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Dumbbell Wall Presses

bodybuilder exercise

If you want a balanced chest—a thick slab of muscle from top to bottom—you want to develop your entire chest. That means prioritizing your upper chest.

The problem is, the upper chest is notoriously hard to work and develop—middle and lower pecs are easy in comparison. As well, many guys tend to gravitate toward flat- and decline-bench work because they’re a lot stronger on those movements; incline pressing just doesn’t allow the same level of loading.

Well, this flat-bench exercise will enable you to directly target your upper pecs very effectively, in addition to hitting middle and lower portions. It’s an all-in-one massive-pump-and-growth-inducing move.

All you need is a flat bench, a pair of dumbbells and a wall. Yep, a wall. (Don’t worry if you don’t have a suitable wall; I’ll tell you how to it do it in a power rack as well.)

First, move the flat bench right up against the wall so that the end of the bench is touching it. I’m using a pair of 95-pound dumbbells in the accompanying photos, but I would highly recommend that you start much lighter the first time you do these in order to get a feel for the exercise.

Lie back, and then press to the top position of a dumbbell bench press. Squeeze the dumbbells together over your face to give you some inward tension in your pecs and to help stabilize the weights. Do not separate the dumbbells—they should move as one for the best control.

Now here’s the fun part: Allow the dumbbells to move backward over your head until they’re resting against the wall. Do not let them just fall against the wall. Control their movement so you’re setting them against the wall, and hold that position in an isometric contraction for three to five seconds, pushing the dumbbells up and back to maintain their position against the wall—the position that activates the upper pecs.

Notice the angle of my arms at the shoulder; that’s the angle you’re going for. Holding that isometric contraction ensures full activation of and tension on your upper pecs.

Another key point: Do not do these against a mirrored wall—but that’s just common sense. Drywall should be fine as long as you can fully control the dumbbells and not let them drop against the wall.

Now you target the lower chest as you bring the dumbbells back up to the top position of a dumbbell press.

Squeeze your knees together to lock yourself onto the bench. Dig your feet into the floor as well (your knees should be bent at about 80 degrees so you get some traction).

Bring the dumbbells forward back over your face using a partial pullover type of movement. Now you do a single flat-bench dumbbell press, just as you normally would.

Press up and repeat the cycle, alternating reps of leaning the dumbbells back against the wall and pressing.

This exercise requires excellent control of the dumbbells, so be sure to use a weight that you’re comfortable with. It’s also going to deliver massive tension to the entire pectoral muscle over the duration of the set, providing a serious growth stimulus.

I realize that not every gym has a suitable wall for performing this exercise, so I also came up with a version that uses a bar set in a power rack. It’s the exact same exercise, but instead of setting the dumbbells back against a wall, you set them back against a bar in a rack.

The key here is testing the height of the bar with a light weight before you move to heavier loads. You want to make sure that the dumbbells contact the bar squarely and don’t roll up or down.

Also, you want to make sure your bench position is optimal. The front surface of the bar should be in line with the top of your head. Imagine dropping a vertical line down from the front of the bar, as if it were a wall. That’s where you should set the bench in the rack.

Then perform the exercise as demonstrated above.

Get the dumbbells into the top position, keeping them pushed together. Move the dumbbells back against the bar. Hold and squeeze your upper chest isometrically. Then pull them back to the top position, and do a dumbbell bench press. Drive the dumbbells back up, and then repeat.

There you have it. If incline presses aren’t doing the thick upper-pec trick for you, it’s time try something completely different—and more effective: dumbbell wall presses.

—Nick Nilsson

Editor’s note: To get a copy of Nick’s Muscle Explosion—28 Days to Maximum Mass, visit his Web site,

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