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Best Way to Setup for the DB Bench


I don't barbell bench as it knackers my shoulders, so I'm trying to get strong benching Dumbbells.
As the weights are getting heavier they are obviously becoming harder for me to control -

I've read the bench setup guide in Dave Tate's 6 week Bench article (page 2 - link below) but I'm not sure how much of that is applicable to benching with DBs instead and what information out of that guide could be applied - For instance losing tightness pulling the bar out the rack: how would that translate and be avoided with dumbbells?

Is there any best way to set up for a big DB bench?

Thanks in advance for any help



I would caution against thinking of DB benching in the "how much can I possibly move from point A to point B" powerlifting mentality, since there's no reason to train like that (what would the reward be? You aren't going to be building a better chest effectively, and as far as I know there aren't any DB bench competitions)

Generally people keep a flat back, shoulders slightly tucked under but not excessively, letting the elbows point out during the exercises to stretch and contract the pecs.

The whole point of DB benching, really, is to better isolate the chest without the restrictions or risk of injury that a barbell has.


Appreciate the response and concern.
You're right, I'm not training for competition; but that doesn't stop me seeing the next set of dumbbells on the rack and wanting to be able to throw them up, even if it seems asinine, that's enough reward for me. I just want to be stronger, and in the absence of barbell bench I feel the next best thing is a big set of dumbbells.

Will arching my back instead of keeping it flat not help?
Is pointing my elbows out safe for my shoulders when the weights start getting heavy - or should I tuck them ever so slightly?

I'm not lifting anything huge but for instance when I get up to say 46kg DBs I'll obviously find it harder to control each individual weight - would trying to 'stay tight' following a similar setup to Dave Tate's guidance help at all?



A lot of the effort to get the dumbbells up and keep them balanced during presses involves stabilizer muscles that you do not typically use during BB benches. It takes a while and a lot of practice to get to the point where you can DB press anywhere near what you can do on a BB press. One advantage of DB presses is that if you follow a natural arc and don't try to keep them perfectly aligned (i.e. rotated slightly outward) during the press, the movement is much easier on your shoulders. I really do believe, however, that although you may never get to the point where you can DB press the total weight that you can BB press, they are a very worthwhile lift and there is a good bit of carry-over to the BB press.

I typically arch my back during DB presses. I also think that keeping your elbows out slightly helps stabilize the DBs.


Ive had a little shoulder injury as well and have tried db presses for the last few weeks

first off, great chest pump, I was really surprised at the difference

But I can't help but feel that my shoulders are in a worse position than with bb - I find it very difficult to tuck my shoulders at all when I'm falling back with the dbs and feel generally loose. I also feel my front delts get really worked from db, even more so than bb, strangely.

Frankly, I'm starting to think the db presses and seated arnold presses I'd been doing are what irritated my shoulder more than bb pressing even though generally I always hear dbs are safer.. has this been anyone else's experience?


This is a great post, except after 2 years of exclusive DB pressing, I'm just as strong on DB's as BB's. Which means my BB bench blows.

Keep a natural arch in your back.

As you get stronger, the DB's become much easier to control. It takes time. It took me forever to be able to lean back with the 105's when I first hit them without almost dumping the weight. Now I can lay back with the 125's pretty much under control/feel strong and read to press.

The first rep is always a bitch with the DB's. Get a spot to help get the first on in the air if you have a training partner, you will get 2 extra reps out of each set, if not more.


You need to change the way you press. I can pretty much "remove" my front delts from the DB press. Not so much with BB.

Move hand and elbow positions until you hit a stroke that doesn't hurt.


I would echo what countingbeans is saying here.

It sounds like you just aren't using very good form.