Effective Dumbbell Chest Exercises


Big chests don’t just come from doing endless bench presses – variation is key. We’ll take you through some of the more effective dumbbell exercises for building strong chest muscles and a well-balanced upper body.


Some people just don’t get on with barbells – and that’s okay. If you’re hitting plateaus, don’t feel confident, or just aren’t see the results you were expecting from barbell workouts dumbbells are the way forward. Plus, it’s easier to store a bench and dumbbells at home than it is a full Olympic size barbell. Some things just make sense.


Dumbbell Bench Press

Like its barbell counterpart, this press is the bedrock for all chest strength training. The use of dumbbells means you develop both sides of your chest equally and don’t let one side overcompensate for the other.

How to do it:

  1. Get into your starting position by lying down on a bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand.

  2. Make sure you are holding your dumbbell with your palms facing forward and your thumbs wrapped around the handle.

  3. Start with the dumbbells directly out in front of you, in line with the shoulders.

  4. When you’re in a comfortable position, brace your abdominal muscles and lower the weight bending at the elbow and the shoulder at the same time.<span> </span>

  5. Lower the weights until they are in line with your chest.

  6. Lift the weights until they meet above your chest, taking care not to lift your head or shoulders.

To hit a slightly different part of your chest and work your shoulders more, try doing this in an incline position.

Dumbbell Chest Fly’s

Fly’s are hard so start light if you’re new to them. Going too big too soon can strain your shoulders, especially since you’re fighting gravity hard with this dumbbell chest workout.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back on a flat bench, holding two dumbbells over your chest at arms-length. Your palms should be facing each other.

  2. Keeping your arms straight, lower the dumbbells down towards the floor. Your body should resemble a ‘T’. Keep lowering till you feel a stretch in your chest, which should be about parallel to the floor.

  3. Hold the dumbbells in this position a moment, then raise them back up in the same arc, squeezing your chest all the way up.

  4. Repeat.

Like the press, this exercise can be done in an incline position to add variation.

Straight Arm Pullover

This ultra-simple chest exercise just requires a single dumbbell, so it’s safer to go a bit heavier than you’re used to as you’re using both hands to pull the weight.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back on a flat bench, holding one dumbbell with both hands up over your chest, like you were doing a fly.

  2. Lower the dumbbell back behind your head in an arc over your face, it’s okay if the dumbbell goes slightly lower than your head (whatever is most comfortable for you.)

Hold the position a moment, then raise the dumbbell back to over your chest. Make sure your arms remain fully extended with a slight bend in your elbows.


If you’re working without a bench, here are a few exercises you can use to build chest strength without the use of a bench.

Floor Presses

Floor presses involve a lower range of motion than a standard bench press and allow you to lift more weight. These can be performed with both dumbbells and barbells, but it’s a lot easier with a pair of dumbbells.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back on the floor, with two dumbbells on your legs for the moment.

  2. Hold the dumbbells out to your sides, elbows resting on the floor and at a 45-degree angle from your body.

  3. Press the dumbbells up, squeezing your chest as you push up. Try and make the movements of both your arms as you push up as even as possible, and don’t let the dumbbells fly off to the side.

  4. Hold the position, then slowly lower the dumbbells back down to their starting position.

Standing Chest Fly

The motion is the same as a regular fly, but the key difference is you’re standing. Other than that, same rules apply.

How to do it:

  1. Stand up straight, holding two dumbbells in front of you with your palms facing each other.

  2. Keeping your arms straight, swing your arms out into a T-pose. This movement needs to be controlled and smooth.

  3. Hold the dumbbells in this position a moment, then rotate them back up in the same arc, squeezing your chest all the way.

  4. Repeat.

Beyond dumbbells, if you’re keen to develop your chest without the use of a bench, consider adding these exercises to your chest workouts.


Lifting weights takes a lot of effort, so you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your workout routine. The friendly personal trainers at your local Gym are on hand to discuss technique, create an individualised fitness plan, and help you smash your fitness goals. Get in touch to learn more.

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