We’re always looking for ways to do things better. The very fact that we enjoy lifting weights tells us that, unwilling to accept the appearance nature gave us, we are willing to embark upon 10 to 20 hours a week of weight training, cardiovascular effort, and meal preparation necessary to change appearance and performance abilities of our bodies. And part of doing things better involves looking at the exercises we’re using today, and determining if we are using them optimally. Even if results are good, they could be better through improvement of the way we complete these movements.
Take a look at how you’re completing your dumbbell bench presses. Let’s look at a few mistakes that others routinely make, that you may be falling into. Be sure to be honest and direct in your analysis. Leave your ego at the curb and focus upon making improvements to what you do, and your physique will improve as well!
Hammer Style Grip
This is a new strategy employed by lifters in the past few years, with great effect. Instead of keeping your hands in the ‘neutral’ position while benching the dumbbells, shift them to a ‘hammer style’ grip throughout the movement. This means your fists gripping the dumbbells will be facing one another throughout the duration of this movement. Many personal trainers believe this action removes the emphasis from the triceps and allows the pectorals to receive a greater workout. At any rate, it is a variation that you should try in order to see if you can indeed hit your pecs from a new and differing direction!
Of course, when it comes to chest day, most athletes tend to use a lot of weight. This is good for building pure, unadulterated size and mass. However, it can also result in a situation where you aren’t targeting an ideal number of muscle fibers. Sure, the fast-twitch fibers of the chest are being blasted when you’re completing 5 to 7 repetitions with some seriously heavy weight. But the slower-twitch muscle fibers – those which aren’t recruited until repetitions 10 through 12 – are being neglected! Drop the weight a bit, and bump up the repetitions. You’ll find the dumbbell bench presses burn more than ever. That feeling is, of course, new muscle fibers being stimulated!
When we’re using a lot of weight in the gym, we often tend to move through the repetitions quickly, moving the weight as a result of power and explosiveness. Unfortunately, this leads to repetitions which are just a bit fast, if your goal is optimal muscle building. Slow down your repetitions! You will see that you won’t be able to complete as many repetitions, but your results will improve as a result. Recruitment of as many muscle fibers as possible is desired – and slowing your repetitions down is required for this.
Vary your angle
As with many chest movements, you can target different parts of your pectoral muscles by adjusting the bench to new angles. Going with a negative ten degree angle on the bench will allow you to work the lower pectorals. This is called the decline setting. Going flat, you work the chest center. And of course, bumping up the bench to 15, 30, and 45 degree angles will allow you to target the upper portions of your chest using dumbbell bench presses. Be sure to vary which movements you use. Most lifters stick with an incline angle, even a slight one such as 15 degrees, to achieve maximum chest size and pump.
Remember that while the dumbbell bench press is a highly effective exercise, it isn’t the only chest movement you should be using on a regular basis. Flat bench press, done without too much weight, is a great movement for building mass. Incline presses, dips, pullovers, machine movements, and cable crossovers are ideal for building up the chest. Mix in these movements with each workout to keep your chest muscles guessing – and growing!
Additionally, analysis of how you conduct those training movements should include many of the tenets discussed previously in this article. If you’re training with DB bench press incorrectly, then you may be letting a few of those bad habits sneak over to your other chest exercises as well. Analyze everything and you’ll continually make improvements!
Keep in mind that proper training alone isn’t how you get into the best shape of your life. Sure, it’s one of the legs of the stool that is fitness and physique improvement. But the other legs of the stool – nutrition, supplementation, and rest/recovery – should never be neglected. Make sure you’re consuming 6 to 7 meals each day, made up of clean protein sources (chicken, beef, turkey, eggs, whey), the best carbs (pasta, beans, rice) and plenty of roughage for digestion (fruit, vegetables, smoothies and fiber). Take your supplements on a regular basis, recording your results so you can learn what works best for your body. Try to sleep 7.5 to 8.5 hours each night. Your body endures a great deal of taxing strain from the workouts you face – and sleep is very important. Often overlooked are the other hours each day when you’re not at the gym. Make sure your “down time” is relaxing and doesn’t drain your body of resources which would otherwise be used for the recovery process. Watching Netflix or reading a good book builds way more muscle than dancing the night away at the club or running up and down the court playing hours of basketball in your “down time”.
Keep your factors straight, train right using effective exercises such as the DB bench press, and you’ll be well on your way to maximizing your potential in terms of muscle strength, size, and appearance. Good luck!