6 Best Dumbbell Chest Exercises For A Strong And Powerful Chest

Chest day is never complete without a pair of dumbbells. As opposed to isolated movements, performed with exercise machines, dumbbells actively recruit secondary muscles as well as your core, improving functional strength, core stability, and balance. Training with two independent implements at one time, will force your body to adapt to physical changes in a more functional way. We’re going to discuss the best dumbbell chest workouts with a bench to help you build a strong, well-defined, and powerful chest.

Chest Muscles Anatomy

Your chest muscles consist of the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor. The pectoralis major is the main and largest muscle group in the chest, which is stimulated with any type of isolated chest exercise or variation.

Best Dumbbell Chest Exercises

How you train your chest is not how you train the rest of your body. Since the chest consists of only two muscles, which anatomically overlap, chest day consists of the same exercises, performed at different angles, to isolate specific segments of the same muscle. For example, your legs consist of your calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, and hip stabilizers. Thus, you have quite a few muscles to train on their own during your heavy leg day. With the chest, you are training the same muscle at an incline, decline, and flat angle.

1. Dumbbell Bench Press

The dumbbell bench press is without a doubt, the most effective and popular chest exercise with dumbbells as it increases overall strength and builds muscle definition. Performed with two dumbbells on a flat bench, this functional strength training movement will improve balance and core stability as well as wrist mobility. Performing this chest exercise with dumbbells as opposed to a standard barbell bench press, will also place less stress on your shoulder joints, and improve your range of motion.

How To Dumbbell Bench Press

  1. Lie flat on a bench and set your dumbbells on your knees. Kick up one dumbbell at a time, keeping them close to your body as you lay back. Plant your feet firmly into the ground, lay back, and push up. Make sure your feet are placed proximal in towards your body while keeping them flat on the floor. This will provide a good base for more driving power when it comes to heavy loads and finishing your set.
  2. The back position is equally as crucial as your feet placement. Squeeze your shoulder blades by pinching them together and driving them into the bench and slightly arch your back.
  3. Make sure your palms are rotated completely under the dumbbells. As you descend, follow your bend your elbows at a parallel 90 degrees, then push back up bringing the dumbbells together, while still keeping a slight bend in your elbows, not locking out. Drive your feet into the floor, tightening your glutes, pushing under the bar with one fluid motion, and extending the elbows again not locking out.

2. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

The incline dumbbell press, is a variation of the dumbbell bench press, which focuses on isolating the proximal or top portion of the chest. Setting an incline bench to a 45-degree angle will help improve muscle strength and aesthetic balance in the top portion of your chest for a strong and powerful physique.

How To Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

  1. Lie flat on an incline bench and set your dumbbells on your knees. Kick up one dumbbell at a time, keeping them close to your body as you lay back. Plant your feet firmly into the ground, lay back flush with the bench, and push up. Make sure your feet are placed proximal in towards your body while keeping them flat on the floor. This will provide a good base for more driving power when it comes to heavy loads and finishing your set.
  2. The back position is equally as crucial as your feet placement. Squeeze your shoulder blades by pinching them together and driving them into the bench and slightly arch your back.
  3. Make sure your palms are rotated completely under the dumbbells. As you descend, follow your bend your elbows at a parallel 90 degrees, then push back up bringing the dumbbells together, while still keeping a slight bend in your elbows, not locking out. Drive your feet into the floor, tightening your glutes, pushing under the bar with one fluid motion, and extending the elbows again not locking out.

3. Dumbbell Chest Fly

Often used as a secondary or auxiliary training movement, the dumbbell chest fly is an effective chest exercise with dumbbells to stimulate and isolate the outer portion of the chest, for a round full look.

Typically used in traditional bodybuilding, the dumbbell chest fly is an isolation movement, used to build a well-rounded aesthetic and physique. The dumbbell fly is also a great accessory movement, to build more muscle and strength assisting in bigger lifts such as the barbell bench press, while also activating secondary muscles such as your shoulders and triceps.

Like most other exercises the dumbbell chest fly has several variations which isolate and emphasize different segments of the chest for specific training purposes and intent.

How To Dumbbell Chest Fly

  1. Grab your dumbbells with a neutral grip, palms facing in. Position the dumbbells in the crest of your hips and lay back.
  2. Lie down flat on a bench, keeping the weights close to your chest, with your feet firmly placed into the ground.
  3. Press the dumbbells directly out toward the ceiling.
  4. Slightly retract your shoulder blades by pinching them together, unlocking your elbows, and slowly lowering the dumbbells laterally while maintaining the angle at your elbow.
  5. Once the dumbbells are in line with your chest on each side, reverse the movement, squeezing your pecs together, until you reach the top with the dumbbells back at the starting position.

4. Decline Dumbbell Bench Press

Studies have shown that the decline dumbbell bench press is the most effective chest exercise with dumbbells when it comes to muscle stimulation and contraction. The decline bench will help you build total chest strength as well as focus on the bottom or distal half of your chest.

How To Decline Dumbbell Bench Press

  1. Tuck your feet firmly between the pads, with each dumbbell on your knees. Lie back on the bench and bring the dumbbells back to your chest and push up as you lay down.
  2. Squeeze your shoulder blades by pinching them together and driving them into the bench and slightly arch your back.
  3. Make sure your palms are rotated completely under the dumbbells, squeezing them tight.
  4. As you descend, follow your bend your elbows at a parallel 90 degrees, then push back up bringing the dumbbells together, while still keeping a slight bend in your elbows, not locking out.

5. Dumbbell Pullover

The dumbbell pullover was brought to popularity in mainstream bodybuilding, by the man himself—Arnold Schwarzenegger. The dumbbell pullover is a strength training movement, that focuses on complete contraction with a wide range of motion, starting with a dumbbell behind your head and brought over above your chest. Think of it like a dumbbell chest fly, but instead of a horizontal plane, it’s a vertical movement in line with your head and over. The dumbbell pullover is an effective strength training movement, that stimulates the chest, back, and lats. 

How To Dumbbell Pullover

The key to the dumbbell pullover is the load and range of motion. Due to the range of motion and positioning, you will not be able to perform the dumbbell pullover with an excessively heavy load. Grab a manageable weight that you can lift without compromising form. The pullover can also be performed with a barbell or EZ bar.

  • Grab a single dumbbell with both hands and position yourself on a flat bench with your shoulder blades resting on the bench, feet firmly planted into the ground.
  • Positioned at a 90-degree angle to the bench, your back shoulder be straight, and your knees bent at 90 degrees.
  • Holding the dumbbell in both hands, making a diamond, straighten your arms so that the dumbbell is directly overhead above you. This is the starting position.
  • Bending at the shoulders only and keeping your arms straight, slowly lower the weight down behind your head until the dumbbell reaches the height of the bench. Here you should feel a stretch in the lats.
  • Slowly raise the dumbbell back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for desired reps. 

6. Dumbbell Hex Press

The dumbbell hex press is a less popular chest day training exercise. However, that does not mean, it’s not just as effective as the rest. With two dumbbells placed together over your chest, similar to a dumbbell bench press, the hex press focuses on the inner chest bringing your pecs together. Many individuals experience or have a chest anatomy, that can have a large gap between each pec. This movement will help close that gap.

How To Dumbbell Hex Press

  • Lie flat on a bench and grab a pair of dumbbells, preferably hex dumbbells.
  • Plant your feet firmly into the ground and brace your core, pushing the dumbbells away from you.
  • With your arms extended over your chest, hold the dumbbells together
  • Slowly inhale and lower the dumbbells in a very controlled manner to the lower chest bracing your core
  • Touch your chest and drive the dumbbells back up, exhaling and driving your feet into the floor with controlled movement.

Dumbbell Chest Exercises Reps And Sets

Now that you have a list of chest exercises with dumbbells, how many reps and sets do you need to perform to build more muscle and gain more strength? First of all, that depends on your specific goals.

If the goal is more muscle definition, then volume is key. Building more muscle mass, requires more reps and more sets, to significantly build more lean muscle tissue. Aim for at least 5 sets of 12-16 reps per set. This will enable your muscles to drive more blood flow to your chest and place more physical stress, so your body can adapt and build more muscle. With a higher volume, the load or weight will need to decrease in order to hit your prescribed rep count.

On the contrary, if your goal is strength, reduce your reps and set count and increase the weight. Aim for 3 sets of 8-10 reps per set, focusing on heavier weight and adding slightly more rest time between sets.

The Best Dumbbell Chest Workouts: Takeaway

Dumbbells are an effective training implement, that can significantly increase your strength and size gains with the proper adherence and training program. Adding a few of the best dumbbell chest workouts to your training split and rotating between them every few weeks, will help you build a strong chest and solid physique.


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