10 Best Dumbbell Push Exercises for Building Upper Body Strength

10 Best Dumbbell Push Exercises for Building Upper Body Strength

Build muscle mass with these dumbbell push exercises. These exercises are great for building the chest, triceps, shoulders, and any other push muscle you can think of.
Image of a man lifting a pair of dumbbells. Source: unsplash

Dumbbell push exercises are essential for anyone looking to build upper body strength effectively. These exercises utilize dumbbells, which allow for a great deal of flexibility in your workouts and help you focus on key muscle groups such as the chest, shoulders, and triceps.

What’s great about using dumbbells is the ability to adjust your grip and range of motion to target muscles more specifically, which is ideal for both beginners and experienced.

What is a push day?

Hold on. What exactly is a “push day”?

Essentially, a push day is part of a workout split designed to focus on exercises that involve pushing movements away from your body. This typically targets your chest, shoulders, and triceps—key muscle groups that work in tandem to execute pushing actions.

In split training routines, dividing workouts by muscle groups or specific movements helps in maximizing efficiency. On push days, you’ll engage in a series of exercises like bench presses, shoulder presses, and tricep extensions.

These exercises are not just about building muscle mass; they’re strategically grouped to enhance strength and ensure each muscle group is worked intensely but also has sufficient time to recover.

In fact, a study conducted on 21 men explored how different workout programs affect strength and muscle growth. It found that while full-body workout programs—where you train all major muscle groups in a single session—are more effective for increasing overall strength, a split workout program is better for muscle growth.

The beauty of organizing your workout into push, pull, and leg days is that it allows for a balanced training schedule. Each session is dedicated to complementary muscle groups, reducing the risk of overtraining and increasing overall muscle function and growth.

Which muscles come into play during dumbbell push exercises?

Dumbbell push exercises target the chest muscles (pectoralis major), shoulders (anterior and medial deltoids), and triceps. By engaging these major muscle groups, you increase overall strength and muscular definition.

10 Best Dumbbell Push Exercises

Ready to get down to business? Alright. Let’s talk about the go-to dumbbell push exercises. We’re talking the bench press, shoulder press, tricep extensions, and the best modifications for those in between. These exercises will light up your upper body and take your strength training to soaring new heights.

1. Dumbbell bench press

Transform your push day routine by incorporating the Dumbbell Bench Press. This exercise not only provides a broader range of motion but also brings heightened versatility and focused muscle activation. Target your chest, shoulders, and triceps with this comprehensive upper-body workout that adapts to your individual strength level.

    • Position yourself flat on a bench, each hand gripping a dumbbell positioned above your chest with palms facing forward.
    • Gradually lower the dumbbells to your chest sides, maintaining your elbows at a 45—60 degree angle. As you lower, allow a slight inward rotation of your grip.
    • Press the dumbbells upward to return to the start, concentrating on engaging your chest, shoulders, and triceps. Keep your core tight and maintain proper form throughout the exercise.


    • Neutral Grip Dumbbell Bench Press: Turn your wrists so your palms face each other, altering the muscle activation angle.
    • Single-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press: Enhance core stability and balance by performing the exercise with one arm at a time.

    2. Dumbbell shoulder presses

    Dumbbell Shoulder Presses are integral for building shoulder strength and stability, involving an overhead press motion that engages multiple upper body muscles.

      • Sit upright on a bench with back support, holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height.
      • Press the dumbbells overhead, straightening your arms while keeping your shoulders engaged.
      • Lower the weights back to shoulder height, ensuring a controlled motion throughout.

      This exercise is effective both for alternating presses and simultaneous presses, depending on your focus and stability.

      3. Dumbbell front raises

      Dumbbell Front Raises specifically target the anterior deltoid muscles at the front of the shoulder, enhancing definition and strength. This exercise emphasizes precision and controlled movement to maximize effectiveness.

      • Start standing with dumbbells at your sides, palms facing your thighs.
      • Lift the weights forward with a slight bend in your elbows until your arms are parallel to the floor.
      • Pause at the top to emphasize the front deltoid contraction.
      • Lower the weights back to the starting position with a controlled motion, ensuring your posture remains stable throughout the exercise.

      4. Dumbbell lateral raises

      Dumbbell lateral raises are perfect for isolating the lateral deltoids, essential for broad and defined shoulders. This exercise enhances your upper body silhouette with its precise targeting and controlled motion.

      • Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, palms facing in.
      • Lift arms to the sides to shoulder height, elbows slightly bent.
      • At the top, focus on engaging the lateral deltoids.
      • Lower the weights slowly back to the starting position.

      5. Seated overhead triceps extensions

      Seated overhead triceps extensions isolate and build the triceps muscles, crucial for upper arm strength and definition.

        • Sit on a bench with a dumbbell, gripping it with an overhand position.
        • Extend your arms overhead, keeping your elbows near your head.
        • Bend your elbows to lower the weight behind your head, then extend back to the start.
        • Focus on keeping your posture upright and movements precise to maximize tricep engagement.

        6. Dumbbell skullcrushers

        Skullcrushers, a targeted triceps exercise, emphasize controlled movements and correct form to maximize muscle activation and safety.

          • Lie down on a bench or sit with an overhand grip on a barbell or dumbbell.
          • Lower the weight towards your forehead by bending your elbows, keeping your upper arms stationary.
          • Press the weight back up to the starting position, focusing intensely on triceps engagement. Maintain a controlled pace to prevent any jerking motions or elbow strain.

          7. Dumbbell chest flyes

          The dumbbell chest fly is a crucial addition to your chest-building regimen, focusing on a unique motion that isolates and enhances the pectoral muscles. This exercise helps refine muscle tone and overall chest aesthetics.

          • Begin by lying flat on a bench, holding dumbbells directly above your chest with palms facing each other.
          • Slowly open your arms wide, as if embracing a large tree, while maintaining a slight bend in your elbows.
          • Bring the dumbbells together above your chest, concentrating on squeezing your chest muscles.

          Perform the movement with control, emphasizing the stretch and contraction phases for maximum benefit.

          8. Dumbbell Arnold Press

          The dumbbell Arnold press modifies the traditional dumbbell overhead press by adding a wrist rotation during the movement, which equally engages the biceps brachii and forearms along with the deltoids.

          • Sit on an exercise bench with back support and hold a dumbbell in each hand at chest level. Your palms should face your body, and your elbows should be bent.
          • As you press the dumbbells upward, rotate your wrists so that your palms face forward by the time the dumbbells are overhead.
          • Continue to lift the dumbbells until your arms are extended above your head.
          • As you lower the dumbbells back to the starting position, rotate your wrists back so that your palms end facing your body again.
          • Perform the desired number of repetitions while maintaining a controlled movement throughout the exercise.

          9. Dumbbell Overhead Press / Military Press

          This exercise activates all three heads of the deltoids, as well as the triceps brachii and pectoral muscles. Using dumbbells for the overhead press instead of a barbell can help correct common muscle imbalances affecting the deltoids.

          It’s important to note that dumbbells, requiring individual muscle stabilization, may limit the amount of weight lifted compared to barbell or smith machine variations of the overhead press.

          • Stand or sit with your back straight, holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder level. Your palms should face forward.
          • Press the dumbbells upward until your elbows are fully extended and the dumbbells are directly over your head.
          • Pause briefly at the top of the movement, ensuring your core is engaged and your body is stable.
          • Slowly bring the dumbbells back down to the starting position at shoulder level.
          • Continue for the desired number of repetitions, keeping the movement smooth and controlled.

          10. French curl

          The French Curl, or lying triceps extension, is a focused exercise aimed at strengthening and defining the triceps. It requires meticulous attention to movement and form to effectively target the triceps without undue stress on other areas.

            • Lie on a bench, your head just off the edge, holding the dumbbells with an overhand grip.
            • Carefully lower the weight behind your head by bending your elbows, and keeping your upper arms stationary.
            • Extend your arms back to the starting position, concentrating on engaging the triceps fully. Ensure your movements are smooth and controlled, maintaining a stable core to support the exercise’s precision.

            What are the benefits of dumbbell push exercises?

            Curious why dumbbell push exercises deserve a spot in your workout routine? These power-packed exercises hone your upper body strength, carve out chiseled muscles, and increase your pushing capability. Not to mention, they boost your calories’ afterburn long after your sweat session has ended.

            In conclusion, it’s all about conquering your strength training with mastery. Dumbbell push exercises are your fast ticket to an enviable muscle mass and power. Now, are you ready to embrace the push and rewrite your fitness story? Let’s get lifting and shaping the body of your dreams.

            Frequently Asked Questions

            How many dumbbell exercises should I include on a push day?

            For a balanced push day workout, aim to include 3-5 different exercises. This range allows for adequate stimulation of all the major push muscles (chest, shoulders, triceps) without overtraining. Consider a mix that targets each muscle group effectively. For instance:

            • Dumbbell Bench Press for the chest.
            • Dumbbell Shoulder Press for the shoulders.
            • Dumbbell Tricep Extension for the triceps.

            Can dumbbell push exercises help with functional strength?

            Yes, dumbbell push exercises are excellent for enhancing functional strength. These exercises mimic everyday activities, helping improve your ability to perform tasks like pushing doors or lifting objects overhead. Training with dumbbells also engages stabilizer muscles, which are crucial for balance and coordination.

            What common mistakes should I avoid while performing dumbbell push exercises?

            Common mistakes include lifting weights that are too heavy, leading to poor form and increased risk of injury. Additionally, avoid locking your elbows at the top of the movement to maintain tension in the muscles and protect the joints. Make sure not to let the dumbbells drift too far forward or backward, which can strain your shoulders. Always keep the movement controlled and aligned with your body.


            Dumbbell push exercises are a fantastic way to build strength and enhance functionality. By including exercises like the dumbbell bench press, shoulder press, and tricep extension, you can effectively target all the key upper body muscles. Just remember, proper form is crucial to avoid injuries and get the most out of your workout.

            Whether you’re looking to improve your daily functionality or just boost your fitness level, mixing up your dumbbell push exercises can really make a difference. Listen to your body, adjust weights as needed, and keep pushing yourself for the best results!

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