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Dumbbell Chest Exercises You Can Do At Home!

Holly Smith

By: Holly Smith, M.D. - Osteopathic Medicine, B.S. - Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer,

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

dumbbell chest exercises

Gym closed? Can't leave the house? Don't have a bench? No more excuses! There are dumbbell chest exercises you can do right from the comfort of your own home.

The bench press is one of the ultimate strength training exercises.

But you don’t need to have access to a barbell, or even a bench for that matter, to get similar muscle-building benefits at home!

All you really need is a pair of dumbbells and a few feet of floor space to do some of the best dumbbell chest exercises.

Get a Chiseled Chest

Many guys focus on the barbell bench press to get strong, ripped chest muscles, but dumbbells can give you a just as good, if not a better, upper body workout.

Using dumbbells forces you to isolate your pecs and core muscles to perform precise movements and really gets your muscles to pop.

A 2017 study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that the dumbbell bench press actually activated the pectoralis major muscle to a greater degree than a Smith Machine or a barbell bench press.

So if you have a set of dumbbells, there is no excuse to not get a great chest workout!

Dumbbell Chest Exercises

When doing dumbbell chest exercises, you want to choose a variety of moves that target the upper, mid, and lower chest.

While the pectoralis major is a large muscle that will be activated during any chest exercise, specific exercises will target certain areas more than others.

Upper Chest Dumbbell Exercises

Even if you don’t have access to a bench, you can still do incline dumbbell chest exercises.

All you need is a stable surface that you can rest your back on. This could be something like the back of a couch, chair, or ottoman.

Incline Dumbbell Chest Press

  • Sit on the ground and place your upper back on this stable surface.
  • If you are using something like a chair, make sure it is securely pressed up against a wall for support.
  • Your body should be at about a 30- to 45-degree angle.
  • Then press the dumbbells up and hold at the top.
  • Bring the dumbbells back down to the starting position and repeat for eight to 10 reps.

This is just like a standard incline chest press and will activate the top portion of the pectoralis muscles to a greater degree than a standard chest press.

Incline Dumbbell Flyes

  • Start on the ground with your back on a stable surface at a 30-45 degree angle, just like in the incline chest press.
  • Instead of doing a chest press, perform chest flyes instead.
  • With your palms facing each other, lower the weights in an arching motion.
  • Bring the weights down until your elbows are even with your chest.
  • Pause briefly at the bottom, then bring the dumbbells back together in an arching motion above your chest.

Mid-Chest Dumbbell Exercises

Now that you’ve hit the upper chest, you want to target the pecs' middle muscle fibers.

If you have a bench, great! If not, standard dumbbell chest presses can be done lying on the ground. You can lay down a towel or mat to add some cushion.

Doing dumbbell chest presses on the floor is great if you have shoulder issues.

Laying on the ground instead of a bench helps limit motion in the shoulder joint and minimizes shoulder injuries.

In addition, a dumbbell bench press seems to lead to less elbow soreness when compared to a barbell bench press.

Another 2017 study found that when compared to a Smith Machine bench press and a barbell bench press, dumbbell bench presses led to similar muscle strength gains.

However, muscle soreness of the elbow extensors took a longer time to recover after using a barbell chest press exercise as compared to dumbbell presses.

Standard Dumbbell Chest Press

  • To do this exercise, your knees should be bent and your feet flat on the ground.
  • Press the dumbbells up over your chest.
  • Lower the weight, keeping your elbows at a 90-degree angle with your body.
  • Continue this motion for eight to 10 reps.

Variations

Try pressing one weight up at a time and alternating the chest presses between the left and right arm. This will engage your core to a greater degree.

To add even more of a challenge, keep your legs straight and raise them slightly off the ground as you press up the weights.

This dumbbell chest exercise will sculpt your pecs and abs at the same time!

Floor Dumbbell Flyes

  • Lie on the floor with two dumbbells extended up above your shoulders.
  • Don’t lock out your elbows completely. Try to keep them at about 15 degrees.
  • With your palms facing each other, lower the weights in an arcing motion.
  • When your elbows hit the floor, they should be even with your chest.
  • Pause briefly at the bottom, then bring the dumbbells back together in an arcing motion above your chest.

Lower Chest Dumbbell Exercises

If you want to get a fuller, defined chest you have to target the lower chest.

A decline bench press is one easy way to exercise the lower pec muscles.

However, if you don’t have a decline bench, it’s still possible to target the lower pecs with these dumbbell chest exercises.

45 Degree Floor Chest Press

  • Lie on the ground with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
  • Instead of having your elbows at a 90-degree angle to your body, bring them down to a 45-degree angle.
  • Press the dumbbells up over your chest.
  • Lower the weight, keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle with your body.
  • Continue for eight to 10 reps.

Dumbbell Chest Pull-Overs

  • Grasp one dumbbell with both hands under the inner plate of the dumbbell.
  • Raise the dumbbell over your chest making sure to keep your elbows slightly bent.
  • Lower the dumbbell over and behind your head until the dumbbell touches the floor.
  • Pull the dumbbell back up and over your chest and repeat eight to 10 times.

Inner Chest Dumbbell Exercises

If you want to see real pec definition, you will need a few exercises that emphasize the inner chest muscles as well.

These muscles are often overlooked, but really give definition to the chest muscles where they attach to the sternum.

Squeeze Dumbbell Press

  • This is similar to a standard dumbbell press, however, you want to squeeze the dumbbells together as hard as possible the entire time during each rep instead of holding the dumbbells out to the side.
  • This will keep tension on the inner chest.
  • Repeat eight to 10 times for one set.

Dumbbell Front Chest Raises

  • Stand upright and hold a dumbbell by your sides with an underhand grip.
  • Raise the dumbbells from your sides and bring them up to the level of your chest until the dumbbells touch in the center.
  • Then slowly lower back down to the starting position.
  • You should feel your inner chest working as you squeeze and hold at the top.

Get a Strong Chest with Dumbbells!

You don’t need a gym or even a bench to get a chiseled chest.

A pair of dumbbells and the comfort of your living room is all that is really required to target your chest and pecs!

By altering the angles and position of the dumbbells, you can target all areas of your chest to build strength and definition.

In addition to these dumbbell chest exercises above, the Fit Father Project also offers free at-home workouts that include dumbbell exercises that target all areas of your body.

This just emphasizes the fact that you don’t need fancy equipment or a gym membership to get in the best shape of your life!

Holly Smith

Holly Smith M.D. - Osteopathic Medicine, B.S. - Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

Holly is board-certified in nephrology and internal medicine, has a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, and is a certified personal trainer with NASM-PES certification.

Holly is a keen runner, triathlete, and fitness and nutrition enthusiast. She has completed four full ironmans, twelve marathons, countless half ironmans, Olympic distance triathlons, half marathons, and numerous other road races.

Holly joined the Fit Father Project in May 2019 as a regular writer, contributing articles on health, wellness, exercise, and nutrition.

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