No pec deck? No problem.
We’re about to explore the ten best exercises for lean and strong pecs using dumbbells only.
You’ll also get a sample chest workout to help you achieve your fitness goals quicker and more effectively at the gym or home.
Get ready to work!
Top 10 Dumbbell Chest Exercises
1. Dumbbell Flat Bench Press
Those with a history of shoulder injury or current one can swap to a neutral grip (palms facing each other). This will take stress away from the joint, and prevent excessive motion at it, reducing the risks of injuries.
Muscles worked: Shoulders (Anterior deltoid), triceps, and chest (pectoralis major).
- Lie flat on the bench, and extend the arms in front of you with the dumbbells above the pecs and palms facing forward.
- Inhale and bring the dumbbells towards the lower part of the chest.
- Powerfully press it back up to the starting position as you exhale and repeat.
Imagine squeezing the biceps together in the top position! This will activate the chest muscle to a higher degree.
2. Dumbbell Fly
The pectoral muscles helps stabilize the shoulder joint during exercise, while a strong anterior deltoid flexes the shoulders, which can help you get something from your top kitchen shelf. This exercise works both of these muscles, suitable for both beginners and advanced.
Muscles worked: Pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, deltoids, triceps, and biceps.
- Lie flat on your back on a bench with palms facing each other and arms stretched. Hold the dumbbells in front of the lower part of your chest.
- Inhale and open the arms to the side with your elbows soft, and until they dip under your back.
- Exhale, return to the starting position.
Keep the wrists straight, and feet planted into the ground throughout the exercise.
Want killer shoulders? Here are 11 best shoulder exercises to build bigger shoulders.
3. Incline Bench Press
An incline bench can reduce the stress on the rotator cuff muscles and the shoulder joints, making it a great option for beginners and those dealing with an injury. As incline presses don’t work the entire chest muscle, don’t get frustrated if the weight you lift is less than on a flat dumbbell press.
Muscles worked: Clavicular head (upper chest/pecs), deltoids (shoulders).
- Sit on a bench with its angle at 45 degrees.
- Extend the arms with the dumbbells over your upper chest, the elbows slightly bent and the palms facing forward.
- Breathe in and slowly lower the dumbbells down to chest height.
- Pause on the bottom, and then powerfully bring the dumbbells up to the start.
You do NOT need a powerlifter's arch on your lower back. Maintain a slight arch, tighten your abs, brace your core and squeeze your glutes!
4. Decline Press
The dumbbell decline bench press targets the lower pecs, helping to prevent training monotony and promoting further muscle gains. The decline press can be a more shoulder-friendly alternative for beginners.
Muscles Worked: Pectorals, anterior deltoids, and triceps.
- Place your feet under the leg pads/support.
- Lie back on a decline bench with a dumbbell in each hand, the arms extended directly over your upper chest, and your palms facing forward.
- Inhale as you slowly lower the dumbbells to chest level.
- Exhale and press the dumbbells back up to the start.
5. Dumbbell Pullover
If you’re a beginner, start with lighter weights and focus on proper form.
Muscles worked: Pecs, lats, and serratus anterior muscles.
- Lie down on a bench with your back flat.
- Hold the dumbbell with a triangle grip (thumb and fingers around the top, rounded part of the dumbbell and palms facing up.
- Press the weight above your chest, arms extended, and elbows almost locked out.
- Inhale and bring the weight and arms behind (above) your head.
- Exhale and return to the starting position.
- Repeat the movement.
6. Dumbbell Crush Press
Because you’re squeezing the pecs and dumbbells together, you’ll activate the chest and triceps to a higher degree while performing crush presses.
Muscles Worked: Inner chest and triceps.
- Lie on a bench with the dumbbells above your chest touching, your arms extended, elbows soft and your palms facing each other.
- Inhale and start lowering the dumbbells to your lower pecs, while keeping them together at all times.
- Exhale and return to the starting position.
- Repeat the movement.
Slow the eccentric movement (lowering phase) for maximum benefits like strength, muscle mass, and neural adaptations, and power the weights up.
If performing eccentric movements be sure to progress slowly to avoid injuries.
7. Dumbbell Push-Ups
This modified version of traditional push-ups is a great exercise option for both beginners and advanced lifters. By reducing the load on the shoulders, it provides a safe and effective way to strengthen the chest and upper body.
Muscles Worked: Triceps, pectorals, shoulders and core.
- Grab a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing each other.
- Get into a push-up position with your upper body at a 45-degree angle.
- Keep your hands in line of your shoulders on the vertically positioned dumbbells with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart for balance.
- Inhale and lower yourself to the floor until your elbows are at 45-85 degrees from the floor.
- Exhale as you press yourself back up to the starting position, and repeat.
Aim to keep your hips almost in line with the rest of your body, with your entire body engaged. Avoid pushing your bottom up in the air, as your core loses tension and spine stability. Also avoid pushing your bottom too far down, as that stresses the lumbar discs (lower back).
Instead, pay attention to other things like:
8. Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press
This unilateral exercise helps lifters with all fitness levels to improve muscle imbalances and improve shoulder stability.
Muscles Worked: Pectoralis Major, and triceps.
- Lie on the bench with the dumbbells in each hand above your mid-chest, arms extended and palms facing forward
- Breathe in as you lower one dumbbell to your chest while keeping the other up in the air.
- Exhale and press the dumbbell back up to the starting position.
- Repeat with the other arm for a full set.
Implementing single arm work into your routine allows you to address any muscular imbalances between your left and right arms.
9. Floor Partial Chest Flies
This exercise is performed with a limited range of motion. It puts excessive load on the chest by keeping it under tension the whole time. It's a great accessory movement for advanced gym goers, targeting specific phases of the lift.
Muscles worked: Pectorals, anterior deltoids, and triceps.
- Lie on the ground with the dumbbells in each hand, the arms stretched, elbows soft and palms facing each other.
- Breathe in and with a ‘flying’ motion, bring the dumbbells apart to the side, until reaching chest level!
- Exhale as you bring the dumbbell HALF WAY UP. It’s a partial fly. We want to keep the pecs under constant tension.
- Repeat for the desired reps and sets.
10. Around The Worlds for Chest
This all round exercise involves a circular movement. It’s a great option for chest and shoulder health, and can be included in almost all fitness levels’ routine or as a warm-up with light weights. You can also perform this exercise standing.
Muscles Worked: Upper, mid, and lower pecs.
- Lie on a bench with a pair of dumbbells and press them to arm length with the elbows soft.
- Inhale and lower the dumbbells to the sides (pec fly).
- Exhale and move them from head to hip.
- Keep the elbows aligned with your body the whole time.
- Repeat for the desired reps and sets.
Proper Technique and Form
Let’s go through some key techniques for chest dumbbell exercises that require extra attention.
Inhaling correctly during the exercise can improve intra-abdominal pressure, which helps engage the core and stabilize the spine, allowing you to lift heavier.
Exhaling correctly can prevent post-exercise dizziness, preventing a sudden drop in blood pressure.
Holding the breath for too long (hold breath technique) can be dangerous for people with high blood pressure.
Avoid overextending (arching) or flexing (rounding) the spine during any of the exercises. Excessive arching can lead to stress fractures, while rounding can lead to bulging or herniated disc disorders.
Additionally, set your shoulders in a safe position while completing the above mentioned exercises, to avoid rotator cuff injuries. You can do this by squeezing the shoulder blades back and down, raising the chest slightly up and creating a braced, slight arch on the lower back.
Range of Motion
You should go through a full range of motion while doing chest exercises to ensure proper muscle activation and to minimize the risk of injury. If you’re unable to, choose a lighter weight that allows you to achieve full range of motion.
Elbows Flaring Out
For particular exercises like decline, incline, flat, alternate chest presses, and push ups, your forearms and upper arm should form an angle between 45-75 degrees (on the bottom position) to avoid any injuries to the rotator cuff. Flaring out the elbows puts unnecessary stress on the shoulder joint stabilizers (rotator cuff). It can also lead to loss of force transfer during the lift, reducing performance.
While dumbbells give your joints a greater range of movement over barbells, the quality of the dumbbells also matter, especially if you choose to train with adjustable dumbbells at home. A good dumbbell should be secure, and made of a durable material and should allow for quick weight adjustment to suit intermediate and advanced weight lifters.
Montreal Weights’ adjustable dumbbells replace 15 sets of dumbbells, perfect for use at home or condos with limited space. They’re made with durable materials built to last.
Sample Dumbbell Chest Workouts Routine
Time to train, folks! Here’s a simple but effective chest workout routine put together by our certified personal trainers.
|Dumbbell chest press
|Floor partial chest flies
|Decline dumbbell press
|Alternating dumbbell bench press
|8 each side
*If you’re a beginner, don’t not start with superset. Instead complete 2-3 dumbbell chest presses for 8 reps and 10-15 incline pushups.
Safety Tips and Precautions
Safety comes first. Remember, the only incapable athlete is the one who’s injured, simply because they can’t train.
- Warm-Up and Cool-Down: Warming up prepares your muscles and joints for the workout ahead and reduces the risk of injury. There are various types of warms ups you can do like the RAMP warm-up, which activate your muscles and raise your body temperature and heart rate. Cooling down involves slow-paced cardio or static stretching to aid in muscle recovery and reduce muscle soreness.
- Gradual progression: Beginners should start with light weights and gradually increase the weight as they gain strength and confidence.
- Master proper form: Ask a qualified fitness professional or strength coach if you need help performing chest exercises correctly.
- Adequate recovery: Your muscles grow during rest. They can’t do this effectively if you don’t allow your muscles to recover. Listen to your body, and take a rest day when needed.
- Use high-quality dumbbells with safe handling: Invest in good quality dumbbells for your home workouts that don't fall apart during your lift and can handle your desired weight. Make sure all weights are securely clipped on if using adjustable dumbbells. Additionally, be mindful when you pick heavy dumbbells up—bend at the knees and keep your back straight.
Build your chest muscles at home with Montreal Weights dumbbells
Get started with these tips and sample workout with the best exercises to transform your pecs at home. Montreal Weights' adjustable, high-capacity, and durable dumbbells are your perfect workout partners, ensuring safety and progress.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I build my chest with dumbbells?
Absolutely. Dumbbells are highly versatile, come in different shapes and sizes with unlimited exercise choices to perform with them.
What is a good dumbbell chest workout?
A good dumbbell chest workout targets different parts of the chest that stimulate muscle growth, like incline and decline presses. It should also include single arm exercises exercises like alternate dumbbell presses and frontal and lateral movements including chest presses, dumbbell flys. Check out our sample chest workout above to learn more.
What is the single best chest exercise?
Which chest exercise is best depends on your goal, fitness level and preferences. There’re no one size fits all. All chest exercises can be effective as long as you stick to it and progressively overload.
How can I use dumbbells for my chest at home?
You should invest into a durable, high-quality adjustable dumbbell that offers a wide range of weight capacity. Once you have done that, follow the sample chest workout written in this blog.