You have your set of dumbbells ready to go and get started with your routine and today is chest day. You have to get that bench press in and want to make sure you don't make any mistakes when it comes to your form. That is great thinking as you don't want to have any early injuries when you are first getting into your routine.
So how low should you go on your dumbbell bench press?
There is no one right answer to this as it may depend on previous injuries to your shoulders or your mobility. The general consensus on how low you should go on your dumbbell bench press is to where you are comfortable going to without pain which should be a little past parallel. You should also feel a little stretch in that chest before pushing back up to complete the rep.
If you have previous injuries like myself with my shoulders it really depends on the day. If I get a good stretch in I bring them just below parallel and other days when they are sore and tight I bring them just to parallel.
There is a certain form you should keep with your dumbbell bench presses throughout the reps that you will see below.
Dumbbell Bench Press Range Of Motion
There are different types of dumbbell bench presses, but we will stick to the main two which are palms facing downward (regular) and palms facing inward normally for a rotating press.
If you are just starting out as a beginner be very careful not to go too far down as you can put a lot of tension on your pectorals and shoulders. So start out with a little lighter weights then normal and don't go past parallel until you know you aren't extra sore from going to low.
When you lock out your rep your dumbbells should touch regardless of your type of bench press as this will build that inner chest.
How Low On Dumbbell Press Defined By Actual Lifters
Here are some answers from forums we have gathered that will help you predict what you can lift from those that have done so in the gym and at home. We gathered these from bodybuilding.com and reddit among other fitness sites from actual users.
- NJMscle – “I bring them down to my chest”
- Munro23 – “Either touch them to your chest or don't do them at all”
- IEatPowerRacks – “As low as I would with a bar…why would you sacrifice ROM just because they're dumbbells?”
- UCFBuilder – “i find that if i go too low with DB..that my front delts get damaged….ill bring them parrallel to keep constant tension and avoid hitting my front delts to much”
- Jmt92 – “Touch the side of my chest.Gotta tuck them more than usual though due to size.(which is proper form anyway).”
- Kaoslegend – “normally go until i feel a good stretch. lil past parallel”
- M0tive – “I usually go till I feel a good pull going on in my chest. Although i've been tempted lately to try the touch-n-go method.”
- Admiralbonesjones – If you're only going to parallel then your triceps are doing most of the work, go as low as possible without fucking up your form”
- Paulbrah (Great Answer) – “I would say to go down as far as you are comfortable. Parallel is all that's really necessary but some people prefer the feeling of going down further (bodybuilding being the game of mind-muscle connection it is and all that). Anywhere past parallel is not recommended because your shoulder is in a more compromising position and the risk of injury is higher but if you feel safe and comfortable and get more delt activation going down further, especially with lighter weight, by all means do”
Dumbbell Bench Press Muscles Worked
The bench press works out many different muscle groups and with dumbbells there is no exception here either.
These muscle groups include:
- Lats Traps Rhomboids
Pretty much every muscle is hit in the upper body when the dumbbell bench press is performed correctly.
Dumbbell Bench Press Mistakes
You want to perform dumbbell presses correctly for various reasons the number one of course being safety and avoiding injury. Unlike with barbell bench press you are leaving your muscles a little more exposed since they are operating independently. Also dumbbell bench press puts more pressure on the joints like your shoulders.
Some Common Mistakes
- Don't Roll Your Wrists – keep your wrist locked just like if you are trying to push something heavy across the floor. If you keep them relaxed they will have a tendency to roll and take away from your strength and ability to push heavier weight. It also leaves you open to wrist injuries.
- Don't Let Your Elbows Flare –
- Don't Bang Weight Off Your Chest – we see it all the time people banging the weight off your chest to get that rebound to lift heavier weight easier. Well your ego is not doing you any favors here. Also if the bar hits to high on your chest you are actually taking away from your strength. If you hit too low you risk injury to your clavicle. Focus on lower weight until it touches then push up. If you have chest injuries maybe don't touch your chest at all but consult your doctor before lifting weights.
- Don't Mess With The Grip – this is a tough one but you need to do what is most comfortable and what gives you the most strength. This will actually come down to genetics and how you are built in your upper body. I would definitely ask for advice on this from a fitness coach or personal trainer that can watch you lift really quick. Getting this right can give you the ability to lift a lot more weight and reach new peaks.
Dumbbell Bench Press Tips
These are going to be tips for beginners mostly so if you are intermediate to advances no need to read this.
- Start On The Ground – with dumbbells it can be tougher to get the weight up, get into position, and balance yourself so you can always start on the ground as well. Lie down start with light weights bring the weight down until your elbows touch then go back up. Eventually move up to the bench.
- Start Light – always start with light weight. I don't care what your buddy can do, be safe especially the first few weeks until your body adjusts to lifting weights. You might tweak something not even know it until you are in pain days after lifting. Make it challenging but don't make it dangerous.
- Warm It Up – always do lighter weights for 1-2 sets to warm yourself up. Also do some static stretches to loosen up that chest, back and shoulders.
Related Questions (Asked From Our Readers)
How Much Should I Dumbbell Bench Press?
How much you dumbbell bench press has many variables based mainly on your experience. If you can barbell bench press 200lbs for example you are going to want to start with dumbbells at around 50% of that so 50lb dumbbells at most. Then you can increase from there. Dumbbells can put more pressure on your joints then barbell and you will lift less as well so be careful.
Is Dumbbell Chest Press Better Than Barbell?
Dumbbell chest press is not better or worse then using a barbell they are completely different workouts even though they workout most all the same muscle groups. The dumbbell press your muscles are working independently and can work better for building symmetry and balance. Where with barbells you are using a group of muscles to work together to push up one weight so they can be much better for building mass and getting in more weight and reps.
The key answer with how low to go on your dumbbell bench press is go as low as you comfortably can and when you first feel the stretch in your chest. Going any lower won't have any real benefits and can leave you open to injuries.
Start with lighter weight to get the form down then increase your weight. Dumbbell bench press is an amazing workout that hits so many of your upper body muscles so mix it into your chest and upper body day for sure.
If you don't have a bench start out on the floor you will get pretty much the same benefit as you will be going to parallel. If you have injuries like shoulder rotator cuff problems doing them on the floor may be the best option.
You can really compare barbell to dumbbell as they both complement each but keeping the right form is what will make the difference. Make sure you are getting the full range of motion through the entire rep without overextending.