Dumbbell Hex Press

One feature of an impressive chest is a defined split between the left and right pecs. To achieve this, you need to train your inner chest.

But standard dumbbell and barbell bench presses don’t specifically target this area. That’s why you need a different exercise.

In this article, I show you how to do a dumbbell hex press to bring out that mid-chest separation.

Dumbbell Hex Press

What Is The Hex Press?

The hex press is a variation of the dumbbell bench press in which you keep the weights touching throughout the movement. When performed with hexagonal dumbbells, the flat faces remain in contact. Hence, the name hex press.

Although you can also perform this exercise with round dumbbells or any other shape. I’ll even show you a couple of hex press variations you can do without dumbbells.

Dumbbells Hex Press

Figure 1. An example of hexagonal (hex) dumbbells with the faces touching. Doing the exercise with the dumbbells in this configuration helps you get your hands closer while keeping the weights stable.

Hex Press Muscles Worked

As with any pressing movement, the primary muscle group worked is the pectorals or chest. However, unlike ordinary bench press, the hex press specifically targets the inner chest.

The reason is that you have to apply an inward force with your arms to keep the dumbbells together. Also, the close grip works more triceps compared to a traditional dumbbell press.

Hex Press Muscles Worked

Figure 2. The purple shading represents the area of greatest muscle activation during the hex press.

Hex Press Benefits & Limitations

The dumbbell hex press can be a nice addition to your chest workout for sculpting your pectorals to get the size and shape you want. But keep in mind, this exercise is not ideal when it comes to building overall chest mass.

Pros

  • Builds inner chest
  • Alleviates some stress on the shoulders
  • The triceps take some of the load
  • Can reach failure with relatively light weight

Cons

  • Not the best pressing movement for overall muscle mass or strength

How To Do The Dumbbell Hex Press

To do this exercise, you’ll need a pair of dumbbells and a flat bench. I recommend you start with a lighter weight that you can control easily until you get a feel for the movement.

  1. Grab the dumbbells with a neutral grip (palms facing in)
  2. Lay back on the bench and press the dumbbells up to arm’s length
  3. Bring the dumbbells together so they’re touching
  4. Keep the dumbbells touching as you perform the bench press movement
  5. Perform the desired number of reps and drop the dumbbells carefully

Dumbbell Hex Press Video

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Hex Press Form

Here are some additional pointers to help you get the most inner chest activation from the dumbbell hex press.

  • At the top of the movement, squeeze your elbows inward to contract your inner chest
  • Lower the dumbbells so the top head touches your lower chest
  • At the bottom of the movement, keep your elbows tucked in at your sides

When Should You Use The Hex Press?

You should not use this exercise as a replacement for the wider grip barbell or dumbbell bench press. Instead, the hex press is best as a supplemental exercise to complement your normal chest workout.

For that reason, I recommend performing a standard pressing movement first when your strength is the greatest. Then use the hex press as a second or third movement with lighter weight for 8-12 reps to maximize hypertrophy.

Another situation where you might include this exercise is if you have shoulder pain when performing the pronated bench press. That’s because the neutral hand position and close grip take some of the stress off the shoulder joint.

Lastly, I’ve used lighter close grip presses as an alternative to a traditional bench press when recovering from a pectoral muscle tear or strain. This allows you to get some chest activation without aggravating the outer pec insertion.

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Hex Press Variations

There are a few different variations of the hex press that you can use depending on your equipment and which area of your chest you’re targeting.

Incline Dumbbell Hex Press

An incline bench press changes the angle of your arms in relation to your body. A steeper angle results in more upper chest activation.

Therefore, an incline DB hex press targets both your upper and inner chest. Perfect for building that “Y” shaped split as shown in Figure 2.

For this exercise, you’ll want to set an adjustable bench at an incline of approximately 30-45 degrees. This angle hits your upper chest without involving too much anterior deltoid.

Plate Press

A plate press is similar to a hex press except you use a weight plate instead of dumbbells.

During this exercise, you hold a weight plate vertical between your palms like you’re clapping symbols. With your hands in the center of the plate, press and lower the weight in the same movement path as you would with dumbbells.

This variation requires even more inner chest activation because the inward force of your hands is the only thing keeping the weight from slipping down. Start with a small plate to make sure you can hold it properly before working up to heavier weights.

Smith Machine Hex Press

For this last variation, you’ll need a Smith machine and a “V” bar handle. This is the handle you normally use on a close grip lat pulldown or cable row.

Next, set up a bench under the Smith machine bar and adjust the height of the bar so it’s just within arm’s reach. Now lay across the bench and hold the V-bar in both hands with the cable attachment side facing you.

From this starting position, place the Smith machine bar in the center of the V and perform the hex press movement as illustrated below. I like this variation because the movement path is fixed, so you can focus on the mind muscle connection.

Close Grip Pushup

Lastly, you could substitute a close grip pushup if you’re working out at home with limited equipment.

For this exercise, start by laying on the floor face down. Now position your hands near your ribs with your elbows tucked in at your sides. From this starting position, perform the pushup as normal.

If you have a pair of dumbbells, you can place them side by side to replicate the hex press grip during your pushups. And wrap a resistance band around your back to make it more challenging.

Conclusion

The hex press is a great auxiliary exercise if you’re looking to refine and sculpt your inner chest. The inward arm force and neutral grip are unlike any other chest exercise, which adds variety to your routine.

With the variations included above, you can perform this exercise with whatever equipment you have available. For more exercise tutorials and workout tips, check out the related articles below!

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