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Alternating Dumbbell Chest Press

Six vital tips to ensure that you’re getting the most out of this gym staple.

By Patrick Thompson, CPT


From National Bench Press Monday to the fairly typical “how much do you bench?” question, it’s clear that this exercise is one that’s often at the top of mind for many gym-goers. So it should come as no surprise that new bench press variations are something that many look to try in the gym.

If you pay attention, you’ll notice many variations of barbell and dumbbell bench presses. With that said, the alternating dumbbell chest press on a flat bench is one that will really develop your upper body strength including your chest, shoulders and arms.

Before you spring into action, though, you’ll want to make sure you are using a lighter weight than you would for your standard flat dumbbell chest press. Why? You must stabilize the dumbbells more than you would on a regular flat dumbbell chest press. Also, when lying down on a flat bench, you need to keep your feet, hips, shoulders and head all in contact with the floor or the bench. But, that’s not all. The following is a list of six other important tips to ensure you properly perform this exercise.


Tip 1 – Keep your feet flat on the floor and position them below your knee joints. While doing the movements, make sure you’re attempting to push through the floor. In other words, push through your heels. This will give you more force throughout the exercise.

Tip 2 – Be sure to squeeze your glutes while you keep your hips on the bench. Why? Simultaneously driving through your heels and squeezing your glutes during the movement tremendously boosts your force production.

Tip 3 – While lying flat on the bench, your shoulder blades need to be retracted or pinched back. By keeping your shoulder blades tight, you’ll allow your lat muscles to become activated during each press. Contrary to popular belief, your back will help control the weight while your chest muscles press the weight.

Tip 4 – You should start this exercise just like a normal dumbbell chest press. While keeping one dumbbell in the down position near your armpit, press straight up with the opposite arm. Make sure you go straight up with the dumbbell. Going outward and then up would cause great instability for your body and the movement as a whole.

Tip 5 – At the top of each movement, make sure to squeeze your chest muscles. This will create greater motor unit recruitment to adapt your strength faster.

Tip 6 – Breathe! Before your first rep, deeply inhale. As you start to press one dumbbell, you can exhale. Remember: Inhale on the downward motion and exhale on the upward motion.

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