How To Set Up the Dumbell Bench Press

Posted on 28 Aug 2009 21:35

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By Eric Troy, Ground Up Strength

Injuries and tweaks happen during dumbell bench press at two common instances. Picking the dumbells off the floor or a low rack. And during the setup.

If you get injured just picking up a heavy dumbell in preparation for a bench press then you need more than a short explanation on proper lifting. You need to get back to basics, and if I am to venture a guess, get off the machines. Strong strength trainees don't get bad injuries picking up dumbells. Strength training is supposed to prepare you to pick up heavy things.

But setting up the exercise can be tricky when you are on your own. As the dumbells required become very heavy it gets to be more and more difficult. The heavier the dumbbells get the harder it is to get them up into a position from which to press them, let alone actually do the exercise. Having a partner give you a handoff is much better. There is also a great dumbell accessory called Power Hooks. These allow you to hang the dumbells off an overhead bar by hooks so that you can grab them from the reclined position on the bench.

Failing those two options, there are right and wrong ways to get yourself into position for the dumbell bench press. First I will explain the proper setup in a step by step process.

The Right way:

1. Place the weights at the end of the bench so that you can lift them from a position that is almost straddling the bench…ready to sit down.

2. Bring the weights to your knees so that the dumbell ends rest on the knees and sit back onto the bench so that the bells are planted on your knees and you have a "hammer" grip. (If use adjustable dumbell handles then the ends of the handles should be on the knees…which is uncomfortable but necessary).

3. Take some breaths and brace your core and rock back using your knees to bring the weights back into position. Here is the are not using your hip flexors and legging them up you are setting your core rigid and rocking back using momentum to do it. Don't ROLL back. ROCK back.

4. As you rock back try to simultaneously retract your scapula and depress them. So scapula pinched together and down bringing your elbows alongside your torso and the dumbells in pressing position.

The Wrong Way

What most trainees do wrong is to try to use their abdminals and hip flexors in a flexing and curling movement. You must REMAIN RIGID during the setup. Otherwise you have very little control over the shoulder complex and you cannot set the scapula.

What is going to happen is that you are going to flex your RA which is also going to "curl" your chest forward and also tend to make you posture your neck. From that position and also manipulating heavy weights you are fighting a losing battle trying to have any control over your scapula. You can't extend the thoracic so you lose a big factor in creating a stable base.

Try it as an experiment right now. As you are sitting put your arms in front of you as if you are driving a race car and flex your abs like you are trying to curl up like one of those rolly-polly bugs. Do it hard. Then try to swing up your knees and while you are doing all this see what happens to your thoracic spine and how much control you have over your scapula.

Following the process above should make your dumbell bench press set up much smoother and eliminate those annoying little neck and shoulder tweaks.


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