The supine dumbbell press is a standard upper-body exercise used by many gym-goers -- from bodybuilders to weekend warriors. The move is also called a dumbbell bench press or a flat bench press. Supine refers to a face-up, reclined body position. Add the supine dumbbell press to your workout to help build strong chest, triceps and deltoids.
Lie on a workout bench while holding a dumbbell at each of your shoulders. Extend your elbows so that the weights are just about eye level. Your palms should face forward and your wrists should remain straight. Bend the elbows to bring the weights down to chest height, about as wide as your armpits. Return the weights to the starting position to complete one repetition. For safety, your back should remain pressed into the bench and your feet pressed into the floor for the duration of your repetitions.
The primary muscles worked during the supine dumbbell chest press are the pectorals at the chest, the anterior and medial deltoids at the shoulders and the triceps at the back of the upper arm. If you perform the move with your elbows perpendicular to your torso, the pectoral muscles get greater emphasis. Keeping the elbows closer in to your sides will put a greater emphasis on the triceps. The rhomboids at the upper back and several other shoulder muscles, including the rotator cuff, posterior deltoids and the serratus anterior, work as stabilizers during the press. Because dumbbells are less stable than a barbell or machine, the supine dumbbell press can better activate these stabilizer muscles -- leading to a greater overall development of strength.
If you do not have a workout bench, perform a supine dumbbell press from the floor. Your range of motion will be slightly impeded because you should not rest the backs of your upper arms on the ground during the downward phase of the exercise. To give your abs a workout along with your chest, deltoids and triceps, perform the supine dumbbell press while lying on a stability ball.
The supine dumbbell press is similar to the supine barbell press but allows you a greater range of motion and more contraction at the top of the movement. Bodybuilder.com explains that the dumbbell press also gives you the ability to turn your hands and weights to face one another at the top of the press to experience a better muscle contraction.
If your weights are heavy, use a spotter to execute the movement. A personal trainer can help you learn proper form and technique, especially if the move is new for you. Beginners should start with just one set of 12 repetitions, using a weight heavy enough to make the last few repetitions challenging to do with proper form. When you can easily do those 12 repetitions, add 5 to 10 percent more weight. Adding too much too soon can lead to injury. Over the next several months, increase the number of sets you do per workout. Perform resistance training for the whole body at least two times per week on nonconsecutive days. Always consult your physician before beginning a new exercise regimen.
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.