The crush press is a dumbbell exercise that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It has an excellent overloading potential, offers a good range of motion, and is relatively easy to learn.
It also provides some great variation to your chest, shoulders, and triceps workouts. It’s a bit off the beaten path, which makes it interesting and different. You do this one at your local gym, and the casual onlookers will think “That’s kinda cool…what’s that exercise?”
So, let’s look at the exercise, how to perform it, and what mistakes to avoid.
Table of Contents
What Is the Crush Press?
The crush press is a dumbbell chest press variation, where the goal is to press the weights together, hence the name. Like a close-grip bench press or diamond push-up, having your hands close during a crush press places your chest muscles at a mechanical disadvantage.
As a result, the triceps must take over and produce more of the work necessary to move the weight from point A to B. In other words, the triceps receive a greater stimulus and can grow more effectively than they could from a regular dumbbell press or push-up.
Engages the Chest
That said, an underrated benefit of the crush press is that the exercise can still be beneficial for the chest muscles (pecs), more so than a close-grip barbell press or push-up. The reason for that is simple:
By squeezing the dumbbells together, your chest muscles activate because one of their functions is arm adduction (bringing your arms toward the midline of your body from your sides, such as when performing a chest fly or hugging someone).
That extra bit of muscle activation can improve the mind-muscle connection and make the crush press an effective exercise for the triceps and chest.
Another benefit of the crush press is that its overloading potential is fantastic. Trainees can start with a pair of light dumbbells to learn the exercise and build strength before going for heavier weights.
Over time, trainees can work up to some of the heaviest dumbbells available at most gyms – 55, 75, 90, or even 100 lbs (in each hand).
Primary Muscles Worked 💪
How to Perform the Crush Press (Step-By-Step)
Things to keep in mind:
- Squeeze the weights together
- Use hexagonal dumbbells (six-sided ones) if possible
- Plant your feet firmly on the ground
- Touch the weights lower on your torso (around the upper stomach)
Performing the Crush Press
- Grab a pair of dumbbells and sit on a gym bench.
- Lift the weights and place them on top of your thighs.
- Retract your shoulder blades, take a deep breath, and engage your abs.
- Slowly lie back down and simultaneously extend your arms to position the dumbbells over your chest.
- With your shoulders retracted, squeeze your abs again, have your wrists neutral (facing one another), and put the dumbbells together.
- Take a breath and slowly lower the weights to your upper stomach.
- Pause briefly and press the dumbbells to the top, fully extending your arms. Exhale.
- Once finished, carefully stand up and set the dumbbells on the floor.
Tweaks and Variations of the Crush Press
The incline crush press is an effective variation that can work well for people who struggle to feel their triceps. For example, if someone has a stronger chest that often takes over, performing the movement at an incline of 35-60 degrees can increase tricep activation.
Another variation is to use one dumbbell instead of two. To perform the variation, grab the handle with both hands (placing one partially on the other) with the dumbbell aligned with your body.
Doing so can be a cool way to train your triceps if you only have one dumbbell and potentially limit chest activation.
One tweak you could make to the crush press is to perform partials as a finisher near the end of your workout. The goal would be to grab a pair of moderately heavy dumbbells (for you) and do as many reps as possible through a partial range of motion.
Instead of lowering the dumbbells to your stomach, stop a couple of inches above that. Then, as you press them to the top, don’t fully extend your arms and lock out your elbows. Instead, maintain a slight bend in your arms.
Doing so could keep constant tension on your muscles and burn out your triceps quite nicely.
Safety Tips and Final Considerations
As with all other exercises, start with a good warm-up consisting of light cardio, dynamic stretching, and a few warm-up sets where you use progressively heavier dumbbells. Doing so will prepare your body for the workout and reduce the injury risk.
When placing the dumbbells together, make sure the weight plates are in good contact, and there is no risk of slipping, which can cause one dumbbell to hit your hand, potentially creating a dangerous situation. This is why it’s generally best to use hexagonal dumbbells. (1)
Finally, always use weights you can control and lift through the full range of motion. The goal is to primarily train the triceps, so there is no use in attempting to lift too much weight, only for your technique to break down or chest to take over.
Click to see some more chest and triceps workouts and exercises for home or the gym:
- Chest & Tricep Workout at Home
- Svend Press
- Lower Chest Workout at Home
- Dumbbell Kickbacks
- Bench Dips
- Close-grip Push ups
Click for more dumbbell workouts.
- WebMD. (n.d.-a). Dumbbells: What you need to know about your workout. WebMD.