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The chest, aka the pectoralis muscle or pecs, includes some of the largest muscles in your body. They help with many of the body’s daily functions, including different arm movements.
Thus exercises that target and build your chest muscles should play a prominent role in any workout regimen. You can use barbells, dumbbells, or your body weight to help target and work your chest muscles.
Dumbbells offer some of the most effective routes to target and build chest muscles. But unlike training with barbells, dumbbell chest exercises have a lower risk of injury, as they don’t put much stress on your joints.
We will discuss some of the best dumbbell chest exercises for targeting and building your chest muscles.
Dumbbell Chest Exercises That Can Help You Build A Strong Upper Body
We have divided the exercises into two different sections. The first part has dumbbell chest exercises with a bench, and the other has dumbbell chest exercises without a weight bench.
Dumbbell chest exercises with a weight bench
You will need one or two dumbbells and an adjustable weight bench for the exercises in this section.
Close Grip Dumbbell Press (aka Crush Press)
The close grip dumbbell press, aka crush press, is one of the best dumbbell chest exercises for building your pecs and triceps.
The exercise involves pressing the dumbbells together and squeezing your pecs, helping to activate your pecs.
The crush press is also one of the best chest dumbbell exercises for activating the triceps.
Steps to follow
- Grap the dumbbells with a neutral grip, with palms facing in.
- Sit on the weight bench and place the ends of the dumbbells on your hip crease.
- Lay back on the weight bench and place the dumbbells close to your chest.
- Keep your feet on the floor and ensure your lower body stays still throughout the movement.
- Breathe in, push and squeeze the dumbbells together as tight as possible, and press them upward until you lock your arms.
- Pause and gradually lower the dumbbells to the top of your chest in a controlled manner, ensuring you keep them pushed together throughout the motion. Ensure you maintain the tension in your pecs and pinch your shoulder blades together throughout the movements.
- Press the dumbbells up again as soon as they touch your chest.
The dumbbell pullover can target the chest and back muscles. But keeping your elbows in and ensuring your arms are as straight as possible when doing the movement will help you target your chest muscles much better.
Start with lighter dumbbells until you have mastered the technique.
Dumbbell Bench Press
The bench press is one of the classic and most popular dumbbell chest exercises. It is the go-to exercise for athletes and exercisers who want to build a stronger and bigger chest.
The chest dumbbell exercises will also target and work the deltoids and triceps muscles.
You can also do the dumbbell bench press instead of the barbell bench press when you have concerns with shoulder and pec injuries.
The flys are some of the best dumbbell chest exercises for working the pectoralis muscles.
Including dumbbell flys in your upper body training regimen can help you to isolate, contract, and stretch your chest muscles with limited shoulder involvement.
Dumbbell chest exercises that open up the pecs, like the fly, can help increase the range of motion and reduce upper body tightness and upper back pain.
Starting with lighter weights can help you to get a full range of motion during the movement. Aim to perform 8-12 reps per set for the best results.
One Arm Dumbbell Fly
You will use the one-arm dumbbell fly if you intend to target and work one side of your chest at a time.
Start on your weaker side when doing these dumbbell chest exercises.
Steps to follow
- Sit on one end of the weight bench, holding a dumbbell in one hand with a neutral grip.
- Lie on the weight bench, face upward, with the dumbbell close to your chest.
- Place the other hand on your rib cage and your feet on the floor.
- Start breathing in and with a slight bend in your elbows, extend and lower your arm toward the floor in an arc motion. Ensure you maintain the angle in your elbow throughout the movement.
- Keep lowering the dumbbell until the dumbbell and your chest are in line.
- Raise the dumbbell and return to your starting position while squeezing your pec. Ensure you maintain tension in your abs.
- Repeat for your desired number of repetitions.
- Swap dumbbell positions and repeat the movements with the other side of the body.
- Imagine trying to hug a tree when doing the movement.
- Use lighter dumbbells
- Don’t over-squeeze the dumbbells. Doing so will reduce the engagement of the pecs and recruit the biceps and forearms instead.
- Stop lowering the dumbbell as soon as you feel any pain or pressure in your shoulder joint.
Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press
The alternating bench press is one of the best dumbbell chest exercises that can also challenge the stabilization of the core and shoulder muscles.
You keep continuous tension on your shoulder and pec by keeping one weight in elevation during the movement. Alternating each rep will also force your core to keep your body stable.
Steps to follow
- Lay back on the bench holding the dumbbells close to your chest. Keep your feet flat on the floor and your lower body still.
- Press the dumbbells straight up until you lock your elbows. Ensure you squeeze the dumbbells as much as possible.
- Then slowly lower one dumbbell in a controlled manner as far as possible while keeping the other arm in the extended state.
- Contract your chest and press the dumbbell back up.
- Alternate and slowly lower the other dumbbell in a controlled manner, ensuring the other hand remains in the extended locked state. Ensure you maintain tension in your pecs as you do the movement, and do not allow the dumbbells to bounce off each other.
- That will complete one rep.
- Repeat the alternating pressing for your desired number of reps
Incline Dumbbell Flys
The incline dumbbell flys are dumbbell chest exercises for those with aesthetic goals as one of their objectives. But you can still incorporate them into your strength training regimen.
They are some of the best chest dumbbell exercises for isolating the pecs.
You will usually use heavier weights, making it an effective hypertrophy exercise for adding strength and size to your pecs.
The incline dumbbell fly will also work the anterior deltoids, biceps, and triceps and will engage your lower body and core to help maintain your body stable.
Putting your body in the incline position allows you to emphasize your upper chest muscles.
Steps to follow
- Set the weight bench to a 25-30 degrees incline angle.
- Sit and lay back on the weight bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Your palms should face each other while holding the dumbbells.
- Bring the weight close to your chest.
- Breathe in and press the dumbbells up until you lock your elbows.
- Retract your shoulder blades, start breathing in, and slowly lower the dumbbells using an arc motion. Ensure you don’t change the angle at your elbow.
- Keep lowering until the dumbbells are in line with your chest.
Neutral Grip Decline Dumbbell Bench Press
The neutral grip decline dumbbell press is another exercise worth considering for your chest day workout.
Using a neutral grip, where your palms face each other, reduces the pressure on your elbows and shoulders. It also places your elbows closer to your sides and increases the range of motion, allowing you to target your inner chest and triceps.
Putting your body in the decline position allows you to emphasize your lower chest, making it one of the best dumbbell chest exercises for working your lower pecs.
Steps to follow
- Grasp a dumbbell in each hand, using a neutral grip, and lay back on the decline bench. Keep the dumbbells close to your chest.
- Start breathing in and press the dumbbells until you lock your elbows.
- Lower the dumbbells slowly and in a controlled manner, as far as you can.
- Press the dumbbells up to your starting position while squeezing your pecs. Ensure you maintain your neutral grip as you do the movement.
Dumbbell chest exercises without a weight bench
Exercise Ball Dumbbell Fly
One of the best dumbbell chest exercises at home to consider for your training regimen if you don’t have a weight bench is the exercise ball dumbbell fly.
The dumbbell fly on an exercise ball can help boost strength in your chest, triceps, and biceps.
The Swiss ball has an unstable surface, making the exercise very challenging. It also forces your core to work harder to keep you stable on the ball.
Steps to follow
- Grasp a dumbbell in each hand and place your upper and mid-back on the exercise ball. Ensure you grab the dumbbells with your palms facing each other.
- Keep your hips high and bend your knees at 90 degrees
- Breathe out, and press the dumbbells straight toward the ceiling until you lock your elbows.
- Pause, breathe in, and lower the dumbbells in an arc motion to your sides. Ensure you lower the dumbbells slowly and in a controlled manner.
- Keep lowering the dumbbells until your upper arms are parallel to your chest. Keep a slight bend in your elbows and the dumbbells pointing upwards.
- Breathe out, contract your chest, and return the dumbbell to your starting position using the same arc motion.
Dumbbell Floor Press
You can use the dumbbell floor press to strengthen your chest and tricep muscles.
Lying on the floor limits the range of motion. Thus the dumbbell chest exercises activate the triceps more.
But the movement will indirectly target your chest muscles if you squeeze your pecs at the top of the motions.
The floor press dumbbell chest exercises are a good option for those with shoulder issues or who find it challenging to use a weight bench for chest press.
- Lay with your back on the floor, holding a dumbbell in each hand and close to your chest.
- Bend your knees to about 45 degrees.
- Contract your chest and triceps, and press the dumbbells toward the ceiling until you lock your elbows.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells until your elbows are in contact with the floor, then press the weights toward the ceiling to your starting position.
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Steps to follow
Exercise Ball Dumbbell Chest Press
The exercise works your chest muscles, and using an exercise ball for the dumbbell press exercises instead of a weight bench will activate your core. The movement forces your core muscles to work harder to keep you stable on the ball.
Aside from your chest muscles, the exercise targets other upper-body push muscles, including the shoulders and the triceps.
Steps to follow
- Grasp the dumbbell using a neutral grip and place your upper back on the exercise ball. Ensure you keep your feet flat on the floor
- Breathe in and press the dumbbell upward until you lock the elbows.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells in a controlled manner until your upper arm is parallel to the floor.
- Squeeze your chest and press the dumbbells back to your starting position.
The single dumbbell push-up is a challenging variation of traditional push-ups.
The dumbbell chest exercises involve placing your arm on the ends of a dumbbell to balance your body while doing the movement.
Putting your body in that position forces your chest, shoulder, and core muscles to work harder for greater upper-body strength and muscle gains.
The narrow than shoulder-width grip helps target your triceps.
Steps to follow
- Assume a plank stance with your fully stretched hands on the ends of a dumbbell. You would be supporting your body on your toes and the dumbbell. Your body, from head to heels, should be rigid and in a straight line.
- Inhale, flex your elbows, lower your body, and stop before your chest touches the dumbbell. Ensure your body stays rigid as you lower your body, and do not allow your hips to sag or rise.
- Breathe out and extend your elbows to press your body back to your starting position.
- Pause and repeat
Final words from LiveLIfe
Any training regimen that will maximize muscular development should ensure targeting and working muscles from different angles and ranges of motion.
Thus the dumbbell chest exercises you incorporate into your workout must involve movement from different angles. That means combining flys, presses, and pullovers. That can help you target and work your chest muscles effectively for better results.
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- Baig MA, Bordoni B. Anatomy, shoulder and upper limb, pectoral muscles. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-.
- Iversen VM, Norum M, Schoenfeld BJ, Fimland MS. No time to lift? Designing time-efficient training programs for strength and hypertrophy: a narrative review. Sports Med. 2021;51(10):2079-2095. doi:10.1007/s40279-021-01490-1