Single Arm Dumbbell Bench Press

Single Arm Dumbbell Bench (How To, Muscles Worked, Benefits)

One of my personal favorite movements, the Single Arm Dumbbell Bench Press is a fantastic upper-body strength exercise.

By using only one arm at a time, it places a large strain on the core to have to stabilize the body while pressing. This makes the Single Arm DB Bench a great ‘2 for 1’ exercise.

In this guide, I will be going over how to Single Arm Dumbbell Bench Press, coaching points, common mistakes, and alternatives if you happen to need them.

How To Single Arm Dumbbell Bench Press

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbell
  • Bench

Step-by-Step Instruction

  • Grab your dumbbell, sit on the edge of the bench, and sit the dumbbell on your thigh vertically.
  • Take a deep breath, lie flat on your back on the bench, and get your dumbbell in position ready to press.
  • Lay your free hand on your stomach. Placing your hand on your hip (as shown in the featured image above) will help balance you more is a more beginner-friendly hand placement.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor.
  • Keep your butt on the bench.
  • Pull your shoulder blades together and keep the back of your head on the bench. You will slightly arch your back. Keep your core tight and keep the shoulder blades pulled back tight.
  • The dumbbells should be slightly angled at roughly a 45-degree angle to the torso. (representative of the path you are descending with your elbows).
  • Press the dumbbell up.
  • Control the dumbbell down during the eccentric movement and draw the dumbbell in, keeping the elbow at that 45-degree angle from the torso.
  • The dumbbell will make contact with your torso in line with the bottom of the sternum.
  • Once contact is made, drive the dumbbell back up.
  • Complete the designated number of reps and then switch sides.
  • When your set is done, do not freely drop the dumbbell without checking your surroundings. You could drop the dumbbell and it might hit a person nearby. Or your could drop your dumbbell and crush your fingers on a dumbbell that was left next to your bench.
  • The best way to finish a set is to bring the dumbbell back to your thigh and stand up with it. Or have a lifting partner take it from you.

Coaching Points

If you’re familiar with Dumbbell Bench Press but are new to this single arm variation, you’ll probably be pretty surprised by just how much you need to brace your core to keep from literally rotating off the bench. For this reason, start light and then work your way up in weight.

This is a very shoulder-friendly pressing movement. Because the implement is a dumbbell, the range of motion is increased, the shear force on the shoulder is decreased, and the shoulder stabilizing muscles are engaged.

I would highly recommend this movement to any athlete. It provides all the benefits that a pressing movement can offer with minimal risk.

Remember to finish your sets with awareness so that you and your training partner/fellow gym members stay safe and injury-free.

Common Mistakes

  1. Do not over arch the back or let your butt come off the bench. Most professionals will not accept repetitions if the butt comes off the bench but also you will likely injure yourself with poor form.
  2. Do not let the back of your head come off the bench because you are pulling down on your neck to watch the bar hit your chest. You will get used to the movement and your peripheral vision will allow you to know when the bar makes contact.
  3. Do not let the elbows flare out away from the midline. The shoulders are incredibly vulnerable in these positions and the sheer force placed on the shoulders will lead to injury if the technique is not made a priority.

Muscles Worked

  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Triceps
  • Biceps (Isometric and eccentric contributors)

SA DB Bench Press Alternatives

Dumbbell Floor Press

Grab your dumbbells and perform your pressing movement without a bench. Lie down right on the floor and perform the dumbbell bench press movement. This movement is even more shoulder-friendly due to the eccentric movement stopping at the torso.

Barbell Bench Press

Bench Press

If you don’t have dumbbells, you can always switch over to the tried and true Barbell Bench Press. You can’t really do a single-arm version with the bar (technically you could try if you really wanted to), but I’m sure there won’t be too many complaints over having to do regular old Bench Press.

Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press

If you’re really struggling with keeping your balance with the full single arm version, you can try Alternating DB Bench Press instead.

It’s basically a hybrid between a regular DB Bench Press and Single Arm DB Bench Press. You still get the benefit of having to brace and press one arm at a time but a dumbbell in both hands will help stabilize you more during the lift.

More Info and Links

Looking for some more great supplemental work for your bench day? Head over to our Exercise Library to find step-by-step exercises to help you crush a personal record.

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