This article was written by James Collier & was originally published in The MuscleTalker April 2011 edition
Dumbbell chest press is both a great mass builder and shaping exercise for the pecs. Most of us like to pile on a lot of weight and bang out a few reps. But is this the most effective method of training for a bodybuilder?
Dumbbell presses are best performed on a small incline bench of about 30°. Make sure the chest is warmed up properly before starting. Begin with a light weight. Hold the dumbbells at the bottom and straighten the arms only to shoulder width apart. The pec-delt tie in is easily worked and after 4-5 reps there is no need to go all the way to the bottom, as this is just taking the emphasis off the main pec area: i.e. the area you're trying to build. So, for the first 5 reps perform from all the way at the bottom to shoulder width straight arms then, on rep 5, bring the dumbbells together at the top and squeeze the pecs as if you are flexing them. Squeeze for 1-2 seconds, hard. Then lower the weight, but only until the elbows are about 120°, i.e. you're only coming down about half way. Then straighten the arms and squeeze at the top as before; repeat until failure.
You want to be aiming for around 15 reps in total (including the first 5 which are not squeezed) with a minimum of 12 reps. If you can do more than 15 reps then great, but you may want to up the weight for the next set. Perform 4 sets. It's the squeezing and the reps which are important not the amount of weight you're using. You'll start the exercise feeling the weight is way too light, but as you start squeezing - and it's crucial that you squeeze hard - you'll soon fail.
Training chest like this is not about the ego, as you'll only be using light dumbbells and people will also think you're not doing the full movement as you're not coming down very far with the dumbbells. However, your pecs will feel a massive pump and you'll certainly have DOMS. Over the weeks you'll develop both mass and shape to the pecs.