What is a Dumbbell French Press?

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  • Written By: Micki Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 26 January 2020
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The triceps are a group of muscles located at the back of the upper arm and allow for elbow extension. A Dumbbell French Press is an isolation weight training exercise that targets the triceps using free weights. Two dumbbells of matching weight are required. One may stand, sit, or lie on a weight bench or other flat surface while doing the Dumbbell French Press.

To perform this exercise while lying down, bring the dumbbells to the starting position: arms raised straight toward the ceiling, shoulder-width apart, and thumbs facing one another. Moving only your forearms, bend arms at the elbows while rotating your wrists in toward your head. Continue this movement until your arms have reached a 90-degree angle and your palms are facing one another, with thumbs toward the ground. This should place your hands and the dumbbells close to your ears. Reverse the movement, rotating wrists outward as your arms return to the starting position.


To perform the Dumbbell French Press while standing or sitting, begin with arms in the same starting position: straight up toward the ceiling with thumbs facing one another. The movement of the arms and wrists should remain the same when sitting or standing as it is when lying down. The difference will be the placement of the hands and dumbbells once a 90-degree angle is created; hands will now be behind the head, but the palms should still be facing one another. A modified version of the Dumbbell French Press does not require a rotation of the wrists while sitting or standing; palms may face one another throughout the exercise.

A lighter dumbbell weight that can be controlled consistently through three sets of 10 to 15 reps is recommended. Heavy weights may cause one to depend on muscles other than the triceps, such as the biceps, to do the bulk of the work; heavy dumbbells could also result in injury, especially to the elbow joint. Choose a weight that can be controlled, yet causes a noticeable burn in the triceps by the end of each set.

Another consideration to keep in mind is the isolation of movement during the Dumbbell French Press. The only parts of the body that should move in this exercise are the forearms, as a result of bending the elbow. The lower body, torso, shoulders, neck and upper arms should be stationary in order to focus the work on the triceps. Stabilization of these stationary body parts can be achieved through a tight core, which will also help prevent injury to the back and neck.

The strength of the biceps is largely dependent on the strength of the triceps; thus, triceps exercises are important to overall muscle toning and growth. Some may find that weak triceps give a saggy or flabby appearance to the upper arms. Isolation exercises focusing on the triceps can help diminish this effect.


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