The chest press is an efficient upper-body strengthener and engages multiple muscle groups at the same time. Muscles worked include: Pectorals (chest), deltoids (shoulders) and triceps (back of the upper arm). Performing the chest press with dumbbells contributes to improved strength balance, because the arms work independently and lift equal amounts of weight.


Lie face up on a mat or bench, feet on the floor and knees bent. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, bring the weights straight up over the chest, palms facing toward the knees.

Downward phase: Slowly begin bending the elbows, bringing the upper arms toward the floor until almost touching the floor, or if on a bench, until the elbows are just slightly below the chest.

Strengthening phase: Slowly press the dumbbells back up until arms are nearly fully extended. Do not lock the elbows.

Beginners: Start with one set of eight to 12 repetitions. Add sets as you get stronger.


• Keeping the knees bent and abdominals engaged will help protect the lower back.

• Avoid using excessive momentum when resistance training. Instead, use a slow controlled speed of movement.

• Do not arch the back or lift the head up while pressing.

• Choose a weight heavy enough so that you feel the muscles working. You should never experience pain.

• Allow at least one day of rest between working the same muscle groups.

The chest press can also be performed using a barbell, machines or resistance bands. If no equipment is available, you can substitute pushups.

— Marjie Gilliam, a personal trainer and fitness consultant, writes for Cox Newspapers.