Muscles Used: Pectorals, triceps, anterior (front) deltoids. Works the same muscles as the barbell exercise, but since you are only as strong as your weakest muscle, dumbbell exercises are crucial. They help to develop the weaker stabilizer muscles, which will increase your overall strength in the long run.
Technique: Sit up, place the dumbbells on your thighs and, as you lean back, let gravity help put the dumbbells into position. This will help take a lot of stress off of your shoulders when you begin to lift really heavy weight. Start with the dumbbells slightly above your chest. As you exhale, slowly lift them until you are almost at full extension, then contract your pec muscles as much as possible. This will cause the dumbbells to touch each other at the top of the movement. Then slowly lower the weight back down to the start while inhaling.
Tips: It's O.K. to arch your back slightly, but do not lift your butt off of the bench when pressing back up. Do not lock your elbows at the top of the movement.
Note: It is not necessary to have a spotter for this exercise, since you can simply drop the weights once your muscles fail.
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The use of dumbbells gives you a much more comprehensive strengthening effect because the workout engages your stabilizer muscles, in addition to the muscle you may be pin-pointing. Without all of the belts and artificial stabilizers of a machine, you also engage your core muscles, which are your body's natural stabilizers.