Trainer, author, and fitness model Kirk Charles, NASM-CPT CES, knows that as you get older, life can get more complicated. But that should not prevent you from being on top of your game. He’ll help answer the tough training questions that come with age so you too can be Fit Beyond 40.
Building a strong chest is one thing that just about any active guy prioritizes in their workout plan, with the barbell bench press being the most popular way to accomplish that goal. But using dumbbells in the gym can be more effective — and if you have any concerns about your joint health, whether because you have a history of injury or you just want to be safe as you’re getting older, swapping the barbell for dumbbells can be a smart call. Dumbbells allow for a greater range of motion, not to mention that you can do unilateral (single-arm) exercises. Depending on your positioning, those one-arm movements require more commitment from your core, which can be valuable for anyone looking to build real-world strength. Movements like the single-arm press are key examples of this utility. You’ll build your chest, while also challenging your core and shoulder stabilizer muscles.
To set up for a single-arm bench press, find a bench in your gym and grab a light dumbbell. Lie on the bench as you would for a standard press, but only hold the dumbbell in your right hand. The dumbbell should be just above the level of your chest with your upper arm angled about 45-degrees relative to your torso.
Once you’re in a solid position, press the dumbbell up. Keep the path of the movement straight up, without allowing your shoulder jut forward. Hold briefly at the top of the press, then slowly lower back to the starting position.
As you’re going through reps of the single-arm chest press you’ll notice that your core is more engaged than the standard two dumbbell variation. By using one arm at a time, your body is forced to compensate to stay balanced, so anti-rotation comes into play. Therefore, you must fight gravity to maintain stability and remain firmly on the bench. A more challenging variation of this exercise shifts half of your body off the bench to remove even more stability — but you should not progress to that version until you’ve mastered this challenge.
The single-arm bench press will certainly test you more than the standard two-handed variation. To up your anti-rotation challenge and reap even more chest gains, you may even want to do a 3 or 4 count as you lower the weight down on each rep to keep you focused and get more time under tension. Try 4 sets of 10 reps on each arm to get started.
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