Are you looking for a simple and effective exercise to develop pushing strength, build up your upper body, and improve whole-body stability?
If so, we highly recommend giving dumbbell push-ups a try. This simple exercise will challenge you in new ways and help you make more progress, even if you exercise at home.
Read on to learn what makes the dumbbell push-up great, how they differ from the classic version, what dumbbells to use, and more.
What Are Dumbbell Push-Ups?
Dumbbell push-ups are a lot like your regular push-up but with a twist. Instead of placing your hands flat on the ground, you grab a pair of dumbbells and use them as your foundation or ‘base.’
You still get into the normal push-up position with your legs straight, feet together, and torso rigid. You’re also using a similar hand stance and lowering yourself like during a regular push-up.
Dumbbell push-ups target the same muscles: chest, shoulders, triceps, serratus anterior, and midsection. Depending on the type of dumbbells you use (more on that below), the exercise could be more challenging because of instability, forcing greater midsection activation.
How Are Dumbbell Push-Ups Different?
1. Grip and Comfort
The primary difference is that your wrists remain straight during dumbbell push-ups, which can be beneficial if having your hands flat on the ground causes joint discomfort.
2. Range of Motion
Doing push-ups on a pair of dumbbells allows you to train through a slightly longer range of motion because you can lower yourself by a couple of extra inches. They basically function as push-up stands.
3. Muscle Activation
Thanks to the slightly longer range of motion, dumbbell push-ups allow you to stretch your muscles more at the bottom position, hopefully resulting in better overall activation.
What Dumbbells Are Best For These Push-Ups?
Hex dumbbells, which have six sides and flat-edged ends, are your best friend for dumbbell push-ups.
In contrast, regular dumbbells with rounded ends don’t work for push-ups as well because there is a risk of them rolling suddenly, causing you to lose your position. As you can imagine, this can be dangerous and put you at risk of injury.
Dumbbell Push-Up Variations
1. Renegade Row Push-Up
Do the exercise as you normally would, but row one dumbbell up between push-up repetitions.
Push-up ⇒ Row right dumbbell ⇒ Push-up ⇒ Row left one
2. Close-Grip Push-Up
Position the dumbbells slightly closer together to place greater emphasis on your triceps.
3. Decline Dumbbell Push-Up
Elevate your feet on a chair, plyo box, or gym bench, and do push-ups. Having your body at this angle would force you to press a larger percentage of your body weight, making each repetition more challenging.
Plus, decline push-ups place more emphasis on the upper chest.
The most important thing you should do is pick the right dumbbells. As discussed above, a pair of hexagonal dumbbells will be best because they don’t roll and allow you to stay in position.
Second, take your time to warm up and pay special attention to your shoulders, elbows, and wrists with some dynamic stretching: arm swings, elbow rotations, wrist twists, etc. Also, do a few warm-up sets to warm up your chest, shoulders, and triceps before starting your working sets. (2)
Finally, don’t rush it. Do each repetition slowly and with good body control. Strive to activate the correct muscles and stop a set if you feel any nagging pain, especially in your shoulders.
Here are some more dumbbell exercises:
- Kroc Rows
- Overhead Dumbbell Extensions
- Dumbbell Lat Exercises
- Svend Press for Chest
- Bent-over Dumbbell Flyes
- Sean Hyson, C. (2023, April 27). Why you should add hex dumbbells to your home gym, according to a fitness expert. Men’s Health. https://www.menshealth.com/fitness/a41848496/benefits-of-hex-dumbbells/
- Elizabeth Quinn, M. S. (2020, March 13). Prevent injuries. Verywell Fit.