Within this guide, you’ll learn the best chest exercises with dumbbells that you can do without a workout bench. Can you build big pecs at home as the bodybuilders have? Of course not since they lift big doing barbell bench press. However, if you’re dedicated and have a well-planned workout, you can build shaped and firm pecs for sure.
What are the benefits of dumbbell chest exercises?
The range of motion is greater with dumbbells.
With dumbbells, you can lower the weights to the level of your chest, stretching the pectorals to the maximum and causing a more intense contraction.
The joints are less stressed by dumbbells.
While exercising, dumbbells let you find your optimal path for both sides of your body. You can rotate your wrists, and your elbows and shoulders can move in the direction that feels best for them, making the exercise your own. This way, you put the stress on your muscles, not your joints.
Strength and balance are developed with dumbbells.
If one side lags behind, you’ll feel it right away. Your left and right sides have to stabilize and push equally. So your weaker side doesn’t get overexerted. The two sides will eventually balance out. And if you need to do a few more reps on the weaker side, dumbbells are perfect.
Dumbbell Chest Exercises without a bench
Floor press has its cons and pros. The disadvantage is that we can get a shorter range of motion (ROM) compared to laying on the bench. This way, muscle activation isn't as beneficial. But, we can lift heavier weights, so it has positive effects on muscle size. It works the entire chest.
- Lie down, bend your knees shoulder width and hold the dumbbells with an overhand grip. Your triceps are on the floor and at chest level.
- With right-angled forearms, push the dumbbells towards the ceiling while you exhale.
- At the top, pause for a moment and squeeze your pecs.
- Slowly lower the weights back to the starting position, but don't drop your arms.
Since we use only one dumbbell, the pressing requires more control from the chest, shoulder, and core. Otherwise, we fall to the side. This exercise also gives more contraction since we have more room, the other dumbbell isn't in the way at the top. Also, it's useful to cure muscle imbalance.
The starting position is the same as if we were doing the regular floor press, but it requires much more control.
Instead of overhead grip, try the reverse grip, which lets us target the outer parts of the chest a little bit more. The execution is the same.
Decline drills focus on the lower parts of the pectoralis, which is part of the pectoralis major, so it isn't a standalone muscle group. The best way to imitate the incline bench is by placing your feet on something elevated. But, you should keep your back straight during the entire exercise.
- Lie down by holding the dumbbells with an overhand grip and put your feet on something elevated.
- Push your torso up so that your back is straight with the power of your core (bridge position) and keep it.
- Push the dumbbells away from you with a bit of angle towards the floor. If you push it vertically, mainly your shoulders work. Test to find the optimal angle when your chest muscles are engaged instead of your front delts.
- Slowly lower the weights back, but don't drop your elbows.
Alternative lower chest exercises: decline push-ups.
Regular push-ups are the best bodyweight exercises to target your chest. By using dumbbells, we can get deeper. Plus, more control is required since the dumbbells want to roll to the sides. Both difficulties lead to better muscle engagement and muscle growth.
The completion is the same as if you were doing normal push-ups. Start with the traditional push-up position and go as deep as your chest touches the floor.
I do calisthenics chest training and I always include this move in my routine.
Incline presses are upper chest practices. Without an adjustable workout bench, it's quite complicated to imitate this exercise. Maybe you can try to do it on a chair, pouf, or the edge of the bed. You can also use a stability ball instead. This move should be in an upper chest workout.
But, be careful, use stable elevated surfaces, and don't use heavy weights.
- Lie on the elevated furniture with your upper back on it and with dumbbells with an overhand grip.
- Plant your feet flat and push your hips up so that your back is aligned. Keep your core tight.
- Push the weights towards the ceiling, and top pause for a moment, and tighten your chest. Exhale.
- Slowly lower your arms back to the starting position. Inhale.
Alternative: incline push-ups.
Dumbbell floor fly is beneficial to stretch the pectoral muscles and work the stabilizer muscles effectively. But, it's essential to perform the movement correctly to get the benefits. When you do it, imagine you hug a big tree and bend your elbows that way and keep that form during the entire exercise. It's great to build a wide and strong chest.
- Lie on the ground. Push the dumbbells up with palms facing each other.
- With bent elbows, lower the weights, but don't drop them.
- Push the dumbbells back to the starting position.
Perform the incline flyes the same way as regular flyes but fix your feet carefully to keep your stability. This exercise targets the upper chest and the core muscles. Anyway, the balance ball is a good alternative to the weight bench for other exercises, plus it's great to improve the core strength.
Standing dumbbell chest exercises aren't so well-known, but they are excellent to target the inner chest and add variety to your workout. Svend or standing chest press is one of the best.
- Stand with a straight back and hold a single dumbbell in front of you with both hands.
- Push the weight away from your body and squeeze your pec muscles.
- Don't lower your arms during the exercise.
- Ger the DB back the start position.
This is a typical chest isolation exercise. You can also use a weight plate instead.
- Stand with an aligned torso and hold the dumbbells next to you.
- With slightly bent arms, lift the weights upward and towards your chest.
- Bring them until your hands are in front of you.
- Stop for a moment and squeeze your pecs.
- Slowly lower the weights back to the start position.
Your lat muscles (which are situated in the middle-to-lower back) and chest strength will be built with dumbbell pullovers. These are good exercises to incorporate into your upper body strength routine.
Example chest workout without bench at home
Dumbbell exercises without a bench are beneficial, but the best is if we combine them with bodyweight moves like push-ups. This way, we get a total chest training at home that develops power effectively.
Home chest workout for beginners:
- 10 reps push-ups.
- 10 reps floor presses.
- 10 reps floor flyes.
Do 3-4 rounds with 1-2 minute rest between the sets.
Intermediate home workout:
- 20 reps push-ups.
- 10 reps single-arm dumbbell chest press for both sides.
- 12 reps incline dumbbell press on the fitness ball.
- 12 reps standing chest press.
- 12 reps dumbbell chest fly on the floor.
Do 3-4 rounds with 1-2 minute rests.
Do I need a bench for dumbbells?
You can do various dumbbell chest exercises at home with no bench for strength and shape. However, these moves are limited and sometimes uncomfortable to perform without adequate equipment. If you are serious about working out get at least a flat bench, a cheap home gym equipment, which expands your training possibilities.
How can I train my chest without a bench?
Push-ups are excellent bodyweight moves to target the upper body and there are numerous variations for better targeting or fitness level. Also, dumbbell chest exercises on the floor or in a standing position are great to add versatility to a chest workout plan.
Can you build chest with just dumbbells?
It is possible to bulk up with dumbbells, but you’ll eventually hit a plateau unless you keep adding weight to the routine. You will get stronger by lifting the same dumbbells every year, but you won’t build a lot of muscle. As you gain strength, you need heavier weights to bulk up.