The chest press is a common exercise seen in all gyms and athletic clubs. The standard version allows for great improvements in shoulder stability, and chest and shoulder strength. This variation which includes alternating one dumbbell at a time, has a greater impact on the core and shoulder stability. While alternating the motion and leaving one dumbbell in the top position, the shoulders must remain stable and keep the weight from swaying around. This degree of shoulder stability outweighs other chest press variations where the weights are moved simultaneously. But, does it matter? If you are a person who plays any type of overhead sport or that lacks the appropriate amount of shoulder stability that could lead to injury, yes it is very important. More often than not, people do rotator cuff exercises trying to gain shoulder stability. This is incorrect because that addresses strength not stability. The dumbbell alternating chest press causes the shoulder and rotator cuff specifically to respond with co-contraction and stability. In terms of the core, this alternating movement causes a small rotational torsion across the body. In order to remain flat on the bench, we need to counteract this force with core stability and anti-rotation. There aren’t too many other exercises where you are supported by a bench and still work the core.
How to complete this exercise properly:
- Select a pair of dumbbells slightly lighter than your usual chest press weight
- Lay on the bench and press both dumbbells away from the body into an extended position
- While keeping one arm stationary, lower the other arm towards the body, just as in the chest press
- Raise the lowered arm back up to the starting position
- Repeat with the other arm
- As you lower down, resist any rotation by engaging the core
- Repeat for the desired repetitions
Note: Because of the increased demand of only doing one arm at a time, the stress on the shoulders is far greater than the chest press. This means the weight needs to be slightly lower to account for that. Focus on keeping the top dumbbell as still as possible while moving the other.
By: Garrett McLaughlin, MS, ATC, CSCS, ART