Dumbbells are great for teaching you how to press and also great for building stability in the shoulders and lats. There are several ways you can use dumbbells to strengthen your bench press, especially if your sticking point is just off the chest. Here's a good one: timed dumbbell presses.
Louie Simmons, of Westside Barbell fame, has found that taking a pair of dumbbells and pressing for time to be a great strength and restoration builder for the bench press. He often uses a three-day split:
- Day 1: Press heavy dumbbells for 2-4 minutes. I've used up to 80-pound dumbbells for three minutes. These reps aren't done in a non-stop action. (Had you scared there for a second, didn't I?) You do a couple of reps, then hold them on your chest or at the top for five to ten seconds, then do a couple more reps. You keep the set going until you can't do any more. Perform only one set at the end of the regular workout.
- Day 2: Use 60% of the weight used on day one, but take the time up to 3-5 minutes. I use 45 pound dumbbells for this day.
- Day 3: Drop another 60% and bump the time up to 5-8 minutes. On this day, I use 25 to 30 pound dumbbells.
I've found this to help my shoulders recover at a faster rate than when not doing them. While Louie likes to keep the rotation going without a break, I like to only use the rotation one time per week.