If you’re looking for optimal chest development, it’s time to replace the barbell with a pair of heavy dumbbells. Sounds counterintuitive? Of course it does – we’re programmed to think that the barbell is our best ally on the road to building an armor plate chest. But in reality, gigantic chests are far more common in guys with less-than-impressive bench press numbers than in guys who are able to hoist astonishing loads off their chests. If you’re wondering why, just think of all the ways in which you can hold and move a set of dumbbells.
Dumbbells allow you to experiment with different ranges of motion and types of stimuli, thereby helping you create a complete workout that will maximally activate all areas of your chest.
Simply put, every proud chest-training freak needs to learn how to utilize the power of dumbbells to sculpt a massive chest that screams power and masculinity. Below you’ll find 6 awesome exercises that will help you do just that. Don’t take our word for it – give these a shot right away and enjoy the pain!
#1. Dumbbell Elevator Press
Here’s a very cool technique we’ve picked up recently. To deeply exhaust your pec fibers, you’ll imitate the up-and-down movement of an elevator: lower the dumbbell a quarter of the way down, then lift it back up, then lower it halfway down, then back up, then lower it all the way down, then back up again. That’s one rep – aim for 10 of those per set. There will be pain, but the pump will be worth it!
#2. Eccentric-Accentuated Dumbbell Press
Given that negative reps are a well-known method for destroying muscle fibers and overcoming sticking points, we assume you don’t need any more convincing about the importance of accentuating the lowering portion of the lift for chest development. Since concentric strength potential is lower than the eccentric strength potential, any individual looking to create maximum fiber damage should emphasize eccentric overload in his training.
Exercise scientists have been researching the subject since the 70’s, repeatedly confirming that eccentric-only training regimes produce greater strength increases than their concentric-only counterparts. Next time you do dumbbell pressing, make sure it takes you 3-5 seconds to lower the weight on each rep.
#3. One-Arm/Alternating Dumbbell Press
Training one side at a time is a great way to ensure optimal focus on the target muscle group, enhance fiber recruitment and overcome any strength imbalances between one side and the other. Most people tend to over-rely on one side of their body to move the load but this can be very hard to notice and even harder to resist while performing bilateral exercises.
In addition, one-arm and alternating dumbbell presses provide an intense training for the core musculature and shoulder girdle, as they will need to work harder to stabilize your body and the load.
#4. Dumbbell Press With Isometric Holds
If you know how to use them, isometric holds can be the most valuable tool in your muscle-building arsenal. They help you increase TUT, thereby increasing metabolic stress, which is one of the three mechanisms for increasing muscle hypertrophy. Multiple studies have confirmed the effectiveness of isometric training for mass goals, proving that iso-holds recruit the largest motor units and help increase the neural drive between the motor cortex in the brain and the trained muscle, or what you know as the “mind-muscle connection”.
Begin with a 10-second isometric hold at the top position, then do a 5-second hold halfway down, then another 5-second hold just above the chest. Complete 10 reps in total. The best time for this is at the beginning of your chest workout, while you’re still fresh.
#5. Dumbbell squeeze press
The squeeze press is practically a standard dumbbell press but with one difference: the dumbbells are actively squeezed together as hard as possible during every inch of every rep. For this you need to use hex dumbbells and keep the palms facing each other to avoid wrist pain and activate more of the sternal area of the pecs. This is a highly-effective exercise that is guaranteed to prompt new growth in your chest, so perform it properly and regularly!
#6. Dumbbell Reverse Batwing Press
As some kind of a reversed batwing row, this pressing variation will present your pecs with a totally unique training stimulus and do wonders for your posture. To do it, hold one dumbbell a few inches above your chest as you perform all your reps on the other side, then switch and repeat on the opposite side.
Knowing the right exercises isn’t enough to achieve your full chest building potential. If you’re too focused on your ego, you might end up ruining your gains by trading proper form for heavier weights. So don’t do that. Know your limits and try to push them a little bit further every time you step into the gym, but never neglect the importance of using correct form and technique.
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Think big, eat clean, train smart. Now go and hammer those pecs!