Fitness tip - Alternating iso-hold dumbbell bench press

Fitness tip - Alternating iso-hold dumbbell bench press

by Evigan Xiao 29 May 2019

When it comes to the best horizontal pressing exercise, there is a lot of debate regarding the barbell bench press VS the dumbbell bench press. One on hand, the barbell variation allows for greater potential in terms of mechanical loading, while dumbbells allow for more natural joint angles and movement. Ultimately, it boils down to the individual's goals. If the objective is press the heaviest load possible overhead, then the bench press is undoubtedly the go-to. However, if maximising muscular tension is your aim, then consider giving this novel dumbbell bench press variation a try!


The alternating iso-hold dumbbell bench press does more than leave you with an awesome pump; shoulder stability and core strength are also taxed and subsequently improved. Isometrics have a proven track record for peaking intramuscular tension, which contributes to better overall stability. For those that train with a lot of upper body pressing movements, optimising shoulder stability is a must when it comes to health and performance.

Location and equipment courtesy of TripleFit


The movement is executed in an alternating fashion, starting with your weaker arm first. For most people, this would be your non-master arm. As you switch between you left and right arms, it's important that your “resting” arm doesn't actually rest at all. As fatigue sets in, you may be tempted to rest that arm on your chest. Instead maintain tension and hold the dumbbell in position, right above your lower chest line.


Like the regular dumbbell bench press, creating this tension starts with the “screwing in” of the shoulder joint. Think about externally rotating and depressing it, keeping it pinned to the bench at all times. The lower body also contributes to this tension by keeping the feet firmly planted on the ground. Actively drive your feet into the ground throughout the set and not just when you're pressing.


Performing the alternating iso-hold dumbbell bench press as an accessory movement after your main pressing exercise is a great way to ramp up the overall intensity of the session. Straight sets are fine but if you really want to make it tough, consider employing an ascending ladder approach: you start with one repetition per arm and gradually work your way up to five repetitions, all in one set (that's 15 repetitions per arm in total). You'll get a sweet pump, but you might get more than a little bit sore the next day too!