The Dumbbell Squeeze Press: The Exercise You Should Be Doing on Chest Day

By
Yara Mersi
August 18, 2021

The dumbbell squeeze press is an upper body exercise that primarily targets the pectoralis major and shoulders. It is perfect for building strength, hypertrophy, and muscular endurance depending on the rep range you choose. Armed with a dumbbell in each hand and a flat bench, this exercise can bolster your entire upper body routine. 

Muscles Worked by the Dumbbell Squeeze Press

Primary Muscle Groups

The dumbbell squeeze press primarily targets the pectoralis major, which is the largest muscle in your chest. The pec muscles consist of two heads: the clavicular and sternocostal head. The clavicular comprises the upper chest and the sternocostal head makes up the mid to lower chest.

Because you are lying completely flat, the press does a great job of targeting both heads, making it a great movement to do at the beginning of your workout.

 

Our deltoids also are activated when performing the dumbbell squeeze press, especially the anterior deltoid. The deltoids are composed of three heads: the anterior (front), lateral (side) and posterior (rear) heads.

During the dumbbell squeeze press, the triceps are also highly activated. As you press the weight upwards, your triceps contract to extend your arms upwards.

Secondary Muscle Groups:

The dumbbell squeeze press secondarily also engages your upper back and abs. Your abs and upper back should always be engaged to stabilize the body during the exercise motion. 

Dumbbell Squeeze Press Benefits

1. Strength and Size Gains

Believe it or not, there is more to chest exercises than just the barbell chest press. In order to increase your strength and size, you will need to broaden your exercise repertoire.

The dumbbell squeeze press hits your muscles in different angles and will provide you with a stronger, more defined chest in no time.

In order to increase strength, aim for a high number of sets but fewer reps. For hypertrophy or size gains, try doing fewer sets but a higher number of reps.

If your aim is to increase size alongside strength, then incorporating both rep schemes in your exercise routine would be ideal.  

2. Emphasis on Entire Chest

Because of the way this exercise is performed, you get the best bang-for-your-buck. When you dumbbell squeeze press, all the different areas on your chest and upper body are engaged which also means that with little time, you can add more weight and progress. 

3. Trains your Triceps

Given that the dumbbell squeeze press is very similar to a close grip press, your triceps are being targeted much more than a regular barbell or bench press. This makes your triceps become much stronger, improves the bench press lockout as well as your overall strength when you do any other bench variation, such as the barbell bench press.  

How To Do The Dumbbell Squeeze Press

Equipment:

For the dumbbell squeeze press, you will need a pair of dumbbells and a bench.

Setup:

a) Set up as you would for a regular dumbbell chest press.

b) Pick the dumbbells up off the ground with your palms facing toward each other.

b) Place the weights on your thighs and use your legs to kick the dumbbells up and lie back on the bench. The dumbbells should be positioned close to your chest. Place the dumbbells flat side together. Breathe in. 

Action:

  1. Squeeze the dumbbells together. Imagine there is a paper between them that you cannot let go. 
  2. Retract your shoulders to create a slight arch in your spine and breathe out as you press the dumbbells upwards. Be sure to tuck your elbows in.
  3. Next, slowly bring down the dumbbells all the way down into your chest.
  4. Maintain tightness in your chest and repeat this motion.

Recommendation:

To start, choose a relatively light weight. Aim to complete 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps at a lighter weight. Once you master the form, try experimenting with lower rep ranges and heavier weight to further challenge your muscles. 

Dumbbell Squeeze Press Mistakes

Flaring Out the Elbows

After lying back on the bench, many lifters tend to flare out their elbows to the side. When your elbows drift away from the body, you are no longer performing the squeeze press. By keeping your elbows tucked in, you are activating your entire chest and the secondary muscles such as the triceps, which can help you develop the strength and size you need to grow.

Rounding the Shoulders

During the dumbbell squeeze press, you want to avoid rounding your shoulders and keeping your back flat against the bench. When you round the shoulders, your deltoids take over the lifting motion.

To correct this mistake, bring shoulder blades back and down to create a slight arch in your back. This will help you maximize the contraction of your pecs.

Rushing the Motion

Always remember that your body does not remember the reps you do, however, it will always recognize metabolic stress and time under tension. Rather than pushing the dumbbells as fast as possible, complete the dumbbell squeeze press in a controlled manner.

Even as you go heavier, make sure you are able to execute with almost perfect form and control every single rep. Not only is this safer, but you will achieve better results too!

Dumbbell Squeeze Press Variations

1. Incline Alternating Dumbbell Press

With both weights by your chest, press one dumbbell upwards, then the other. Next, bring each dumbbell down one at a time. The alternating dumbbell press allows you to isolate muscles in both sides of your body.

2. Incline Barbell Press

This incline alternative is another great exercise that significantly engages the upper chest. While seated on a 30 degree incline bench, tighten your abs and push the bar upwards in a controlled fashion.

Slowly lower it back down all the way into your chest and repeat!

3. Upward Chest Press

Set up a pulley system at the lowest setting. Grab the handles with an overhand grip and bring them to your chest. Brace your abs and press upwards in a controlled fashion.

Slowly return to the starting position and repeat!

Dumbbell Squeeze Press Alternatives

If you enjoyed the dumbbell squeeze press, check out these other chest focused exercises to improve your upper body training!

1. Incline Dumbbell Fly 

While seated on a 30 degree incline bench, lift your arms above you with your palms facing together and a slight bend in your elbows. Next, lower the weight in a controlled fashion to each side and stop when the weights are roughly in line with your shoulders.

Now, use your chest and shoulders to drive the dumbbells back to the starting position in a consistent pathway. Maintain tightness in your chest and repeat!

2. Standing Upward Fly

Assume a standing position and grab a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing forward. Contract your pecs to bring the dumbbells together until they reach chest height.

Slowly return to the starting position and repeat!

3. Reverse Grip Push-Up

While the reverse grip push up may take a little while to get used to, this pushup variation places more tension on the upper chest. It is a great option to work out your upper body at home!

Looking For A Full Chest Workout?

If you enjoyed these chest exercises, check out this intense 5-minute dumbbell chest workout:

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Yara Mersi
Blogger at Anabolic Aliens