We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What are the Different Types of Dumbbell Presses?

By Shelby Miller
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Dumbbell presses are weight-training exercises that are performed by pushing a pair of handheld weights known as dumbbells away from the body. Depending on the direction of the press, the dumbbell press works the chest and/or shoulder muscles. When pressing the weights directly overhead, the primary muscles worked are the middle deltoids in the shoulder; when lying face-up and pressing straight up from the chest, the pectorals in the chest are the primary muscles worked. The chest press can be performed on an incline and decline as well. When lying on an incline and pressing up, both the pectorals and the anterior deltoids are worked, whereas pressing while lying on a decline works the pectorals and the serratus anterior just beneath the chest.

Whether the goal is bodybuilding, developing strength, or toning and fat loss, dumbbell presses can be included in a variety of strength-training programs. Someone looking to gain mass would perform a high number of sets and a low-to-moderate number of repetitions — four to eight sets and five to 12 reps are the recommended number of each — accompanied by longer rest periods. Conversely, someone looking to lose weight and tone up is advised to perform two to four sets and upwards of ten reps and to take shorter rests. Ideally, these rest periods would last 30-60 seconds as opposed to 90-120 seconds for mass-building.

To perform the first of these dumbbell presses, the overhead or military press, the exerciser should sit or stand with his elbows straight out from the shoulders and bent 90 degrees, palms facing forward. He should then press the weights directly overhead until his arms are straight and then return to the starting position. This exercise utilizes the anterior, middle, and posterior deltoids as well as the triceps as a secondary mover.

For the dumbbell chest press, the exerciser should lie on his back, usually on a flat bench, with his elbows straight out to either side and bent 90 degrees and palms facing his knees. He should then press the weights directly above his chest until his arms are straight and then return to the starting position. This version of the dumbbell press incorporates the pectoralis major and minor as the primary movers, with the triceps again playing a supporting role.

To perform the next of these dumbbell presses, the incline press, the exerciser should recline on an incline bench that is typically angled to 45 degrees. With his elbows straight out to either side of the chest, elbows bent 90 degrees, and palms facing knees, he should press the weights straight up toward the ceiling until his arms are straight and then lower them to the starting position. Again, this press works the pectoralis major and anterior deltoid muscles, with assistance from the triceps.

The final of the dumbbell presses, the decline press, works the pectoralis major and serratus anterior muscles, the latter of which is found just under the chest along either side of the ribcage. This press requires the exerciser to lie on a decline bench, so that he is inverted with his head typically 30-45 degrees lower than his hips. As with the chest press and incline press, he should press the weights straight up toward the ceiling from a 90 degree elbow angle with palms facing away. To ensure that form is correct on any version of the dumbbell press, the exerciser is encouraged to keep the shoulder blades pulled down and back, to avoid locking out the elbows or arching the back, and to keep the hips in contact with the bench at all times.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.