The best dumbbell chest exercises

You may have heard the gym rats in your life talk about “blasting their pecs” on a bench press day. But strengthening your chest is incredibly important not only for aesthetic reasons but for functional ones as well.

The muscles of your chest are responsible for many different upper body movements: they help lift, lower, rotate, and move your arms in almost all directions. Any time you open a door, carry a heavy box, run your vacuum cleaner, or even breathe, your chest muscles are at work. The stronger they are, the easier it is to move around in the world (and the less susceptible you are to certain injuries).

Any comprehensive fitness programming will include exercises to address chest strength. And the best way to get stronger is to work your muscles against resistance  — whether that resistance is from a barbell, weight machines, or gravity. Dumbbells are an especially efficient resistance training choice for upper body work, since your arms must work independently of each other (and your stronger side can’t “cheat” to help move a singular weight source).

If you’re looking for a great way to strengthen all of the muscles in your chest, pick up a pair of dumbbells (here are the best adjustable dumbbells for weight lifting at home), and try the best dumbbell chest exercises you can do.

When we think of chest muscles, the most common one that comes to mind is the pectoralis major — responsible for raising your arm in front of you, lowering your arm to the side, and rotating your arm inward. There’s also the pectoralis minor, located underneath the pectoralis major, responsible for stabilizing the shoulder blade.

Lastly there’s the serratus anterior, located deep under the pectorals on the lateral surfaces of the rib cage, responsible for pulling your shoulder blades forward, which in turn allows you to reach in front of you.

The dumbbell chest press is a basic but incredibly popular movement. While it targets all the major muscles of the chest, it also works your shoulders and, when done correctly, even your back — making it a super efficient upper body strengthening exercise.

To perform the chest press, grab two moderately heavy dumbbells and place them in front of you. Take a seat on a weight bench, pick up the dumbbells from the floor, and slowly lower yourself onto the bench until you’re lying flat. Bring your arms into a right angle, with your elbow lined up slightly below your shoulder, your wrists neutral, and your knuckles facing the wall behind you.

Squeezing the chest, press both of the weights into the air, straightening your arms. Aim the weights to line up slightly in front of the shoulder, directly above your sternum (think “nipple line”), to avoid impinging the shoulder joint. Slowly lower the weights back to the starting position by retracting (or “squeezing together”) your shoulder blades.

You should be able to perform a set of 10-12 repetitions before needing to rest. If you can perform more, choose heavier dumbbells for your next set.

To add variety to the chest press, perform the exercise alternating between your right and left arm, or unilaterally — performing a set of repetitions on one arm, and then a set on the other.

If you don’t have access to a bench, perform the exercise lying on a mat instead.

The dumbbell chest fly is another very popular choice for strengthening all the chest muscles.

To perform the dumbbell chest fly, select two light to moderately heavy dumbbells and place them in front of you. Take a seat on a weight bench, pick up the dumbbells from the floor, and slowly lower yourself onto the bench until you’re lying flat. Raise both dumbbells into the air, with your palms facing each other and aligned directly over your sternum. With a slight bend in your elbow, slowly lower the weights to the side, keeping your arm position locked, stretching your chest, and retracting your shoulder blades.

Once you’ve reached the end of your range, engage your chest muscles and bring the weights back to the starting position. Perform a set of 10-12 repetitions, reaching muscle fatigue on your final repetition.

To add variety to the chest fly, try alternating between your left and right arm, or perform all repetitions on one arm before moving to the next.

If you don’t have access to a weight bench, perform the chest fly while lying on a mat.


Post time: Dec-23-2022