Dumbbell cable press is a great exercise that combines two forms of resistance (cables and free weights) into one exercise, with each form directly addressing the weak point of the other. Also, it combines pressing and flying movements into one hybrid movement which is simply perfect in every way.
Remember that cable flyes offer little to no tension on the chest at the bottom of the movement, but when you get to the top, you get maximum pec contraction. The dumbbell presses, on the other hand, offer maximum tension at the bottom, but it gradually tapers off until, at the top, you get practically nothing. In fact, at the top you can completely relax your pecs, and the dumbbells will still stay up!
In order to perform this exercise you’ll need ankle straps, dumbbells, a cable-crossover machine, a bench, and a little bit of patience as you get yourself into position. Besides that, it’s a snap. Even if you don’t have a crossover machine, you can still perform this exercise. Simply use a pair of bands and you will achieve the same or very similar effect. So this can be also be a great home chest exercise.
STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Put the bench between the pulleys. Select fairly light weights on the stacks. Fasten the straps to your wrists, hook the straps to the low pulleys, pick up two light to moderate dumbbells, lie on the bench, and hold the dumbbells at the sides of your chest.
MOVEMENT (ACTION): Execute a standard dumbbell press, as described here. The extra challenge, of course, is the simultaneous vertical resistance from the dumbbells and horizontal resistance from the cables. Pause, then slowly lower the weights to the starting position.
Dumbbell cable press tips & tricks
Here’s what you have to look for when performing dumbbell cable press exercise:
- Keep your forearms vertical under the weights (dumbbells).
- Lower the weights under control.
- Flare your elbows out wide during descent. Keeping your elbow out will ensure you are using more chest and less triceps.
- If you have an excessive arch in your back, place your feet on the end of the bench.
- Keeping your shoulder blades tight stabilizes your shoulder joints, reducing your risk of injury and helping you lift heavier weights.
- Lower the dumbbells as far as you can (near your armpits and in line with the middle of your chest) aiming for a maximum stretch but which still feels comfortable.
- Keep the dumbbells over your chest – do not let them travel back towards your head.
Muscles engaged in dumbbell cable press
This middle chest exercise targets the pectoralis major, while recruiting the deltoids and triceps as synergists, or “helping” muscles.
- Main muscles: pectoralis major, triceps, deltoids (anterior)
- Secondary muscles: coracobrachialis, serratus anterior, subscapularis
- Antagonists: latissimus dorsi, biceps, deltoids (posterior)
Substitutes (Replacement Exercises)
There are many other pressing exercises to target your middle chest area. Each exercise works the middle pecs and supporting muscles slightly differently. Remember, specificity requires that you choose exercises that reflect your needs and goals. Visit our middle chest exercise database to find those exercises.
- Flat bench barbell press
- Smith-machine bench press
- Seated machine chest press
- Push-ups between two Chairs – Deep push-ups
- Machine bench press
Closing thoughts about dumbbell chest press
Dumbbell cable press is an effective exercise to include in your chest training routines. You do a dumbbell bench press and a cable flye at the same time, overlapping the strength and tension curves of the two exercises to achieve continuous tension on your pecs. Therefore, when you combine the two exercises into one hybrid movement (dumbbell cable press), you get an exercise that provides full tension at the bottom (from the press) and full tension at the top (from the cable flye).