The triceps make up 2/3 of your overall arm mass, so if you really want to bulk up those arms you need to be doing direct tricep work. Better yet, focusing on overhead work like the dumbbell French press will target the long head of the tricep which is what really gives that big arm look.
The dumbbell french press has been around for decades but I still see people doing it wrong all the time. Read our full guide to both grow your triceps and save your shoulder and elbows.
How To Do The Dumbbell French Press
To perform the dumbbell French press, follow these steps:
Sit on a flat bench with your feet firmly planted on the floor, ensuring stability and a solid base for the exercise.
Grab Your Dumbbells
Hold a dumbbell in each hand, and with a neutral grip, extend your arms straight up over your chest. Your palms should be facing each other, and your elbows should be fully extended.
Lower the dumbbells down in a controlled manner, bending your elbows and bringing the weights towards the sides of your head. Maintain stability and control throughout this phase.
Pause For A Stretch
Once you reach the bottom position, pause for a brief moment to feel the gentle stretch in your triceps. This phase is crucial for maximizing muscle engagement.
Activate your triceps to push the dumbbells back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms. Maintain control throughout the movement, avoiding any jerking or sudden movements.
- Use an appropriate weight that challenges you but allows you to maintain proper form throughout the exercise.
- Keep your elbows pointing forward and close to your head during the movement to target your triceps effectively.
- Control the weight both on the way down and up, avoiding any swinging or jerking motions.
- Focus on your breathing; exhale as you press the dumbbells up and inhale as you lower them down.
Muscles Worked By Dumbbell French Press
Dumbbell French presses focus primarily on developing the triceps brachii, or triceps. You can find this triangular muscle near the top back of your arm. The primary function of the triceps is elbow extension, which allows you to straighten your arm.
Anterior Deltoids (Front Shoulders)
During a dumbbell French press, the front shoulders, or anterior deltoids, are used to stabilize the body. They help you control how your arms move as you lower and raise the dumbbells, making sure you use the right form and are in the right place.
Pectoralis Major (Chest)
During the practice, the pectoralis major, or chest muscles, also help to keep the body steady. Even though they are not the main goal, they help support your arms and keep your balance and control during the move.
Benefits Of The Dumbbell French Press
Triceps Strength and Size
The primary objective of the dumbbell French press is to target and strengthen the triceps brachii, the three-headed muscles located at the rear of the upper arms. As you perform the exercise, your triceps actively extend your forearms, engaging and strengthening these muscles. This targeted activation over time results in increased triceps strength and size, which contributes to more defined and sculpted arms.
Functional Upper Body Strength
Dumbbell French presses strengthen triceps and improve upper body strength. Bench and overhead presses require strong triceps. Thus, your compound workout performance may increase, allowing you to lift bigger weights and effectively train numerous upper body muscle groups. This exercise improves functional upper body strength, which can help athletes, weightlifters, and fitness enthusiasts perform better.
The controlled and accurate dumbbell French press improves joint stability, especially in the shoulders and elbows. Shoulders and elbows stabilize the movement and maintain joint alignment during the exercise. Strengthening the muscles around these joints can improve joint stability, reduce injury risk, and improve joint health over time. Joint stability, especially during weight training, prevents undue stress on the joints and surrounding tissues.
Dumbbell French Press Alternatives
Barbell Skull Crushers
Lie on a flat bench with your arms fully stretched and a barbell held above your chest. Bend your elbows and keep them in a fixed position as you lower the barbell toward your face. Keep your arms under control as you move them back to the starting position. This exercise focuses more on the long head of the triceps and lets you lift bigger weights, so it’s a great way to build strength and size in the triceps.
Cable Triceps Pushdown
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart in front of a cable machine with a rope or straight bar connection. Keep your elbows still at your sides and pull the wire down until your arms are fully extended. Slowly move back to the starting point while keeping your wrists tight. This exercise works the outer and inner heads of the triceps and keeps the muscles under steady tension, which helps them grow and get more defined.
Close Grip Bench Press
Move your hands closer together on the bar during the bench press than you would normally. Keep your elbows close to your body as you bring the barbell down to your chest. Triceps work hard as you return the barbell to the top starting position. In addition to working the triceps, the close grip bench press is an excellent compound exercise for building strength across the upper body since it also engages the pectoral and front deltoid muscles.
Bottom Line On Dumbbell French Press
The dumbbell French press is one of the best and most important exercises for building strong biceps. Add it to your upper-body workout to take advantage of all the benefits it has to offer. As with any new exercise, you should start with lighter weights to perfect your form and eventually increase the resistance as your strength grows. Listen to your body at all times, and if you feel pain or discomfort while exercising, talk to a fitness expert or doctor.
Can I do the dumbbell French press standing up?
While it’s possible to perform the French press while standing, doing it seated on a bench provides better stability and isolates the triceps more effectively.
How often should I include the dumbbell French press in my workouts?
Including the dumbbell French press in your upper body or arm workouts 1-2 times per week, with proper rest and recovery between sessions, is best.
Can women do the dumbbell French press?
Absolutely! The dumbbell French press is a fantastic exercise for both men and women to strengthen and sculpt their triceps.
Should I do a warm-up before performing the dumbbell French press?
Yes, warming up your upper body with some light exercises or dynamic stretches can help prevent injuries and prepare your muscles for the workout.
How do I progress with the dumbbell French press?
To get better, gradually add weight to the dumbbells as you get stronger and can do the exercise correctly. During every rep, you should always put control and good form first.