Alternating DB Bench Press

Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press (How To, Muscles Worked)

Alternating DB Bench Press is a variation of the more popular Dumbbell Bench Press. By alternating the reps, and holding the opposite dumbbell at arm’s length, this variation incorporates the core and shoulder stabilizers more.

In this guide, I’m going to teach you how to properly do Alternating DB Bench Press, explain the movement’s benefits and give you a few alternatives in case you need them.

How To Do Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells
  • Bench

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells and a bench.
  • Sit on the edge of the bench with dumbbells resting on each thigh.
  • Lay back on the bench and press both dumbbells to full extension.
  • Now, lower the right dumbbell down to just outside the chest, keeping the elbow at roughly a 45-degree angle to the body.
  • Press that dumbbell back up to full extension.
  • Next, lower the opposite dumbbell down, same as the first, and press back to extension.
  • Continue alternating arms back and forth until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points

Hold and stabilize the non-repping arm at full extension and only rep one dumbbell at a time. As the arms begin to fatigue, you may find one (or both) arms start to drift down as you’re repping the opposite arm. Try to keep that opposite dumbbell pressed at full extension!

Don’t turn the movement into a ‘piston-pumping’ type action. I’ll see athletes that will have one dumbbell going up at the same time the other is going down. Keep one dumbbell at extension until the opposite rep is completed.

Some will teach to keep the ‘resting’ dumbbell at or on the chest while the other arm is repping. Personally, I much prefer to keep the non-repping arm extended because helps to improve shoulder stabilization.

Muscles Worked

The primary muscles worked during Alternating DB Bench are the Chest (Pectoralis Major) and the Triceps.

This movement will also work the core and shoulder stabilizers (like the rotator cuff muscles) as well – both through having to stabilize the body during the movement. The core has to keep the torso from rotating as each arm works independently and the shoulders have to keep the one dumbbell stabilized, in place, at extension at all times.

Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press Benefits

Alternating Dumbell Bench Press can bring a ton of awesome benefits to your strength program. Here are just a few:

Unilateral Strength Improvement

By pressing one dumbbell at a time, you’re training each side of your body independently. This can help correct muscular imbalances and improve overall strength.


Since you’re lifting one dumbbell at a time, your core and other stabilizing muscles will have to work harder to maintain your body position. This can improve your balance, coordination, and stability, which are important for sports and daily activities.


Adding the alternating dumbbell bench press to your routine can break up the monotony of always doing the same exercises. Variety can help keep you motivated and could lead to greater gains over time.

Alternating DB Bench Variations

Here are a couple of variations in case you want to tweak your workout a little bit.

Dumbbell Bench Press

Dumbbell Bench Press Lock Out Position

The most common variation is the actual exercise that Alternating Dumbbell Bench comes from in the first place – Dumbbell Bench Press.

I’m sure I’m stating the obvious here, but to switch to regular Dumbbell Bench Press all you have to do is not alternate your reps. Done.

Single Arm Bench Press

Single Arm Dumbbell Bench

Instead of alternating your reps, ditch the other dumbbell completely. Benching only one dumbbell at a time will really ramp up the amount of stabilization that your core will be required to do.

Many lifters don’t really notice their core involved much with alternating reps, but you definitely will with single-arm reps.

Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press Alternatives

If you can’t do Alternating DB Bench for whatever reason (lack of equipment, injury, etc) here are a few alternatives that may work better for you instead.

Bench Press

Bench Press

If you don’t have dumbbells, but you do have a bar (and a bench and a rack) then you can always go with the tried and true Barbell Bench Press.

If you made it onto a page about Alternating DB Press then I’m going to assume you don’t need someone to tell you how to Bench Press. What I will say though, is if you’re going to be benching with a bar you need to make sure to have a spotter. Always.


I’m going to keep things simple with my second suggested alternative as well.

Pushups require zero equipment, can be done anywhere, and they flat out work. I actually think we’ve gotten away from pushups (and even better, weighted pushups) too much within sports performance training. They get overlooked because, well, they’re kind of boring. Here’s a secret though, boring works.

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