There are basically two reasons why you need a go-to choice of dumbbell exercises. First of all, they complement barbell and other types of exercises by giving the muscles the most range of motion. Secondly, a pair of dumbbells is the most common home gym equipment so you can get a workout done if that’s all you’ve got.
So today we’re making a list of the best dumbbell-only exercises for the chest. You will most likely use them with the barbell exercises (like the bench press) and bodyweight exercises (like dips) for a complete workout. But as mentioned, you’d do well with a dumbbell-only chest workout too. Let’s begin!
Dumbbell Flat Bench Press
It’s the first exercise on the list and definitely the most common dumbbell exercise for the chest. It works the pecs at the mid area and is great for an overall load. The difference between this exercise and the barbell bench press is the increased range of motion and less stress on the shoulders as the joints can move more freely. To perform the exercise, start in the upper position in a neutral or pronated grip, lower the dumbbells down slowly to the chest level, and press it back up for another rep.
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
The incline bench press moves the load towards your upper pecs, at the same time shoulders get involved in the movement too. For that reason, dumbbells have an even greater benefit of free movement than the barbell in this exercise. Because of the angle, you won’t be able to press as much weight as the flat bench too. Choose a 30- to 45-degree angle from the bench and press the weights from the chest level up. Always focus on slow controlled eccentric movement, lowering the weights down.
Decline Dumbbell Bench Press
The decline bench press is rarely done with dumbbells because the angle shifts the load on your bigger lower pecs and allows you to press more weight. This means that the barbell is more convenient as far as the bigger choice of weight. However, there are still benefits in the range of motion with dumbbells.
Twisting Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
This variation of the incline dumbbell press gives you more focus on the upper pecs. To perform, proceed to press the dumbbells up, but rotate your arms to a supine grip at the top. Hold this position for 2 seconds. The reverse grip held at the top gives you the best peek contraction of the upper chest muscles. Keep your shoulders squeezed back throughout the movement for maximum contraction.
Alternating or Single-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press
This exercise can be done using a flat bench or an incline, depending on the parts of the chest you want to focus on. The benefit of alternating the dumbbells (or single-arm) is that it’s a unilateral exercise that allows you to work on muscle imbalances. Another benefit is the involvement of the core as you have to keep your body balanced on the bench and prevent rotating with the weight to the sides as you press the weight.
The dumbbell flys is a great exercise to isolate the chest and it works your front delts too. To perform, lie on a flat bench, start at the top with your arms slightly bent at the elbows and at about shoulder-width apart, lowering the weights to the sides by flexing the shoulders but keeping elbows fixed. Stop when the elbows are at chest level and reverse the movement. Never bring the dumbbells close together at the top, stop at the shoulder width or slightly closer, just enough to keep the chest under tension (the muscles get relief if you push the weights together and that’s not what we want).
This classic exercise is quite forgotten and rarely used anymore but it can be great to work the upper chest and shoulders at the same time. To perform, lie on the flat bench and bring a single dumbbell up gripping with both hands. Keep the elbows slightly bent but fixed and move the dumbbell down over your head by flexing at the shoulders. Stop when your upper arms are parallel to your body and reverse the motion. You’ll get a really good stretch in the upper chest and front delt muscles.
So these are our favorite dumbbell-only exercises for the chest. If you think we’ve missed something, leave a comment with your own favorite dumbbell exercises.