12 Best Dumbbell Chest Exercises to Bring Out The Best Shape

Dumbbell Chest Exercises

The chest muscles are mainly grouped into three parts: upper (clavicular head), middle (sternocostal head), and lower pecs (abdominal head).

To build a stronger, defined, and symmetrical chest, you need to target all these areas with a variety of exercises.

The gym is the best place for training and growing pecs. However, dumbbells are the best option if you train at home and have limited space for resistance training.

In this article, I’ll show you the best dumbbell chest exercises for growing muscles and provide workout samples to help you train your pectoral muscles efficiently.

Here’s a quick list of all the exercises you’ll see in this blog:

Upper ChestMiddle ChestLower Chest
Incline Bench PressFlat Bench PressDecline Bench Press
Incline Dumbbell FlyDeficit Push-upStanding Chest Fly
Dumbell PulloverFlat Dumbbell FlyDecline Squeeze Press
Incline Squeeze PressCrush Grip Push-upAround The World Fly

Benefits of Training Chest with Dumbbells

Here are some reasons why dumbbells can help develop your pectoral muscles.

  1. Dumbbells provide a complete range of motion, which helps you easily target the muscle you want.
  2. With dumbbells, you can do single-arm chest exercises for the chest, also known as unilateral exercises. These exercises are great for correcting muscle imbalance and improving muscular symmetry.
  3. Dumbbells put less stress on the joints than barbells. When you work out with barbells, one side of your chest is likely to take more stress than the other, while with dumbbells, both sides of your chest perform equally.
  4. Dumbbell training helps grow muscles through mechanical and metabolic overload. Mechanic overload is triggered by muscle contractions, which stimulate the repair process and lead to hypertrophy. Metabolic overload happens when you train your muscles till fatigue, leading to the adaptation of muscle cells being able to store more energy, which can increase muscle mass. Heavy dumbbells can elicit mechanical overload, while moderate-weight dumbbells combined with high reps can produce metabolic overload.1 5 Benefits of Dumbbell Training – Pete Call, 2015, American Council of Exercise (ACE)

Upper Chest Dumbbell Exercises

1. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
  1. Grab one dumbbell in each hand, lie on your back on a 30-degree incline bench, and keep your feet entirely on the ground.
  2. Bend your elbows and hold the dumbbells at your sides at upper chest level.
  3. Now tighten your core and press the dumbbells up until your arms are directly over your chin.
  4. Hold for a second and then return to the initial position.

The incline bench press targets the upper part of the chest.2 Rodríguez-Ridao, David et al. “Effect of Five Bench Inclinations on the Electromyographic Activity of the Pectoralis Major, Anterior Deltoid, and Triceps Brachii during the Bench Press Exercise.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 17,19 7339. 8 Oct. 2020, doi:10.3390/ijerph17197339 It is suitable for all people.

I recommend doing it as your first exercise on your chest day because it nicely engages the pectoral muscles and prepares them for other isolation exercises.

2. Incline Dumbbell Chest Fly

Dumbbell Chest Fly
  1. Grab dumbbells in both hands and lay down on your back on an incline bench ( 30 to 45-degree incline)
  2. Put yourself in a position to perform fly and keep your elbows just slightly bent.
  3.  Raise the dumbbells until they are side by side on top of your neck.
  4. Hold for a second and then slowly return to the initial position.

The incline dumbbell fly stretches the pectoral muscles, increases fullness in your chest, and improves appearance.

3. Dumbbell Pullover

  1. Lay down on your back on a flat bench and grasp a dumbbell in both hands. Properly place your feet on the ground.
  2. Extend your arms straight with the dumbbells just directly over your chest.
  3. Lower the dumbbells slowly in an arc shape behind your head. Exert tension on your chest during pull-over.
  4. Hold for a couple of seconds, then slowly return to the initial position.

The pullover is an old-school muscle-building exercise that primarily targets the pectoralis major and helps the muscle fibers to grow efficiently.3 Marchetti PH, Uchida MC. Effects of the pullover exercise on the pectoralis major and latissimus dorsi muscles as evaluated by EMG. J Appl Biomech. 2011;27(4):380-384. doi:10.1123/jab.27.4.380

However, lifting heavy weights or lowering the dumbbell beyond your flexibility can also put excess stress on shoulder joints.

4. Incline DB Squeeze Press

  1. Lay down on your back on a flat bench and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Properly place your feet and tighten your core.
  2. Place your arms just over your chest and slightly bend your elbows.
  3. Raise your arms straight over your pecs while squeezing your chest.
  4. Hold for a couple of seconds, then slowly return to the initial position.

The squeeze press is an isolation exercise that works only on the chest muscles and helps bring out the shape.

I recommend doing it as your last exercise to give your chest a good pump at the end of the workout.

Middle Chest Exercises

1. Flat Bench Press

  1. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and lie down on a flat bench on your back.
  2. Bend your elbows, hold the dumbbells at your sides at chest level, and keep your feet flat on the ground.
  3. Now brace your core and push the dumbbells up toward the ceiling until your arms are directly over your neck.
  4. Hold for a second and then return to the initial position.

The flat DB bench press reinforces the entire pectoral muscles and helps develop balanced and equal strength on both sides of the chest.

2. Deficit Push-Up

Dumbbell Push-Ups
  1. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and get yourself into a high plank position.
  2. Keep your elbow straight and your arms to the sides of the chest.
  3. Push your chest towards the floor between the dumbbells.
  4. Hold for a second, then return to the same position.

The deficit push-up is one of the underrated hypertrophy exercises. It involves holding the dumbbells and going deep during the descent phase. Lowering your chest below the level of your hands engages the chest muscles more thoroughly throughout the movement and elicits greater muscle activation.

If you are going to perform only three DB chest exercises, the deficit push-up should be one of them.

3. Flat Dumbbell Fly

  1. Pick one dumbbell in each hand and lay down on your back on a flat bench
  2. Put yourself in a position to perform fly and keep your elbows just slightly bent.
  3.  Raise the dumbbells until they are side by side on top of your upper chest
  4. Hold for a second and then slowly return to the initial position.

The flat dumbbell fly targets the chest muscles more directly, ensuring maximal stretching and contraction of the pectoral muscles and giving the chest a more sculpted appearance.4 Reiser, Fernando & Lira, Jumes & Bonfim, Beatriz & Filho, Solival & Durante, Bruno & Cardoso, João & Miotto, Hamilton & Soares, Marcos & Bonuzzi, Giordano & Tavares, Lucas. (2017). Electromyography of Dumbbell Fly Exercise Using Different Planes and Labile Surfaces. Journal of Exercise Physiology Online. 20. 31.

4. Crush Grip Push-up

  1. Place a dumbbell on the floor and grab their ends with each hand.
  2. Extend your arms and get to the starting point with your wrist underneath your shoulders.
  3. Keep your body straight and perform as many push-ups as possible.

The crush grip push-up deeply squeezes the chest muscles, including the pectoral minor (the inner chest). Besides the chest, it also activates the triceps brachii and helps develop an aesthetic torso.5 Tamimi, Nasiruddin & Mintarto, Edy & K., Nining. (2017). THE EFFECT OF WIDE PUSH-UP EXERCISE AND NARROW PUSH-UP EXERCISE AGAINST STRENGTH, POWER, AND ENDURANCE. JIPES – JOURNAL OF INDONESIAN PHYSICAL EDUCATION AND SPORT. 3. 70-83. 10.21009/JIPES.032.06.

Lower Chest Exercises

1. Decline Dumbbell Chest Press

  1. Lay down on a decline bench on your back and grab one dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Hold the dumbbell to the level of your lower chest and keep distance between two hands according to the width of the shoulder.
  3. Push the dumbbells up until your arms are directly over your upper chest.
  4. Hold for a moment and then return to the initial position.

The decline bench press helps address droopy chest issues by filling out the lower portion.6 Roy, Xavier & Arseneault, Keven & Sercia, Pierre. (2021). The Effect of 12 variations of the bench press exercise on the EMG activity of three heads of the pectoralis major. 1. 1-11. 10.47206/iuscaj.v1i1.39. Jacked lower pecs make the upper body more defined and aesthetic.

2. Standing Chest Fly

  1. Stand straight with your foot and grab one dumbbell each in both hands.
  2. Keep your arms to the sides of your hips, your palms facing forward, and position yourself to perform an upward dumbbell fly.
  3. Raise the dumbbells at your chest level while keeping your arms straight.
  4. Hold for a moment and then slowly return to the initial position.

The standing chest fly is an excellent exercise for those who don’t have a bench at home. It works as an alternative to cable upward fly that targets the lower chest and helps build chiseled pecs.

3. Decline Squeeze Press

  1. Set the bench to 15-30 degrees decline, grab one dumbbell in each hand, and get on the bench with your feet under the supported pad.
  2. Hold the dumbbells just above your lower chest with your palms facing each other.
  3. Brace your abdominal muscles, inhale, and press the dumbbells upward until your arms are straight. Squeeze your chest muscle throughout the ascent phase.
  4. Exhale, pause for two seconds, then return to the start. That’s one rep.

The decline squeeze press works the same as the inclined variation, but because of its angles, it trains the lower area instead of the upper chest.

4. Around The World Fly

  1. Grasp a pair of dumbbells and lie on a flat bench.
  2. Hold your arms straight against your thigh with your palms facing up.
  3. Keep your arms straight and take them out in an arc motion until they reach behind your head.
  4. Bring your arms to the start similarly, feeling the contraction in your chest. That’s one rep.

The Around the World Fly is a unique exercise that targets upper, middle, and lower pectoral muscles through a wide range of motion and helps build a sculpted chest.

Other than the pectoral muscles, it also works the other upper body muscles, including the shoulders, back, and abs.

How to Design a Dumbbell Chest Workout Routine

You’ve got all the best dumbbell exercises for training chest muscles; now, let’s see how to program those exercises to yield maximum results.

Chest Workout A

  • Incline Dumbbell Bench Press: 4 sets x 12 reps, 90-sec to 2-minute rest between sets
  • Flat Dumbbell Fly: 3 sets x 10 reps, 90-second rest
  • Deficit Push-ups (for experienced only): 3 sets of 12 reps, 1-minute rest
  • Dumbbell Pullover (for experienced only): 3 sets of 12 reps, 90-second rest
  • Standing Chest Fly: 3 sets of 10 reps, 90-second rest

Chest Workout B

  • Flat Bench Press: 4 sets x 12 reps, 90-second rest between sets
  • Incline Dumbbell Fly: 3 sets x 10 reps, 2-minute rest
  • Decline Bench Press (for experienced only): 3 sets of 12 reps, 2-minute rest
  • Crush Grip Push-up (for experienced only): 3 sets of 12 reps, 2-minute rest
  • Incline Squeeze Press: 3 sets of 10 reps, 90-second rest

You can follow this schedule alternatively to train your chest in the most practical way.

It is also up to you to make some changes to the reps, sets, and volume according to your needs.

The Fitness Phantom Tips for Growing Your Pecs Effectively with Dumbbells

How to Effectively Grow Your Chest with Dumbbells
Building a proportional and sculpted chest with dumbbells only requires a combination of the right exercises, a well-crafted training plan, progressive overload, a nutritious diet, and consistency.

I’ve outlined the best exercises and workout samples above in this blog. Now, let’s see what other things you can do to spur your chest muscles.

  1. Aim for a new load every time you hit the workout: Increasing a little weight every time you hit the workout requires your muscles to work harder than before. This process will ultimately help you gain mass over time. You can increase as much weight as possible; it’s entirely up to you. When the loading isn’t possible, I recommend increasing the number of sets or reps to challenge your muscles further. Remember, you’re stronger than you think.
  2. Use a variety of exercises if possible: You’ve seen that you can do more than ten dumbbell exercises for the chest, and doing them all isn’t possible in one session. So, I suggest swapping out those exercises every week to keep your training engaging and effective.
  3. Focus on recovery as you do on workout: Rest is as important as the workout for recovery and muscle growth. I recommend resting for 48-72 hours between two chest workouts to ensure your muscles are fully recovered and prepared for the next session.

These simple yet unneglectable tips can help you build a chiseled chest, even only with dumbbells.

References

  • 1
    5 Benefits of Dumbbell Training – Pete Call, 2015, American Council of Exercise (ACE)
  • 2
    Rodríguez-Ridao, David et al. “Effect of Five Bench Inclinations on the Electromyographic Activity of the Pectoralis Major, Anterior Deltoid, and Triceps Brachii during the Bench Press Exercise.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 17,19 7339. 8 Oct. 2020, doi:10.3390/ijerph17197339
  • 3
    Marchetti PH, Uchida MC. Effects of the pullover exercise on the pectoralis major and latissimus dorsi muscles as evaluated by EMG. J Appl Biomech. 2011;27(4):380-384. doi:10.1123/jab.27.4.380
  • 4
    Reiser, Fernando & Lira, Jumes & Bonfim, Beatriz & Filho, Solival & Durante, Bruno & Cardoso, João & Miotto, Hamilton & Soares, Marcos & Bonuzzi, Giordano & Tavares, Lucas. (2017). Electromyography of Dumbbell Fly Exercise Using Different Planes and Labile Surfaces. Journal of Exercise Physiology Online. 20. 31.
  • 5
    Tamimi, Nasiruddin & Mintarto, Edy & K., Nining. (2017). THE EFFECT OF WIDE PUSH-UP EXERCISE AND NARROW PUSH-UP EXERCISE AGAINST STRENGTH, POWER, AND ENDURANCE. JIPES – JOURNAL OF INDONESIAN PHYSICAL EDUCATION AND SPORT. 3. 70-83. 10.21009/JIPES.032.06.
  • 6
    Roy, Xavier & Arseneault, Keven & Sercia, Pierre. (2021). The Effect of 12 variations of the bench press exercise on the EMG activity of three heads of the pectoralis major. 1. 1-11. 10.47206/iuscaj.v1i1.39.

Share This Blog

Picture of Murshid Akram

Murshid Akram

I’m a personal trainer, fitness blogger, and founder of thefitnessphantom.com. I help people achieve their best shape through my science-based and practical workout programs.
Picture of Murshid Akram

Murshid Akram

I’m a personal trainer, fitness blogger, and founder of thefitnessphantom.com. I help people achieve their best shape through my science-based and practical workout programs.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

0 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

About Me

I’m Murshid Akram, a personal trainer, fitness blogger, and founder of thefitnessphantom.com. I primarily design workout plans and share science-based and practical information that can help you become stronger, functional, and healthier.

Recent Posts

Sign up for our Newsletter

Sign up for practical, helpful, and unique content that can help you elevate your fitness.

SEARCH YOUR WORKOUT​

You can also use this search box to find your workout​

Search