Dumbbell Bench Press Exercise | Technique & Common Mistakes

Written by Jamie Wykes


Dumbbell Bench Press Exercise

Whilst any form of training will bare it’s advantages and disadvantages, the benefits of training with dumbbells cannot be ignored! Due to the simplicity of barbells and machines, dumbbells are often overlooked, however, below are some of the most common advantages of using dumbbells in the weight room, including the dumbbell bench press.

dumbbell bench press

Balance and Stabilisation: Using dumbbells will require more balance and stabilisation throughout and therefore can be an extremely effective tool for functional training. Furthermore, due to the fact that there is more stabilisation and caution taken during dumbbell movements, the muscle fibres will be maximally recruited in a way that would not be possible with barbells and machines. Resulting in your physique, strength and physical balance progressing.


Joint Friendly: Due to the fixed hand/elbow positioning of the barbell, our movement can become limited and not shoulder/elbow joint friendly. Using dumbbells allows us to have more movement throughout (and potentially increased range of motion also!) We can also alter the form and technique to suit our joints if we do have a slight joint problem, we can therefore work around individual issues.


Uni Lateral Implications: Muscular imbalances are one of the most common hindrances in people today, resulting in unbalanced physiques both aesthetically and physically. In order to prevent this, people should apply uni lateral exercises (where only one side of the body is being used). With dumbbells, we are able to apply these exercises and effectively target one side of the body.


Overload Methods: When we refer to overload methods, we tend to look at training techniques such as dropsets, supersets etc. Whilst these can be trained using barbells; dumbbells provide a far greater practical edge. With the barbell, you are left having to strip the bar, reload it, put the clips on, get back in position; with the dumbbells it is far simpler!


One of the most common dumbbell exercises is the Dumbbell Bench Press; a bilateral compound movement at the forefront of any chest workout. The exercise is a compound movement which primarily utilises the pectoral major with the triceps and anterior deltoids working synergistically and supporting muscles throughout.

Below is a step by step guide to help you achieve this.

Dumbbell Bench Press


» Sit on a flat bench and grip both dumbbells whilst they are rested on the upper thigh.

» Whilst using your thighs and a slight degree of momentum, inhale your breath, lean back and kick the dumbbells onto your chest simultaneously.

» At this stage, the dumbbells should be gripped to the side of your chest and your elbow/forearm should be creating a 90 degree angle.

» Ensure that throughout this exercise, your head and neck is resting on the bench and is not lifting itself at any time. Doing this will only cause forward head tilt in years to come and increased risk of kyphosis.

Dumbbell bench press



» As you exhale your breath, create an extension at the elbow joint to push the dumbbells upwards. This concentric part of the exercise should be performed powerfully and within the 1-2 second tempo range.

» Throughout this phase of the movement, the dumbbells should be pressing from as far out wide as possible. Taking them inwards and creating a close grip dumbbell press will only result in excess tricep tension and the chest will become somewhat neglected. Remember; wide press is a wide chest!

» As you reach the top of the movement, generate the mind to muscle connection and squeeze the chest together before releasing slowly downwards to the starting position.

» In terms of locking out your elbows at the top of the movement; some feel it is essential for optimal chest/tricep force generation, though, others feel it places too much unnecessary stress on the elbow joint. It is all down to preference!

dumbbell bench press



» Whilst the concentric (upwards drive) phase of the movement will ideally be performed with a 1-2 second tempo range, the eccentric phase should be performed much slower.

» Aim to lower the dumbbells back to the starting position for 3 seconds, whilst stretching the whole cross section of the chest region.


Common Mistakes


Lifting More Weight Than They Are Capable Of: This is one of the most common mistakes to see in the gym and due to the fact that the chest is one of the most commonly trained muscles; the dumbbell press falls victim! Lifting (or trying) to lift weight that someone is not capable of will cause the following issues to your training progress; enhanced likelihood of injury, limited range of motion and therefore you will not be able to properly recruit all of the desired muscle fibres across the chest. In order to prevent this, use a lighter weight; perfect the form and only progress when you have these fully mastered.


Weak Rotator Cuffs: Rotator cuff tears tend to be one of the most common training injuries when training the chest, or any upper body part for that matter. The rotator cuff is a muscle located near the shoulder (comprised of the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis) and is involved in almost every push or pull movement. When performing the dumbbell bench press, because of the indirect deltoid involvement; the rotator cuff is put under great stress and can become susceptible to injury. Whether it be due to improper form, lack of control or too much weight to handle, a rotator cuff tear is a common theme in the gym. In order to prevent this, next time you perform the dumbbell bench press, warm up with some rotator cuff strengthening exercises. Examples include; internal rotations, external rotations, face pulls, floor Y Raises.


Arching The Back: Arching the lower back is one of the most seen training errors when performing a flat bench movement. Due to the fact that arching the lower back will mean there is a limited range of motion and momentum, many people use an arched back method. This will not only lead to less fibre recruitment (due to limited range of motion) but also an increased risk of lower back injury. Furthermore, as previously stated with the the dumbbell press; increased stabilisation and control is required in this exercise, arching the back will reduce the base and stability of the movement and put you under risk of serious injury.


Not Using A Spotter: With any free weight movement, there is a risk of danger due to the fact that it is you versus gravity! Using a spotter will benefit you in many ways such as helping you get the last few repetitions out, enhanced confidence when performing the movement, critique form; but they will mainly benefit you in the sense that they can assist you if you cannot control the weight anymore. Instead of dropping the dumbbells on your body, the spotter can remove them carefully from your hands instead!


Lifting The Head and Neck Up: Whether it is because people are looking at their chest whilst training, keeping an eye on the dumbbells or simply force of habit; lifting your head up whilst you bench (whether it be dumbbell or barbell) is an error that should always be monitored and prevented! Lifting your head up will result posture issues such a neck pain and eventually create what is known as ‘Kyphosis’ (Excessive back curvature which will potentially cause a back hunch).

dumbbell bench press


Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.

Daniel Speakman

Daniel Speakman

Writer and expert

Dan Speakman is our editor and level 3 qualified Personal Trainer. Having spent time in Australia, he has experience in planning and delivering exercise plans to beginners and advanced athletes — both in the UK and down under.

Dan has also run successful weight-loss camps across the UK, alongside regular training seminars, covering all areas of gym-based training. He also runs weekly fitness boot camps and spin classes.

When he’s not working, or in the gym, Dan enjoys travelling to sunnier destinations, eating out, and trying exciting new foods.

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