In this review of Power Hooks, you'll learn what makes them so unique and effective for improving your dumbbell bench press.
One of the most challenging aspects of the dumbbell bench press is not actually doing the exercise itself but getting the dumbbells into position to start the exercise. This may not be so hard when you're using lighter dumbbells but when you start getting into relatively heavy weights, getting the dumbbells up off the floor and into position can be quite a challenge.
This is doubly true on the incline dumbbell press (anybody who has ever picked up two 120 pound dumbbells off the floor and straight up into the incline press position can vouch for that).
When you're using heavy weights, you need all the strength you've got. You don't want to use it up just getting ready to start the exercise. That's where Power Hooks come in.
Power Hooks are very simple in concept and elegant in design. They are basically double hooks (similar to an "S" shape) that you attach directly to your dumbbells that allow you to hang your dumbbells from a bar in the start position of the pressing exercise. This means you don't have to clean and jerk the dumbbells up into position yourself. There are two strong bottom hooks that cradle the dumbbell, which is secured with thick Velcro straps. The large top hook goes over top of the barbell or bar that you're hanging the dumbbell from.
To use the Power Hooks, once the dumbbells are secured into the hooks, you lift the dumbbells up and hook the large hooks over the bar you're using (the hooks stay attached to the dumbbells while you're doing the movement). Lie down on the bench, set your hands on the dumbbells, push the dumbbells forward and out a little then lift and unhook the Hooks. When you're done with the set, simply rehook the Hooks and lower the weights.
This picture demonstrates how the hooks are set up on the dumbbells and how they hang on the bar.
Be sure to place them far enough apart on the bar so that when you lay down, you don't crack your head on the dumbbells (don't ask me how I know this).
These pictures demonstrate how to use the hooks in an actual set.
First, you grasp the dumbbells, then you push them forward, then you raise the hooks off the bar, then you do your set as usual.
To get them back on, simply bring the dumbbells back towards your head and catch the hooks on the bar.
The Benefits of Power Hooks:
1. Power Hooks allow you to start the exercise immediately, without having to get the dumbbells into position from off the floor or having somebody hand them to you. This saves you energy and power so you have more strength available for the exercise itself.
In the short term, this means you'll be able to perform more reps with more weight. In the long term, it means you'll be able to make much better progress in the dumbbell bench press because you'll be able to lift more weight for more reps during your sets (this will also carry over to barbell bench press strength as well).
2. Because the Power Hooks allow you to start the exercise without having to get the dumbbells into position yourself, you will prevent possible injuries that can happen as a result of getting those dumbbells into position.
It's not easy getting extremely heavy dumbbells into position for dumbbell exercises. It places unbalanced loads on your body and the momentum that can be generated when you're moving the dumbbells around to get them into position can result in muscle pulls or connective tissue injuries. The dumbbell press exercise itself is much safer compared to some of the tricks people use to get the dumbbells into position.
With the hooks, you completely remove that injury potential.
3. Starting from the top of the bench press movement allows you to pre-load your muscles for a more powerful start. Here's what I mean...when you do a barbell bench press, you don't start your first rep from the bottom with the bar on your chest. You start with the bar at the top. This allows your muscles to develop elastic tension as you lower the bar and release it as you come back up, making for a more powerful exercise.
When you do the typical dumbbell press, the position you end up in when you get the dumbbells into position is at the bottom. You have no elastic tension in the muscles and it can be much harder to get the weights into position to start your set. You've essentially set yourself back right from the start.
With the hooks, you start just as you would with a barbell bench press - from the top position. It's a stronger position to start in and results in a more effective loading of the muscles.
The Drawbacks of Power Hooks:
1. While being relatively simple to attach to the dumbbell handles (it's just a matter of placing the handle on the hooks and wrapping the Velcro around), it does require some set-up to use in practice. I set the hooks up in my power rack and, at first, it took me a few tries to get the height of the bar right so that I could easily hook and unhook at the start and end of the exercise.
When using the bar on a regular bench press, however, the instructions tell you to simply push the dumbbells around in an arc until you can just lift the hooks off. It takes a bit of practice to get good at hooking and unhooking - definitely start with lighter weights to get the idea of how it works and how the dumbbells move and feel in your hands with the hooks attached to them. The strap and metal bar used to secure the dumbbell to the hooks can feel a little awkward in your hands at first but you will get used to the feel very quickly.
2. When pressing, I found the hooks occasionally contacted the bar that I had set up to hang them on. This gets much less frequent as you become more accustomed to using the Power Hooks, however, but when it does happen, it can throw off your rhythm and distract you. It's a minimal drawback that can be solved by practicing how to best use the hooks and position yourself on the bench.
3. It's difficult to use the hooks with any Swiss Ball pressing exercises. The reason is not because the hooks make the exercise any more unstable...it's that because the ball is inflatable, when you try to unhook the dumbbells and lift them off the bar, you sink down into the ball! This effect is really pronounced when using very heavy dumbbells, making it difficult to get the dumbbells into position. It can certainly be done, but you will need to account for the sinking of the ball and your position on it underneath the bar to be sure you'll be able to get the dumbbells rehooked when you're done.
In my experience with the Power Hooks, I've found them to be an extremely valuable training tool for more efficient dumbbell pressing. They are especially useful when you're using very heavy weights, when you're doing incline or seated dumbbell presses (for shoulders) and for workouts that have short rest periods (you don't want to spend your rest time hoisting dumbbells back into position).
I would say the Power Hooks definitely live up to their claim of allowing you to get more reps and use more weight in your dumbbell pressing, especially over the course of several sets as your muscles begin to fatigue. The hooks allow you focus your energy on the exercise rather than on expending it trying to get the dumbbells into position to start.
They're safe and effective and, while they do have minimal drawbacks, don't let any of those stand in your way of trying out these very useful training tools. They're a definite "thumbs up."
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