There are only so many chest press reps you can do before your muscle-building progress starts to stall. So how do you make a dumbbell chest press more challenging? Add weight, of course. But that's not the only way you can increase the burn of this exercise.
If you have a long-loop resistance band handy, you can take this move to the next level, no new weights needed. Wrapping a band around your dumbbells is a simple way to progress your chest press and give your pectoral muscles a little extra burn. But before you start pressing, familiarize yourself with the technique.
How to Do a Band-Resisted Chest Press
- Wrap each end of a long-loop resistance band around the handles of a pair of dumbbells.
- Lie on a bench or flat surface with one dumbbell in each hand, the length of the resistance band across the middle of your back.
- Hold the weights at chest height, root your feet into the ground and flatten your back against the bench.
- On an exhale, press the weights straight above your chest, working against the band.
- Pause here for a moment and reverse the motion, bringing the weights back to chest height with control.
Keep the bands on the outside of your arms to help keep your elbows closer to your body, not flared out. This will also help keep your shoulders in a safer position.
Why the Band-Resisted Chest Press Is So Effective
"In a chest press, the bottom of the range of motion is typically the most difficult, while the lockout is the easiest. So you're never really training the stronger points," Brad Godbold, CSCS, head strength and conditioning coach of NYU Athletics, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "By adding bands to the exercise, the 'easier' portions now also become equally as difficult."
Before you use just any resistance band, you'll want to take your current fitness level and abilities into consideration. The further you press the banded dumbbells away from your chest, the more resistance you'll feel, Godbold says. Start with a lighter resistance band and add heavier varieties as you grow comfortable with the variation.
Always inspect your resistance bands closely before you start, Godbold says. If you see any signs of tearing or fraying, it's best that you buy a fresh band.
Are You Ready for the Band-Resisted Chest Press?
Resistance bands are a great way to make a promote muscle activation and growth without having to lift heavier dumbbells, Godbold says.
Before you progress your chest press, run through a tempo test set, Godbold says. If you have a pair of 20-pound dumbbells, perform a set of 10 reps, lowering the weights for a 3-second count and quickly pressing them back up.
Another way to test your current fitness level is to perform a few chest press sets with high repetitions (15 to 20). If you're able to do this without fatigue, then you're probably ready to progress to a band, he says.
While you can totally use this chest press progression on its own, Godbold recommends you pair it with a triceps exercise for a superset. After you finish a set of band-resisted chest presses, go right into a set of skull crushers. Your arms and chest will definitely feel it the next day.