4 challenging exercises you can do on a bench with 1 dumbbell

 

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For some exercises or workouts, two dumbbells are better than one. After all, it’s twice the workload. But where pecs are concerned, you can train effectively with just 1 dumbbell.

By focusing on one arm at a time, you can eliminate any potential difference in load between the arms (e.g. if the right arm is stronger than the left).

If you don’t have a weight bench, you can use a sofa armrest or a stool, for example. And to make each exercise even more challenging, you can add some slow-motion repetitions, says Carolina Araujo, a professional trainer from New York City. Or alternate these exercises with push-ups to seriously stress your pecs.

Exercise 1. Back dumbbell press

  • Lie on a weight bench with one dumbbell in your right hand and keep the weight at chest level.
  • Extend your left arm to the side.
  • Rest your heels on the floor and strengthen your abs. As you exhale, lift the dumbbell while straightening your elbow.
  • On an inhale, lower the weight back to chest level.
  • Be sure to do the same number of repetitions for each side.

Tip

Keep your feet on the floor at all times, with your neck and back pressed against the bench. You can make this exercise more challenging by lowering the bench to a minimum height from the floor (if the height is adjustable), says Araujo.

Exercise 2. Narrow dumbbell press

  • Lie down on a weight bench, rest your feet on the floor with your head and neck on the bench.
  • Grasp the dumbbell with both hands by the edges at about a 45 degree angle from your ribs.
  • As you inhale, lift the dumbbell in your outstretched arms.
  • Exhale and press the dumbbell straight up against your chest.

Tip

You can even perform this exercise on an incline bench to get even more exertion, says Araujo.

Exercise 3. Dumbbell pullover

  • Lie on a weight bench, rest your feet on the floor, with your head and neck on the bench.
  • Hold one dumbbell with both hands at chest level.
  • With an arcing motion, lower the dumbbell behind your head, allowing the free end of the weight to fall below the bench.
  • As you exhale, pull the dumbbell back to chest level.

Tip

You can make this exercise even harder with your shoulder blades resting on the edge of the bench while keeping your lower body in a bridge position, says Araujo.

Exercise 4: Standing dumbbell press

  • Stand up straight, feet hip-width apart, shoulders back. Grab the dumbbell with both hands by the edges.
  • As you exhale, bring your arms forward and lift the dumbbell upwards by about 45 degrees.
  • Inhale and transfer the weight back to your chest.

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