The dumbbell bench press works your shoulders, triceps and chest muscles while engaging your rotator cuff and upper back muscles as stabilizers. Unlike the barbell version, the dumbbell bench requires each side of your body to lift an equal amount of weight. Increasing the amount you can bench with dumbbells requires building up strength in each of the muscles involved in the exercise.
Practice proper benching technique to improve any areas of weakness. Push the dumbbells straight up to decrease the overall distance of movement and keep your feet firmly planted on the floor and your back against the bench. Drive the dumbbells upward with these points of contact.
Strengthen your chest muscles by performing dumbbell flyes and switching your dumbbell bench press to the incline or decline version. Switching up the way you exercise your pectoral muscles forces your body to continue adapting to the different types of muscle fatigue.
Strengthen your triceps muscles, especially if you struggle with your dumbbell bench press near the top of the motion. Try performing a dumbbell bench press with the dumbbells pressed up against each other to focus the work on your triceps. Cable machine pulldowns, overhead triceps extensions and dips also strengthen the triceps muscles.
Work your shoulders and upper back muscles to improve your stability during dumbbell bench presses. Try the dumbbell shoulder press, lateral raises, cable rows or lateral pulldowns.
Complete two to six sets of four to eight repetitions of each exercise in your chest, triceps, shoulder and back program to increase muscle strength. Give your muscles at least two minutes to rest between sets, and only work each muscle group once or twice per week to allow plenty of recovery time.
As you bench press, inhale as you lower the weight and exhale as you raise it.
Perform free weight exercises with a spotter to help with your technique and safety, especially if you are approaching your one-rep maximum.