The dumbbell bench press is often considered easier than the barbell bench press, but this is an unpopular opinion. In fact, it is recommended to master the barbell bench press before switching to the dumbbell variation. The dumbbell bench press requires a slightly more extensive range of motion and demands core and shoulder stability to perform correctly. Contrary to popular belief, chest pressing exercises do not isolate the pectoralis major. A study by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that all bench press variations activate the elbow and shoulder muscles significantly. One common mistake that beginners make is lowering the dumbbells too far below the midline, which can strain the shoulder rotator cuffs and increase the risk of injury.
To help beginners, the dumbbell floor press is often recommended as a progression exercise. This exercise limits the range of motion and helps drill the pressing movement mechanics. Here is a step-by-step guide to performing the dumbbell floor press safely and effectively:
Step One: Set Up
Place two dumbbells on each side of a yoga mat or directly on the floor. If your hands tend to sweat, consider using lifting gloves or chalk to keep them dry.
Step Two: Lie Down and Grab Dumbbells
Sit on the floor with your knees fully extended. Position the dumbbells on your thighs and lie back on the mat. Bring the dumbbells above your chest while thrusting them with your legs. Fold your legs and place your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Maintain a neutral spine, proud chest, and depressed shoulder blades. Avoid excessive arching of the lower back.
Step Three: Initiate the Eccentric Phase
Take a deep breath and slowly lower the dumbbells by flexing the elbows. Your triceps should touch the floor at the bottom of the range of motion. Hold the chest in the fully stretched position for a second to recruit optimal chest muscle fibers. Focus on contracting your pecs throughout the range of motion.
Step Four: Initiate the Concentric Phase
Press the dumbbells toward the ceiling by extending the elbows and exhaling sharply. Keep your core braced throughout the range of motion and visualize squeezing the chest for better mind-muscle connection.
The primary target muscle during dumbbell floor presses is the pectoralis major, specifically its sternal head. This exercise also engages secondary muscles such as the triceps brachii, anterior deltoid, serratus anterior, coracobrachialis, biceps brachii, forearm muscles, stabilizing core muscles, and scapular stabilizers.
The benefits of the dumbbell floor press include increased chest strength and size, reduced shoulder strain due to limited range of motion, improved triceps development, and added stabilization and control. It is important to consult with a doctor before starting any training program, especially if you have existing injuries.
For those looking for variations and alternatives to the dumbbell floor press, the single-arm dumbbell floor press is a great option. This exercise not only targets the muscles but also develops stabilizer muscles. It is particularly beneficial for combat sports athletes who want to enhance punching power and train their core. The steps for performing the single-arm dumbbell floor press are as follows:
1. Choose an appropriate dumbbell weight.
2. Place the dumbbell on the floor and lie down beside it, with the working arm on top.
3. Grab the dumbbell with the working arm and lift it over your chest using your other hand.
4. Fully extend the elbow to get into the starting position.
5. Keep your legs straight or bent, depending on your preference, and plant your feet flat on the floor for better stabilization.
6. Slowly lower the dumbbell towards the floor by flexing your working elbow, ensuring that your tricep touches the floor at the bottom of the range of motion.
7. Reverse the motion to return to the starting position and repeat for the recommended number of reps.
Actively pressing the non-working arm into the floor can enhance core stability and reinforce the mind-muscle connection.