tutorial? Learn correct form in one short video.

How To Dumbbell Press

Gym Shorts videos provide short video demonstrations of correct form for various exercises.

Follow these steps

  • Set Up
    • Neutral grip
    • Elbows forward
    • Hand around chin height
    • Gaze straight ahead
    • Feet shoulder width apart
  • Top
    • Wrists locked in place
    • Pronated grip (palms facing out)
    • Elbows fully extended
    • Dumbbells directly over your shoulders
  • Movement
    • Rotate wrists so palms face forward on the way up
    • Way up: internal rotation & pronation
    • Rotate wrists so palms face each other on the way down
    • Way down: external rotation & supination
    • Dumbbells close to the shoulder & elbows tight to the body

What It Is

The dumbbell press is an accessory lift that mimics the barbell press, but the use of the dumbbells limits the weight and accessibility for many lifters while allowing for each arm to move independently and greater rotation at the shoulder during the execution of the movement.

This movement requires two dumbbells or (ideally) equally heavy objects that can easily be grasped, such as kettlebells or adjustable dumbbells. As an alternative, this exercise can be performed with one arm at a time if needed.

During the concentric portion of the movement, we internally rotate the shoulders, pronate the forearms, and twist the dumbbell so the palms face forward at the top. During the eccentric portion of the movement, we externally rotate the shoulders, supinate the forearms, and twist the dumbbells so the palms face each other in the bottom.

Programming

Unless a lifter does not have access to a barbell (for example, training in a hotel gym or prevented from training in a public gym) we tend to program these as an accessory lift to provide additional stress for the press and the muscles that contribute to the press (triceps, deltoids, and pectoralis major, primarily).

We tend to program these for advanced athletes who both have access to dumbbells and want to build muscle to enable greater strength for the muscles that contribute to the barbell bench press (or–maybe–who simply want to get more jacked).

Because it’s hard to perform these at high intensities, we recommend programming higher rep sets: 2-5 x 6-15.

These are generally performed near the end of the workout, after the bigger barbell movements have been performed, and they can be performed in a circuit or in a superset with other exercises.

If you’re advanced athlete looking to build your press (or the muscle that contribute to the bench press) consider adding the dumbbell bench press to your program.

Click HERE for an in-depth video on the barbell overhead press and HERE to learn more about the muscles used in the press.

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