The dumbbell squeeze press goes by a few names, like the hex or champagne press, but they all mean the same thing—more gains for your chest. Part dumbbell chest press and the part dumbbell flye, the squeeze press creates muscular tension from the get-go for juicy muscle-building gains.
Lifting heavier weights for more reps and sets is the key to progressive overload and more muscle and strength. But sometimes, this is not possible because you have plateaued or are working around an injury. If one or the other or both is the issue creating muscular tension in different ways helps you stay on the gain train.
This is where the dumbbell squeeze press comes in. By creating tension by pressing the dumbbells together before you press, you create a flood of muscular tension in your chest by making a lighter weight feel heavy.
Here we’ll dive into this underrated chest-building variation for your pectoral needs.
What is the Dumbbell Squeeze Press?
The dumbbell squeeze press is a dumbbell bench press variation in which you take a pair of hex dumbbells, press them together lightly, and perform a bench press. This bench press variation is part close grip press and part isometric dumbbell flye. The squeeze press is a great exercise to feel your chest working and to make a light weight feel heavy.
How to Do the Dumbbell Squeeze Press
- Sitting upright on a weight bench, curl a pair of dumbbells to your knees.
- Lean back, kick the dumbbells from your knees, and place them over your chest.
- Using a neutral grip, lightly press the dumbbells together, feeling the tension in your chest.
- With your head, upper back, and butt on the bench, press the dumbbells until lockout.
- Without losing the squeeze, lower the dumbbells to just above your chest and reset and repeat.
Squeeze Press Muscles Trained
Unlike the barbell bench press, where you use your lower body as a counterbalance, the squeeze press has minimal lower-body involvement. Here are the primary upper muscles trained by the squeeze press.
- Pectoralis Major: This variation trains the chest via shoulder horizontal adduction, focusing on the inner and upper chest fibers.
- Anterior Deltoid: The anterior deltoid flexes the shoulder and assists in squeezing the dumbbells together during the press.
- Triceps: Because of the close grip, neutral grip, and reduced range of motion of the squeeze press, it will light up your triceps.
- Rotator Cuff: The rotator cuff always plays a vital role in any dumbbell press variation because it stabilizes the shoulder joint because of the unstable nature of pressing dumbbells.
- Serratus Anterior: The muscle that gives you a serrated look underneath your chest, whose primary role is to protract (spread apart) the shoulder blades. Reaching up after you finish the press will show the SA some love.
Squeeze Press Benefits
As previously mentioned, the squeeze press is an excellent exercise to feel your chest working with lighter weights. Here are a few vital benefits of incorporating the squeeze press is your strength accessory routine.
- Can You Feel It: When the squeeze press is performed with good form, you will feel your chest contract throughout the entire range of motion. Because of the strength curve of the dumbbell chest press, you will feel it more at the bottom of the press in the chest than at the top. Squeezing the dumbbells ensure you will feel your chest working always.
- Overcoming Sticking Points: A common sticking point with the bench press is just off the chest during the initial start of the press. Because the dumbbell squeeze press starts from there, and you’ve already created tension, this helps improve your strength in the bottom portion of your press.
- Better Mind Muscle Connection: The mind-muscle connection is a fancy way of saying whether you feel your targeted muscles working during a rep. When some mindlessly perform a rep and want to get it over and done with, they will not feel the muscle working. Some have trouble feeling the muscles working for whatever reason. But the isometric contraction of the squeeze press will fix both problems.
- Shoulder-Friendly Press: Like the dumbbell floor press, squeezing the dumbbells over your chest limits shoulder extension and external rotation at the bottom, which can be a problem with some lifters. The reduced ROM, lighter weight, and extra tension make this press variation more shoulder friendly.
Form Tips and Fixes
The squeeze press is a simple exercise, but there are a few things to watch out for, including your ego and using too much weight. But you already know this.
- Take the Time To Set Up And Finish Correctly: Taking the time to get the dumbbells into position without destroying your shoulder is vital. Getting the dumbbell on each knee and ’kicking’ them into the starting position and doing the opposite when you are finished is safe all-round. It may seem more straightforward to drop the dumbbells after finishing your set, but it could be dangerous and unsafe. Just don’t do it.
- Don’t Lose The Squeeze: It seems obvious because it’s the name of the exercise, but there are two points in the range of motion where it isn’t easy to maintain the squeeze. The first point is the bottom, where you need internal rotation to keep the dumbbells together, and at lockout, where shoulder horizontal adduction force is required to keep the dumbbells together. Focus on maintaining the squeeze at these two points to get the best out of this lift.
- Chest Up And Elbows In: Keeping your chest up engages your upper back to maintain a good lifting posture and a better dumbbell pressing path. Plus, lifters can tend to flare out the elbows to maintain the squeeze because the upper back isn’t engaged. Keep it tight and elbows in, ladies and gentlemen.
Squeeze Press Programming Suggestions
Unlike most exercises, the squeeze press is programmed in various ways, like on upper body days, as a primer for the barbell bench press, or as an accessory exercise to improve your bench. The squeeze press is not a 1RM type exercise but to strengthen the bottom and top of your bench press and to add slabs of muscle to your pecs.
Here are some general programming recommendations for the squeeze press.
- Muscle Building And Accessory Exercise: The squeeze press lends itself well to adding muscle because of the increased tension, lighter weights used, and the ability to rep out to near failure. Using 50% to 70% of what you usually press, doing three to four sets of between 12 to 16 reps works well.
- As A Primer: The squeeze press is excellent for those who have trouble feeling their chest during a bench press or require an extended warm-up before hitting the barbell. One to two sets of eight to 12 reps will work using the same load as above.
Dumbbell Squeeze Press Variations
The pectorals are a fan-like muscle with fibers running in different directions, so it pays to train the squeeze press from different angles and body positions for better chest development. Here are a few variations to put into your training.