The Flat Dumbbell Bench Press is one of my favorite chest exercises.
And the execution of the exercise itself is not usually the main problem I see with people doing it... it's how people get the dumbbells into and out of position for the exercise that has the most potential for injury.
I've seen some incredibly cringeworthy stuff in my years in the gym... and how people get the dumbbells into position for their dumbbell presses, and what they do with the dumbbells after the set is done... well, those are some of the worst offenders.
I've seen people literally fall off the bench with the dumbbells in their hands trying to get the weights into position. I've seen people try and have a partner help them and almost drop dumbbells right onto their faces. I've seen (and you've probably seen and HEARD) people finishing their set and just dropping the weights straight onto the floor.
I'll tell you right now...it's not necessary and it has to stop.
Aside from being really annoying when somebody crushes their face with a dumbbell when you want to use the bench after them, uncontrolled dumbbells can be a tremendous hazard in the gym, not only to the person who was doing the lift but to people nearby.
Here is the absolute easiest way to get dumbbells into and out of position for the exercise without needing a spotter or a crash-mat.
First, let's start with getting into position...
Set the dumbbells on the floor by the end of the bench and sit on the end. The dumbbells should be on the outside of your feet.
Next, lean over and grab the dumbbells. You won't be sitting down on the bench anymore.
Pick them up at the same time then set them on end on your upper thighs, as you sit back down on the end of the bench. Shift yourself back on the bench as needed to get yourself into position.
When you're ready to begin, push the dumbbells together in front of you so they're touching. A single solid mass is easier to control than two separate masses.
Now quickly lay back on the bench, pulling the dumbbells back and down with you.
As your back contacts the bench, pull the dumbbells back into the bottom position of the dumbbell bench press.
IMMEDIATELY press the dumbbells up, taking advantage of the elastic energy and momentum from the dumbbells coming down into the bottom position. This will allow you to get the weights to the top position with minimal strain (which can be an issue with near-limit weights).
Now you've got the dumbbells in position at the top. Hold them there for a moment then get your shoulders pulled back underneath you (this will take a little shuffling) for optimal positioning.
Your knees should be bent about 80 degrees so that you're exerting force with the legs to lock your body into the movement. DO NOT set your feet on top of the bench and DO NOT pick up them up off the floor, especially while actually pressing.
Perform your set using tight form. Come down until the center handles of the dumbbells are just even or a little below even with the chest. No need to go for massive range of motion...normal is fine.
Another trick to keep the tension on...you can tilt the dumbbells down and in a little, as though pouring water on yourself. And don't bang the dumbbells together at the top...it doesn't impress anybody and actually takes tension off the pecs and puts it on the shoulder joint.
It's much more impressive to move heavy weight under COMPLETE control than to bang the dumbbells together and flail around. You'll get more out of it, too.
Once you've done your set, here's what you need to do...finish at the TOP, not the bottom.
This is KEY point and it's how you'll get the dumbbells out of position without dropping them on the floor. So make sure you have enough in the tank to finish the last rep completely rather than trying to push to the absolute limit.
When you've got them at the top, rotate them 90 degrees so you're holding them in a neutral grip.
Now the finish...raise your knees up in the air. You're going to let the dumbbells come down and forward and "catch" them on your legs.
At the same time, lock your abs and let the weight of the dumbbells lever your torso up off the bench and back into the seated position.
Once you're sitting on the bench, just stand up with the dumbbells then squat down and set them on the floor.
You've done a good set of dumbbell bench presses without breaking the weights or ripping your arms out of the sockets throwing the dumbbells to the ground.
This strategy keeps you in full control of the weights at all times, which is an important and sometimes neglected aspect of the dumbbell bench press.
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