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Muscles Used During a Supine Dumbbell Press

author image Elle Di Jensen
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.
Muscles Used During a Supine Dumbbell Press
A man performing a supine dumbbell press at the gym. Photo Credit Ibrakovic/iStock/Getty Images

Don't get confused when the personal trainer at the gym adds a supine dumbbell press to your workout regimen. It's an exercise you're familiar with, whether you know it or not. A supine dumbbell press is essentially a bench press performed with dumbbells instead of a barbell. "Supine" means you're lying on your back while you press the dumbbells up, working your pectoral muscles along with a few others, too.

The Working Muscles

Supine dumbbell presses target your pecs, the biggest muscle on your chest. But they recruit other muscles to assist in the move, such as the clavicular head of the pectorals right below your collar bone, the deltoids on the front of your shoulders and the triceps located at the back of your upper arms. Supine dumbbell presses also engage your rotator cuffs and your biceps get in on the act as dynamic stabilizers.

Proper Technique

The supine dumbbell press will only work the correct muscles if you perform the exercise properly. Take a dumbbell in each hand holding them at shoulder height with your elbows bent and palms facing forward. Lie on your back on a bench, keeping the dumbbells near your shoulders but dropping your elbows a bit so that the weights are just above and to the sides of your chest. Exhale as you extend your arms, pressing the dumbbells up and bringing them together at the top of the exercise. Control the move as you inhale and lower the dumbbells back to the starting position just above your chest. Keep your back on the bench and don't arch it when you press upward. Concentrate on feeling your pecs work when you do a supine dumbbell press.

Add a Ball, Engage More Muscles

When you perform a supine dumbbell press on a bench, it gives you all the support you need so all you have to do is concentrate on proper form. But if you do the press on an exercise ball instead, you'll engage more muscles. That's because the ball isn't as stable as a bench, so you'll have to get your glutes working to help keep your balance as you press. Your abs and other core muscles will also get in on the act, helping to keep you stabilized and balanced.

Variety of Versions

Doing a variety of dumbbell presses while lying on your back will work your chest muscles from different angles. Try decline or incline supine dumbbell presses and switch between doing them with both arms simultaneously or one arm at a time. You can even do flyes in various reclining positions, either on an adjustable bench or using an exercise ball, to effectively work your chest, arms and shoulders.

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