The best chest and tricep workout
with dumbbells is a two-part muscle-building blueprint for intermediate and
advanced lifters serious about taking their physiques to the next level.
If that’s you, you’re going to want to keep on reading, because what I'm about
to lay out is a four-week training plan of attack, working chest and triceps
twice per week. All you have to do is commit 100% to the fight for new muscle
by doing everything in your power to grow inside and outside of the gym.
In this first part, we’re going to
lay out the tools for breaking into your treasure chest and ransacking the
muscle fibers from top to bottom with some well-thought-out dumbbell exercises.
Next, I’ll table another plan to
target and destroy your Triceps with an equally venomous set of dumbbell
Each exercise will come with
pictures and cues so there will be no mistaking your intent when you hit the
gym on your first workout session.
In part two (the next article),
we’ll strategize and plot our way through a training protocol designed to
measure your performance, and then we’re going to light up the chest and
triceps with an intensity technique. We’ll also discuss sets, reps, and
repetitions in reserve. After the setup phase, all systems go!
Before we start part one of this
exciting new adventure, I just want to make two important points.
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It’s vitally important that you
know what you're dealing with especially when it comes to training your chest.
In my nearly 40 years of smashing iron, the one thing I come to realize is that
you can save a lot of time and build more muscle when you train properly rather
than just going through the motions.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that
you train harder, but instead, you train smarter. So to do this, first, we’re
going to apply some helpful tips to instigate muscle growth.
Tip One: When
performing any chest exercise, always keep your core stable and locked in
place. When you do this, you avoid movement at the spine which changes the
plane and angle of the exercise. The way we do this is to extend at the
Thoracic spine and not at the Lumbar spine by tensing the core and bringing the
chin down to the chest so you are looking along your torso.
Tip Two: Understand
how to create distance from the top of your Sternum to the insertion point of
your Pectoral muscle. The greater the distance created at the beginning of a
movement, the greater the opportunity there is for muscles to create mechanical
So in the case of a Dumbbell press,
you would start by moving the dumbbells away from the Chest and setting the
dumbbells at a right angle to your muscle, instead of having the dumbbell
tucked into the side of your chest.
Tip Three: To
have the best chest and tricep workout with dumbbells, you must learn how to
lock your shoulders into place by retracting your Scapula. This will force the
chest to do more of the work. In a dumbbell press, you would pin your shoulder
blades into the bench and tense through your mid and lower traps to initiate
the first part of the movement. Only when you are near the top of the press,
you would follow through with your shoulders to finish the movement.
Tip 4: Always
warm up at the beginning of a session and warm down at the end of a workout.
Now we’ve got that out of the way,
let’s press on and show you both workout sessions.
Exercise 1: Precision Incline Dumbbell Press - Position One
Ok, we've all done incline dumbbell press before, so what is so special about this movement? If, like me, you’re not blessed in being able to grow a decent chest while using bad form, then this pressing movement is a great introduction to learning how to be meticulous with all parts of an exercise.
The reason why this makes my best chest and tricep workout with dumbbells is the return on the muscle you get when you invest care and attention to the details.
You’ll quickly realize after a few reps of this magnificent top-shelve chest builder that it's not the run-of-the-mill Dumbbell incline press. Be warned, your ego is going to have to give way to technique and good form for this to work.
Items Needed: An incline Bench set at a 60-degree angle and one pair of dumbbells.
Cue 1: Sit back on the bench with dumbbells in hand. Set the dumbbells at a 90-degree angle to your upper chest.
Cue 2: Lift your chest high, tense your core and bring your chin towards the top of your Chest so you are looking down your torso.
Cue 3: Retract your shoulder blades by pulling them down and pinning them into the bench.
Cue 4: Tense your chest as you press the dumbbells up to maximize the mechanical tension of the muscle. As you reach the top of the movement, you're going to focus on squeezing your upper arms against the side of your chest (this is what's known as bringing the origin and insertion points closer together.) It's only near the top of the movement do you start to follow through with your shoulders.
Cue 5: Bring the dumbbells down using that same line as if you are pressing between two panes of glass. Repeat all of the clues before each repetition.
Say what you want about this
strange-looking exercise, but it works if you spend time implementing all of
the cues, and that is why this beauty has made my list for the best chest and
tricep workout with dumbbells.
The significant benefits to doing
your fly on a roller as opposed to a flat bench are potentially how much harder
they are to perform, the extra muscle fiber activation, and how much Shoulder
stability is needed to fly through the movement.
Items Needed: Medium
to long foam Roller and a pair of dumbbells. (If you don't have a roller, you
can perform the movement on a couple of rolled-up bath or beach towels.)
Cue 1: Place
foam roller on the floor, grab the dumbbells, and lay back on the foam roller,
so it starts at the base of your spine and runs up the center of your Back.
Cue 2: Start
as if you were doing a routine fly with arms straight and dumbbells together.
Before lowering the dumbbell, retract your Shoulders and squeeze your mid and
lower Traps into the roller.
Cue 3: Lower
the dumbbells until your elbows touch the ground. On the way back to the top of
the movement, practice focusing on your Back muscles bringing the dumbbells
Cue 4: Make
sure to always retract your Shoulders at the start of every repetition. Repeat
for the desired amount of repetitions.
Did you know that your chest gets
worked even when you’re pressing overhead? When you hear lifters
complain that they have little to no upper Chest, it's because they often don't
train at anything higher than a 45-degree angle. Add bad form which often
changes the angle and plane of an exercise, leading to more Tricep and front
Delt activation, now you can see why the Chest area often looks incomplete.
Here, we’re going after the
Clavicle muscle fibers that sit right under the collar bone and also the
Chest/Delt tie/in area. You can do this movement with or without a band. The
benefit of the resistance band is that it adds additional tension to the top of
Items Needed: Upright
bench, light resistance band (optional), and a dumbbell.
Cue 1: Set
your bench up in an upright position and place the band securely under
your feet before looping the other end over the knuckle of your dumbbell.
Cue 2: Turn
the dumbbell on its head and place the meaty part of your palms under the top
knuckle before bringing it to the start position just under your chin. Raise
your Chest, tense your core, and slightly flare your Elbows.
Cue 3: Retract
your Shoulders by bringing them down before smoothly pressing the dumbbell
overhead. Slowly lower the dumbbell to chin height before retracting your
Shoulders and setting off for the next repetition.
Cue 3: At
the top of the movement, you should have an underhanded grip of the dumbbells.
Focus on bringing the origin and insertion points of your chest together and at
this point squeeze the two nearest knuckles of the dumbbell together as hard as
This is a great movement to target
the outer and lower portions of the Chest. While others run from decline angled
work for fear of overdevelopment, we're going to run directly towards it and add the movement to our best chest and tricep workout with dumbbells to
give balance to our upper chest movements. We're going to take this
movement to the floor because we can use the ground as a dead-stop to put more
stress on the chest and allow time to reset between reps to get the consistent
Items Needed: A
pair of dumbbells and a small platform or crate.
Cue 1: Grab
the dumbbells and assume a hip-thrust position on the floor. To get more of a
decline, place your feet on the top of a low platform, box, or crate. You
should feel yourself resting on the very upper portion of your back. Set your
arms so that the dumbbells are set at a 90-degree angle to your Chest muscle.
Cue 2: Retract
your Shoulder-Blades by pulling them down and pinning them into the floor.
Tense your core and bring your chin down.
Cue 3: Before
pressing the dumbbells, tense your chest muscles to generate more mechanical
tension and as you press the dumbbells up, concentrate on bringing your inner
arms and outer chest together and squeeze.
Cue 4: Bring
the dumbbells back to the 90-degree start position, and make sure that the
elbows stay directly under the dumbbells. Think about nailing all of the cues
before starting every repetition.
The Triceps consist of three
different heads. First, you have a long head situated on the inside of your
arm. On the outside of your arm is the Lateral Head. Underneath these two heads
is where you'll find the Medial Tricep Head. On well-developed arms, the Medial
head does pop out closer to the elbow, which allows it to influence Tricep
The mass for all three heads is
estimated to make up anywhere from 60-70% of the total arm size, so you can see
the importance of training this muscle group correctly.
Modeled on its older sister, the
close grip barbell press, the Dumbbell Tricep Press is an attack-minded
exercise that brutalizes the medial and lateral Tricep head. There’s no doubt
that this upper body mass builder will cause collateral damage to other muscle
groups such as the chest along with the anterior Deltoid, but this is what
makes the exercise a perfect marriage made in workout heaven.
Items Needed: One
pair of dumbbells and a flat bench
Cue 1: Lay
back on a flat bench in a dumbbell press position, but with elbows tucked in
and the dumbbells set at a 45-degree angle touching the edge of your chest.
Many will tell you that any
Kickbacks are a grand waste of time, but I’m here to tell you the exact
opposite. Why does this exercise make my list for the best chest and Tricep
workout with dumbbells?
Take a look where the origination
point of the long Tricep head is located and you’ll quickly notice that it
starts at the back of the shoulder. As it derives from the back of the
shoulder, a simple extension of the Elbow does not provide you with full
contraction of the long Tricep head.
To get full contraction of this
part of the Triceps (the long meaty bit at the back of your arm most visible
from the rear), you have to bring the insertion point on the forearm closer to
the origination point on the back of the shoulder. The best way to do this is
by bringing your arm behind the line of your body. The Kneeling Dumbbell
kickback allows you to do just that.
Items Needed: Upright
bench and one pair of dumbbells
Cue 1: Kneel
on an upright bench with your torso resting on the back. Start with your elbows
tucked into your sides with the dumbbells in the curl position in front of you.
(This puts your Triceps in a fully lengthened position. As Biceps are opposite
muscles to the Triceps, this would be shortening and contracting the Biceps).
Cue 2: Extend
your elbows so that the dumbbells travel behind you (this shortens and
contracts the Triceps and is the exact opposite of the Biceps.) At
the very top of the movement tense the Triceps before returning the dumbbells
to the start position.
No doubt you’ve performed your fair
share of the standard Skull Crusher; now it’s time to advance the movement and
up the ante, hence its inclusion on the best chest and tricep workout with
dumbbells. This Skull crushing version is a no-brainer once you’ve felt the
horseshoe pressure on all three heads.
Items Needed: Flat
bench and a pair of dumbbells.
Cue 1: Lay
back on a flat bench. Have the dumbbells in a reverse grip by the crown of your
head with your elbows in the air.
Cue 2: Bring
the dumbbells out and up instead of up and over your head. As they reach the
top of the movement, twist them so that your palms face away from you. Try not
to swing the bells up or flare your elbow too far out to the sides; this will
help to limit momentum and focus the stress on the right area.
From the outset, the Incline
Kickout looks like a cross between the Seated Tricep Extension and the Close
Grip Bench Press, and while it isn’t the most popular of all dumbbell tricep
exercises, it’s a movement that will especially target the medial Tricep head
and delivering an incredible pump.
Items Needed: Incline
bench and a pair of dumbbells.
Cue 1: Place
incline bench at a 60-degree angle, and set elbows so that they are flared out
to the side with dumbbells lightly resting on the upper Chest.
Exercise 4: Incline Kickouts - Position Two
Cue 2: When
you get to the top of the movement, rotate your thumbs up to put extra stress
on Tricep heads.
We are now on the last exercise of
the best chest and tricep workout using dumbbells. This is a great movement for
learning how to lengthen the Long Tricep head. While this demands more
technique than other movements, once you learn the different cues, you’ll be
off and running with another yet brilliant exercise for the Triceps.
Items Needed: Flat
bench and a pair of dumbbells.
Cue 1: Lay
flat on a bench with a palm-up grip and weights resting to each side of your
chin. In this position, the Triceps are loaded.
Cue 3: Now,
bend the elbow and slowly drop the dumbbells below head height. At this stage,
pause in this fully lengthened position and briefly tense.
Cue 4: You’re
now going to play this movement back in reverse, making sure to hold and
squeeze when the dumbbells are in full extension and when they return to the
side of your chin.
The Best Chest and Tricep Workout With Dumbbells End of Part One:
As you’re up to date with all of
the exercises and cues for the best chest and tricep workout with dumbbells, be
ready for part two where we’ll strategize and plot our way through a training
protocol designed to measure your performance, and then we’re going to light up
the chest and triceps with an intensity technique. We’ll also discuss sets,
reps, and repetitions in reserve…
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