Go to any gym in the world and it is a given that there will be somebody on the flat bench trying to see what his one rep max is on bench. For some odd reason, this is the one statistic that you will be asked if you tell someone you went to the gym. There is an infatuation with benching…not sure why. However, I will tell you it is ok to skip the bench for a while.
First off, when you begin working out, you can get discouraged very quickly over this question. It is tough to get to a “respectable” number in a short amount of time. When people give you the “oh, that’s all” look, it is a major de-motivator.
Instead, there are two exercises you can do with dumbbells that will set a strong foundation for the future. When I started in the gym, I was one who focused on the one rep max and never really made it too far. That is with working out a lot after never touching a weight. My max got up to 225 lbs after almost a year. However, after a hiatus, I stopped caring about that question and decided to do my own thing to rebuild and within six months, I was at 240 when I finally decided to try and max.
The two exercises that I focused on were flat bench dumbbell presses and flies with dumbbells.
Grab one of the flat benches without the rack on it for the bars. Go and grab two light dumbbells and sit on the bench to where your butt is on the bench and your knees are hanging off of the end. I like to lie down without weights to make sure my head is not going to hang off of the other end before I get started.
Then place the weights on your knees and get a comfortable grip. Lie back and push the weights up together until they just touch above you. The goal is to control the weight.
Slowly increase the weight until you get a good 8-10 rep weight and do at least three sets.
Next, the fly. Same bench and same positioning. This time start with the weights touching in the center sideways (your palms should be facing each other and both ends of the dumbbell in your right hand are in contact with the one in the left). Then with a slight bend in the elbows, allow the weights to go out to your side like you are showing someone how big a fish is. Then bring the weights back to the center. Do three sets of these too.
These two exercises work not only the major chest muscles, but the supporting muscles too. When you do a traditional bench, you’re arms are fixed and only working the bigger muscle groups. And you can answer the bench question with, “I don’t know, I just like to lift” and not feel the peer pressures.