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When it comes to working the chest, the combination of a set of dumbbells and an adjustable bench makes for an excellent combination. What, though, if you’ve got the dumbbells but not the bench? No problem – we’ve got you covered with seven awesome dumbbell exercises that you can do without a bench.
Your chest, or pectoral muscles, are made up of a fan-shaped muscle that covers the top third of your body. The fibers in the chest are divided into 3 categories based on the origin of each fiber group. However, all three fiber groups insert on the humerus or upper arm bone.
The pectoral muscles are located between the clavicles and the lowest part of the anterior ribs. The best chest exercises will follow the direction of the fibers. That means the arm will move them to their point of origin, which is either on the sternum, the clavicles, or the ribs.
7 Great Dumbbell Chest Exercises:
1. Floor Press
The Floor Press is a very similar exercise to the flat bench dumbbell press except that you are doing it on the floor rather than on the bench. The floor press can also be done with a barbell. The benefit of using dumbbells is that you are able to adjust the angle of your wrists and bring the dumbbells together at the top of the movement.
The big difference between the floor press and the bench dumbbell press is that your range of motion is not as great on the floor press. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing.
2. Plyo Tap Push-Ups
The Plyo Tap Push is an awesome movement that will develop explosive power within the entire upper body but with a special emphasis on the pecs. Position a pair of dumbbells on the floor on their ends. Then get down in a push-up position so that the dumbbells are just in front of your hands. Perform a push-up, exploding out of the bottom so that you are able to come off the floor and tap the top of the dumbbells on each rep.
3. Eccentric Floor Flye
The eccentric floor flye is the floor version of the traditional flat bench dumbbell flye. However, on this version, you use a weight that is heavier than you would be able to use on the bench flye. You press it into the top position and then perform a very slow eccentric rep.
You are able to use a heavier weight on this version of the flye because you do not extend the shoulder joint all the way down. This allows you to benefit from the heavy eccentric work which has been shown to be more beneficial when training for hypertrophy.
4. Dumbbell UCV Raise
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a relatively light dumbbell held in your right arm at your side. You might want to grab onto an upright with the other hand for balance and support. With your right arm in a slightly bent but locked position, pivot from the shoulder to bring the dumbbell up and across your chest. Squeeze the right pec as hard as you can in the top position. Repeat on the other side.
5. Dumbbell Chest Shrug
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a relatively heavy dumbbell held in your right arm at your side. Again, you may choose to grab an upright with the other hand for balance. Now without bending at the elbow, perform a shrug by coming across your torso rather up towards your ear. This transfers the focus from your trapezius to your pectorals. Repeat on the other side.
6. Dumbbell Floor Svend Press
The Svend Press is a version of the dumbbell floor press that has a focus on pectoral adduction (moving in toward the center of the body). This is an area that is missing from most chest exercises.
Lie on the floor with a pair of dumbbells extended above your mid-chest. Have your hands close together so that the dumbbells are pressing into each other. As you lower the weights to your chest, forcefully push inwards. Continue this inward pressure as you complete your reps.
7. Standing Upward Chest Flye
Stand with a pair of relatively light dumbbells held at your sides at arm’s length. Your arms should be locked in an almost straight position. Now simultaneously lift the dumbbells up and across the centerline of your chest so that they cross over. Squeeze the pectorals vigorously in the top position. Lower and repeat.
You will get some front deltoid involvement on this version of the fly. However, by strongly contracting the pectorals, you will keep the emphasis on the chest.
Putting It All Together
You now have a library of seven great dumbbell chest exercises that you can do with nothing more than a pair of dumbbells. You don’t need to do all of these exercises in one workout. In this section, we provide you with two different workouts. We suggest working your chest twice per week, with workout A on Day One and Workout B on Day Two. Give yourself at least 48 hours rest between each workout so that your pecs can recover fully before the next session.
- Dumbbell Floor Press – 4 x 15/10/8/6
- Eccentric Floor Flye – 3 x 12
- Dumbbell Chest Shrug – 3 x 12 (each side)
- Plyo Tap Push Ups – 2 x 10-15 reps
- Dumbbell Floor Svend Press – 4 x 15/10/8/6
- Standing Upward Chest Flye – 3 x 12
- Dumbbell UCV Raise – 3 x 12
- Plyo Tap Push Ups – 2 x Failure
The exercises and workouts described here allow you to get a very good workout when you are without a bench. For a more complete workout, however, you will need a little more equipment. If your budget allows, we recommend getting a bench that will allow you to perform decline dumbbell presses. A cable machine is also a great investment when working the chest.
This article was last updated on March 12, 2021 .