“What is the ideal hand positioning on a dumbbell press for building the chest… an overhand grip with the palms facing away, or a neutral grip with the palms facing inward?”

In order to stimulate maximum muscle growth on any exercise you perform in the gym, your goal is simple: move the muscle from its fully lengthened position into its fully shortened position.

This allows you to train the muscle through the largest range of motion and achieve the most powerful growth-stimulating contraction possible.

First off, I’ll say up front that whether you perform your dumbbell presses with an overhand grip or a neutral grip, it probably won’t make a significant difference in the overall picture.

Both grips will allow you to effectively overload the chest through its primary function of “horizontal adduction”, where your humerus (the upper arm) is moved across the front of your body.

However, if we’re talking about which grip will produce the very best results and allow you to squeeze out as much pec growth as possible, the commonly used overhand grip dumbbell press is going to be your best choice.

overhand dumbbell press


Well, although horizontal adduction is the primary function of the pecs, another lesser known function is “internal rotation of the humerus”.

In order to demonstrate this function for yourself, simply place your arms straight out in front of you with your palms in a neutral position facing eachother, and then twist your arms inward until your palms are facing the floor.

The downside of performing neutral grip dumbbell presses is that no internal rotation of the humerus is involved, and therefore the pecs are not being shortened to the same degree as they are when an overhand grip is utilized.

As a result, slightly less stress will be placed on the pecs with slightly more stress shifting onto the triceps.

Test this out for yourself…

Press both of your arms out in front of you using a neutral grip and contract your chest. Now, while still squeezing your pecs, internally rotate both of your arms until your palms are facing downward.

You should notice that as soon as you rotated your palms downward, you felt a deeper “cramping” sensation in your pecs as the muscles contracted more forcefully.

Again, the difference here is not going to be anything too significant, but the dumbbell press variation that will allow you to achieve the best contraction possible is going to be the overhand grip, since the humerus is partially rotated inward throughout the exercise.

The only time I would recommend neutral grip dumbbell presses is if you experience shoulder discomfort with the overhand variation. The neutral grip does place a bit less stress on the shoulder joints, and if performing your dumbbell presses this way allows you to train your chest pain-free, by all means go for it.

In any other situation, stick to the overhand grip.

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