You can have too much of a good thing in almost every aspect of life, and weight training is no different. The traditional and ever-popular bench press and dumbbell bench press are both brilliant moves for bulking up your chest, but overdo them and you can place undue stress on your shoulders, an area of the body that you really don’t want to injure if you want to see the inside of the gym again any time soon.
If you are worried about the strain on your shoulders but still want to work your chest and triceps, the hammer press is a great alternative to the standard bench press. By changing your grip so your palms face each other (also known as a neutral grip), you reduce the stress on the shoulders. The move also moves some of the focus to the triceps over the chest muscles, but rest assured your pecs are still getting a good pump.
By using dumbbells instead of a barbell for your chest presses, you can also identify and then work on any strength imbalances in your body. If your right side is doing all the work in your bench press, the hammer press will quickly reveal that when your left side struggles to complete half the reps in your set.
How To Do The Hammer Press
Lie on a flat bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Bring the dumbbells up to the sides of your chest, keeping your grip neutral. Press the dumbbells up above your chest until your arms are fully extended. Bring the weights back down slowly until you feel a stretch in your chest, then press them overhead again.
Hammer Press Variations
Incline hammer press
If you do the hammer press on a bench set at an incline, the upper chest muscles will take more of the workload. Set up a bench at a 45° angle and then lie holding a dumbbell in each hand by your chest with a neutral grip. Press the weights up above your chest, then bring them back down under control.