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Dumbbell Chest Workout Guide

Put simply, there are no downsides to dumbbell chest workouts. They increase strength in your upper body and growing the muscles there acts as a highly visible reminder of the progress of your exercise programme. All the better, these exercises don’t require heaps of expensive equipment, with the dumbbells that can be used for them being both easily transportable and storable, as well as inexpensive to purchase in the first place. 

What are the Benefits of Working Out My Chest with Dumbbells?

While the barbell remains the more familiar way of building muscle in your upper body, dumbbells carry their own significant advantages. 

Better Posture

These days, a lot of us spend many hours sitting at a desk working, and it’s not good for our posture, which in turn can store problems for us later in life. We have a natural tendency to fall in upon ourselves when sitting at a desk, hunching our shoulders and leaning forward. But the pectoral muscles in your chest are among the strongest in your body, and the more you develop those the better structure you’ll be giving your entire upper body, including better posture.

Better Breathing

Not for nothing are the pectoral muscles sometimes known as ‘the breathing muscles’. Better posture leads to better breathing. If you limit the growth of the muscles in your chest, you’re limiting your rib cage from expanding to the maximum extent that it can and preventing your diaphragm and lungs from expanding as much as they can. The more you build your chest muscles, the easier breathing becomes and the greater your lung capacity gets. 

Upper Body Strength

Many of the everyday physical activities that we all carry out are heavily dependent on having good upper body strength. You can’t push, pull or carry much without it! If you’re looking to improve your general physical fitness and well-being, you simply can’t afford to miss out on your chest.


It Looks Good!

Whether you’re looking to lose a few pounds or tone yourself up, there’s no question that dumbbell chest workouts burn calories extremely efficiently. Chest exercising is a vital part of any calorie-controlling workout programme, and growing muscle in that part of your body is one of the most readily visible signs that your programme is progressing well. Along with the biceps, the pectorals are traditionally the muscles most readily associated with ‘working out’ and for good reason.

Which Dumbbell Exercises are Good for the Chest?

Bench Press

It’s perfectly natural to have a ‘stronger’ or ‘weaker’ side, and the fact that barbells allow you to transfer weight from one to the other isn’t great for building up muscle evenly. Dumbbells force you to balance your lifting better. The dumbbell bench press is effectively a straight swap for a barbell bench press, but with the significant advantage of improving your balance because dumbbells won’t allow you to shift that weight from one side to the other.

Incline Bench Press

You can also swap out barbells for dumbbells on the incline bench. This is better for your upper chest, and incline presses are also a little easier on the shoulders than a flat bench press, should you find that they are holding you back.

Floor Press

Bench presses are easy to complete at the gym, but you may not have the required equipment to complete them at home. This is where floor presses come in handy; you’ll lose some of the ‘stretch’ in your chest as your arms can no longer dip below the middle of your body, but the floor press enables you to keep targeting your chest even with minimal. 

Lay flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Press the weights above you, locking out your elbows. Lower them slowly until your upper arms are resting on the floor at a 45-degree angle to your body, pause here before pressing back up.


The dumbbell chest flye is an upper body isolation exercise that works the pectorals and deltoids, with the triceps and biceps also engaged to help stabilise your movement. In addition to building muscle, this exercise can help to open the chest and improve flexibility, master scapular retraction, and improve coordination. They’re more challenging than straight bench presses, but the rewards can be huge. 

Lay flat on a bench holding a pair of dumbbells, locked out above your chest. Keep your arms at a fixed angle as you slowly lower your dumbbells outwards and down, towards the ground in a smooth arc. Stop when you feel the stretching across your chest before powering back up. 

Incline Flyes

Dumbbell chest flyes can also be carried out on incline benches, with the same advantages as normal incline presses. They’ll increase the focus on your upper chest and the same amount of sort of support to your back and shoulders.

Lay flat on a bench set at a 30-45 degree angle holding a pair of dumbbells, locked out above your chest. Keep your arms at a fixed angle as you slowly your dumbbells outwards and down, towards the ground in a smooth arc. Stop when you feel a deep stretch across your chest before powering back up.


You might be going a little distance from what they were designed for, but you can incorporate dumbbells into push-ups by gripping them rather than putting your hands on the floor. It’s better for your wrists and will help you to improve your balance, while the slightly elevated position of your hands will help you to strengthen your pectorals. 

Drop into a plank position, with your core tight and hands on your dumbbells. Create a rigid structure from your ankles to your shoulders. Bend your elbows to slowly lower your chest to the floor. Keep your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body as you push back up.

Dumbbell Chest Workouts for Beginners

The Benefits of Dumbbell Chest Workouts

If you’re new to working out, the chest is a great place to start. Being close to the centre of your body, chest workouts will benefit your body beyond your chest alone, increasing your overall body strength, stability and endurance. Dumbbells are convenient to use and store, as well as inexpensive and are great, not only for building strength but also balance and endurance. 

How Can I Build My Chest With Dumbbells at Home?

Dumbbell Bench Press

Lay flat on a bench on your back, holding a pair of dumbbells, locked out above your chest. Keep your arms at a fixed angle as you slowly lower your dumbbells outwards and down, towards the ground in a smooth arc. Stop when you feel a deep stretch across your chest, before powering back up.

For an incline bench press, lay on a bench set at a 30-45 degree angle, holding two dumbbells locked out above your chest, slowly lower both bells over 2-4 seconds, keeping your elbows at a slight angle to your torso, until both dumbbells touch your chest, and then press the bells back to full lockout as powerfully as you can.

Dumbbell Floor Press

Lay face up on the floor holding two dumbbells at chest height. Press up as if you were on a normal bench until your arms are fully extended. Then slowly lower back to the starting position. 

Floor Flyes

Lay on your back and bend your knees so your feet can be planted on the floor. Press the dumbbells up so you’re holding them above the chest, palms facing each other. Keep a soft bend in the elbow. Take a deep breath as you slowly lower the dumbbells in an arc movement until the arms are in line with your body and your elbows are close to touching the floor. Breathe out and squeeze your chest to push the dumbbells back together.

One Arm One Leg Dumbbell Row

Grab a dumbbell in your right hand and place your left hand on a flat surface in front of you. Bend over at the hips. Raise your right leg behind you until it is in line with the rest of your body. Let the dumbbell hang down in a row position at arm's length with your palm facing inward. This is the starting position. Begin the exercise by rowing the dumbbell up to the side of your chest. Keep the elbow tucked into your side. Pause, then lower your weight back down.

Flat Dumbbell Chest Flyes

Holding a dumbbell in each hand, lie on your back on a flat bench with your feet flat on the ground. Squeeze your shoulder blades back against the bench. Maintain this throughout the exercise. Press the dumbbells up in line with your chest, with your palms facing each other. Take a deep breath and engage your core as you slowly lower the dumbbells in an arc direction, until the arms are almost parallel to the ground. Keep a soft bend in the elbows. Breathe out as you squeeze your chest to push the dumbbells back together. As they get closer to the top, push the dumbbells so they’re in line with your ears.

Standing Chest Flyes

Stand with your feet in a split position, with the knees slightly bent. Grip the resistance bands in each hand. Bring your arms up straight in front of you so they're at chest level, palms facing each other. Extend arms out to the sides, until your arms are extended. Bring them back to your centre.

Dumbbell/Chest Pullovers

Extend your arms toward the ceiling, over your chest. Your palms should be facing each other, and your elbows slightly bent. Inhale and extend the weights back and over your head, keeping a strong back and core. Take about 2 to 4 seconds to reach a fully extended position where the weights are behind—but not below—your head. Exhale slowly and return your arms to the starting position.

No Bench? No Problem! Dumbbell Chest Workouts Without a Bench

Of course, many of you reading this will not have a bench at home that is appropriate for use, but that’s no problem whatsoever. One of the big advantages of training with dumbbells is their ease of use and versatility. And these exercises don’t even need them! These exercises can be completed with just a pair of dumbbells and a bit of space to move:

  • Floor press

  • Floor flyes

  • Push-ups

  • Pullovers

  • Standing chest flyes

Dumbbell Chest Workouts for Targeted Muscle Groups

Perhaps it’s the versatility of dumbbells which is their biggest advantage, whether you’re using them at home or in the gym. The fact that they can be manoeuvred into so many different specific positions means that they can be utilised to target specific muscle groups, allowing you to focus on specific areas of your body that you may wish to improve. 

Dumbbell Exercises for Pecs

Your pecs are your pectoral muscles or chest muscles, and they consist of two main parts: the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor. The pectoralis major is the larger muscle and gives your chest its bulk and strength. The pectoralis minor is situated underneath the major muscle and your shoulder. Among the upper body exercises that will benefit your chest are bench and floor presses, flyes and push-ups. 

Chest and Arms

The arm muscles are made up of your biceps, triceps and shoulders, and can significantly benefit from targeted dumbbell exercises. There are various types of curls that you can try. The supinated bicep curl, in which you curl the dumbbells from an underhand position up towards your shoulders while rotating your forearms so that your palms are facing your shoulders, or the Zottman biceps curl, in which curl the dumbbells up towards your shoulders while rotating your forearms so your palms are facing your shoulders, will give your biceps a good workout.

Chest and Triceps

Growing your triceps is one of the most visible ways in which you can display your workout progress to the world. But they won’t be worked hard by the exercises that work your biceps, so you’re going to need to show them some love, too. Overhead Dumbbell Tricep Extensions, in which you grip the dumbbell firmly with your hands and hold it over your head, and slowly lower it behind your head, or Close Grip Dumbbell Push-Ups, in which you place the dumbbells under your chest and extend your body to do a push-up, are good examples of exercises that specifically target your triceps rather than your biceps. 

Chest and Back

Your chest isn’t the only part of your body that will influence your overall body strength. Your back can be just as important, and there are exercises which can target the muscles there too, including both flat and incline bench presses, chest flyes and pullovers. 

Safety Precautions for Dumbbell Chest Workouts

Of course, all the best intentions in the world won’t help you if you don’t pay attention to proper safety considerations when you’re working out. From before you even start to after you finish, your safety and well-being should always be paramount when you’re exercising.

Warm Up

The purpose of warming up before physical activity is to prepare mentally and physically for your chosen activity. Warming up increases your heart rate and therefore your blood flow. This enables more oxygen to reach your muscles. A warm-up also activates and primes the connections between your nerves and muscles, which improves the efficiency of movement. Additionally, your range of motion (flexibility) should be increased by dynamic stretching. So take ten minutes first with some jogging on the spot, arm swings, lunges and squats, to get yourself properly limbered up. 

Start with Light Weights

Growing muscle involves creating tiny tears in your muscles from which they regrow - this is why it’s called ‘getting ripped’ in the first place. But it’s easy to go too far too quickly, so it’s widely recommended that you start with lighter weights and work your way up to the right weight for you. If you push yourself too hard, too quickly, and at a weight for which you’re unprepared, you risk causing significant damage to your muscles, including strains and tears. 

Make Sure to Maintain Proper Posture

Good posture matters when exercising because it’s so important to your ability to maintain balance. By standing up straight you centre your weight over your feet, which helps you maintain correct form while exercising, resulting in fewer injuries, better breathing and ultimately greater gains.

When it Hurts; Stop

A little burning pain when you’re exercising isn’t a cause for alarm, but it is a reason to bring the intensity of your activity back down. This burning is your body producing lactic acid, which is produced when the body breaks down carbohydrates to use for energy. And while it’s good that your body is producing it, it also means that it’s time to slow down.

Use the Drop Set Technique

Even though it’s necessary as part of the muscle-strengthening process, it is recommended that as soon as you feel the burning sensation, you slow the intensity of your exercising until the burn disappears and then gradually increase it again. This is known as the ‘drop set technique’ and is extremely common in bodybuilding circles, as it is one of the most effective ways to quickly and healthily build muscle mass. 

Cool Down

Cooling down is just as important as warming up in more than one sense. Keep yourself hydrated while you’re exercising, with cool rather than cold water (if the water is too cold, you’re increasing your risk of stomach cramps). But cooling down also means gently stretching each of the main muscle groups for 10 to 15 seconds which will restore their length and can help bring both your mind and body back to a resting state.

Speak to Your Doctor if Needed

There are times when you should stop exercising completely and seek immediate medical attention. If you feel chest pain (especially if you feel dizzy, nauseous, out of breath or have profuse sweating), seek immediate medical attention. If your heart rate doesn't come down with rest or your muscles don’t stop hurting after exercise, speak to your doctor. Smokers and those with a family history should consult their doctors before starting any exercise regimen. 

Warm-up and Cool-down Strategies

It’s best to know what your warm-up and cool-down strategies will look like before your session starts. Warming up your muscles may include low-intensity short jogs, star jumps, bodyweight lunges, squats or push-ups, and as little as a slow jog or a brisk walk for ten to fifteen minutes will make a significant difference. Cooling-down is effectively the same thing but in reverse. Stretching can improve flexibility and range of motion in a joint. Doing stretches also may help improve your performance in some activities by allowing the joints to move through a wider range of motion. 

Chest exercising should be central to any full-body exercise regimen, and dumbbells offer a degree of portability, ease of storage and affordability that cannot be matched by any other single piece of gym equipment. On top of that, their shape makes them among the most versatile to use when you start exercising, whether you’re working out at home or the gym. You can even work your back arms and shoulders at the same time with more specifically targeted exercises, which will result in gains in more than one part of your body. Bank for the buck is more important than ever, these days; get yourself a pair of dumbbells and you’ll have an invaluable piece of exercise equipment for life.

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