What makes the list of best dumbbell only Chest workout exercises outside of the standard Incline/Flat/Decline Dumbbell Press and Fly movements?
Good question. If you’ve been stuck in amongst the same old Chest workout at home with dumbbells and need new exercises to freshen things up and kick-start muscle growth, this article is for you.
Hi, I’m Psymon H., workout motivator and creator of The BIG-UP Training System, hands down the best home workout program for building muscle with minimum equipment. In this article, we dig up a treasure Chest of great information on how to jazz up your Chest workout at home with dumbbells while giving the old Dumbbell Press and regular fly a break.
In this article I will share…
· Six exercise movements and cues that will fit any Chest day dumbbell workout
· Two training splits with options, so no matter whether you have a designated Chest day dumbbell workout session or you use full body workouts, you’ll be able to use these exercises
· An intensity training technique to take your best dumbbell only Chest workout to a new level
By time I’m finished dropping this knowledge, your Pecs will be twitching and ready to grow…So Let’s Go!
In no particular order, we kick things off with a monster of an exercise. Named the Barrel Press because it resembles pressing something the size of a barrel or beer keg, this dumbbell press variation will throw major stress on the upper Chest fibers and this is why it makes my best dumbbell only Chest Workout List.
For the exercise, you can perform various height inclines all the way up to a 90 degree angle and all the way down to a flat or decline angle; but we’re going to concentrate on a 45-60 degree angle. As with all pressing movements, setup is crucial.
Items Needed: Incline bench and one pair of dumbbells.
Setup: Always keep your core stable and locked in place. By doing this you prevent movement at the spine which can change the plane and angle. To do this, sit back on an incline bench set between a 45 and 60 degree angle. Next, extend at the Thoracic spine and not at the Lumbar spine; you do this by pulling your Chest up, tensing your core and bringing your Chin down towards your Chest so you are looking down your Torso.
Cue 1: Learn to create distance from the top of your Sternum to the insertion of your Pectoral muscle. The greater the distance, the greater the opportunity there is for muscles to create mechanical tension. To do this, start with palms facing each other and arms set at a right angle with elbows out. (Refer to the above picture)
Cue 2: Lock your Shoulders into place by retracting your Scapula and pinning your Shoulders Blades into the bench. By doing this, the Chest gets to do more of the work.
Cue 3: Before pressing the dumbbells up, tense through your mid and lower Traps to initiate the first part of the movement. This will help to create more tension in the muscle.
Cue 4: Maintain the distance with each dumbbell and follow through with the Shoulders as they reach the top of the movement. Slowly return back to the start position.
Say what you want about this strange looking exercise, but it works if you spend time implementing all of the cues. The reason why this makes my best dumbbell only Chest workout list the potential for how much muscle fiber can be activated and how much Shoulder stability is needed to fly through the movement.
Target Muscle Group: Upper and Lower Chest
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 together.
Cue 4: Make sure to always retract your Shoulders at the start of every repetition. Repeat for the desired amount of repetitions.
This is a great two-for-one movement you can add to any Chest workout at home with dumbbells. In fact, you only need one dumbbell and a light resistance band to be cooking on gas. What makes this single arm press so bloody good is that although you’re actively pressing the dumbbell up, you are also trying to battle the tension from the resistance band while attempting to bring the dumbbell to the centerline of your body as if you were completing the end portion of a fly.
Target Muscle Group: Chest
Items Needed: Light to medium resistance band, upright anchor, and one dumbbell.
Cue 1: Attach a light to medium band to the bottom of an upright anchor and place a dumbbell nearby.
Cue 2: Lay across from the band, so it's level with your upper Chest. To pick up both the band and dumbbell safely, roll in towards them and use your non-working arm to get them in place. For safety reasons, have the band in the palm of your hand instead of having the band wrapped around the handle of the dumbbell.
Cue 3: Take a palm facing in grip and shuffle out until you feel a little tension in the band. Lock your Shoulders into place by retracting your Scapula and pinning your Shoulders Blades into the floor. By doing this, the Chest has to do more of the work.
Next, extend at the Thoracic spine and not at the Lumbar spine; you do this by bringing up your Chest, tensing your core and bringing your Chin down towards your Chest so you are looking down your Torso.
Cue 4: Start in a similar fashion to the Barrel press by having the palm facing in and arm set at a right angle with Elbow out. Press the dumbbell up while trying to pull the band across the centerline of your Chest.
Cue 5: Slowly lower the dumbbell to the start position and repeat.
Safety First: Have the free hand ready to assist your working arm.
One reason why this makes my best dumbbell only workout is simply because this will get the blood pumping and leave the Pecs for dead. Seen as a great finisher to any at home Chest workout, the Seated Dumbbell Fly devilishly taps into the upper Chest fibers the more you focus on squeezing the bell-ends together at the top of the movement.
Muscle Group: Upper Chest
Items Needed: Flat bench and a pair of dumbbells. (This movement can be performed standing or in various Incline bench positions…You choose and experiment.)
Cue 1: Sit in an upright position on the edge of a flat bench with dumbbells in hand; in a palm forward position, about 12 inches from each Hip.
Cue 2: With straight arms, bring the dumbbells up to the lower Chest before bringing the two closest knuckles of each bell together.
Cue 3: While squeezing the dumbbell knuckles together, raise your arms, so the dumbbells are at upper Chest height. Briefly hold this top position before returning to the start of the movement; repeat for the desired amount of repetitions.
Whether you realize it or not, your Chest gets worked pressing in a fully upright position. Often when you hear lifters complain that they have little to no upper Chest, when you boil everything down, it’s often found that they don’t train at anything higher than a 45 degree angle. Add less than ideal dumbbell pressing form which can often change the angle and plane at which you press leading to more Tricep and front Delt activation, and you can see why the Chest area often looks incomplete.
Here, we’re going after thickening up the Clavicle muscle fibers that sit right under the collar bone. 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 the movement. On the downside, with the ascending band tension is that you may not be able to use as much physical weight.
Target Muscle Groups: Chest/Delt Tie-in
Items Needed: High incline bench, light resistance band and a dumbbell.
Cue 1: Set up your bench at about a 75-90 degree angle and securely place the band under your feet then loop 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 Chest up, tense your core and slightly flare your Elbows.
Cue 3: Retract your Shoulders by bringing them down before smoothly pressing the dumbbell overhead. Slowly and under control, lower the dumbbell to Chin height before retracting your Shoulders and setting off for the next repetition.
When it comes to forming the best dumbbell only Chest workout list, this Dumbbell Press Variations is up there with the very best. One awesome attribute about this exercise is that it puts major stress on the upper Chest muscle fibers in a flat bench position.
Target Muscle Group: Upper Chest
Items Needed: Flat bench and one pair of dumbbells.
Cue 1: Lay back on a flat bench with dumbbells in hand and palms facing you. Keep your core stable and locked in place. By doing so, you prevent movement at the spine. To do this, extend at the Thoracic spine and not at the Lumbar spine by tensing your core and bringing your chin down towards your Chest so you are looking down your Torso.
Cue 2: Lower the dumbbells until they are nipple height before driving the dumbbells back to the top of the movement. Keep palms facing you throughout exercise.
No matter whether you have a designated Chest day dumbbell workout, or like me, you incorporate your at home Chest workout inside full body training sessions, it’s easy to fit in the exercises on this best dumbbell only Chest workout list.
Option 1- The Chest Day Dumbbell Workout:
If you train your Chest twice per week, you could split the above list in half and perform three movements on your first workout and three on your second session. I would suggest that you use a four week training cycle and do nothing more than the exercises on the list. By doing this you will have a better chance of progressing through each exercise and making gains as opposed to swapping exercises every training session and seeing little gains or getting gains and not knowing which exercises are responsible.
I would also advise that after you’ve completed the four training weeks, that you undergo a Deload training phase where you lessen the intensity and workout volume for one week’s worth of training sessions.
Here’s what your workout would look like...
1: Incline Barrel Press x 3-4 working sets
2: Reverse Dumbbell Press x 3-4 working sets
3: The Seated Fly x 3-4 working sets
1: Anti-Fly Single Arm Floor Press x 3-4 working sets
2: The Incline Champaign x 3-4 sets
3: The Roller Fly x 3-4 sets
For the best dumbbell only Chest workout reps and reps in reserve (RIR), you could use anything from 5 – 20 repetitions per set, aiming to leave no more than 2 repetitions in reserve on all working sets. This will ensure that you are achieving maximum motor unit recruitment. Sets will depend on your training structure, training level, recovery, and fatigue.
Option 2: Full Body Workouts
If you wish to complete the best dumbbell only Chest workout list of exercises using full body training sessions, here are a few pointers.
Step 1: Set aside a four week training cycle so that you have a good opportunity to use the exercise movements. The same rules apply to taking a Deload after the completion of your four week training cycle to dispel any fatigue and to give Tendons and Ligaments time to heal.
Step 2: If you train 3 times per week, choose 2 pressing movements and 1 fly exercise.
Workout 1: = Anti-Fly Single Arm Floor Press x 3-4 working sets x 6-7 reps per set
Workout 2: = The Seated Fly x 3-4 working sets x 10-12 reps per set
Workout 3: = Incline Barrel Press x 8-10 reps per set
If you train 4 times per week, Choose 2 pressing movements and 2 fly exercises
Workout 1: Reverse Dumbbell Press x 3-4 working sets x 6-8 reps per set
Workout 2: Roller Fly x 3-4 working sets x 8-10 reps per set
Workout 3: Incline Champaign x 3-4 working sets x 10-12 reps per set
Workout 4: Seated Dumbbell Fly x 3-4 sets x 13-15 reps per set
If your train 5 times per week, choose 3 pressing movements and 2 fly exercises
Workout 1: Anti-Fly Single Arm Floor Press x 3-4 working sets x 6-8 reps per set
Workout 2: Seated Dumbbell Fly x 3-4 working sets x 10-12 reps per set
Workout 3: Incline Barrel Press x 3-4 working sets x 7-8 reps per set
Workout 4: Roller Fly x 3-4 working sets x 13-15 reps per set
Workout 5: Incline Champaign x 3-4 working sets x 5-7 reps per set
When you restart the training cycle and swap exercises, you can use the Chest movement/s you didn’t include last time around.
You can also add a dumbbell Chest Workout Training Protocol to help to measure your performance and fatigue.
1: Always warm-up and warm down to safeguard against injury and to aid recovery.
2: Bookmark this page so you can refer back to it for the exercise cues and training tips.
3: Aim to leave 2-3 reps in reserve on all working sets, especially if you train at home on your own. There is no need to take every set to complete failure as it’s been proven that leaving anything from 5 reps and less in reserve will build muscle.
Of course, there are a few good Intensity Techniques you could employ during your Chest workout at home with dumbbells, such as supersets, forced sets, and drop sets. These all allow you to go beyond the common failure point in a workout to push the muscle harder. Only use this intensity technique once per week on one exercise, and only if you are an intermediate or advanced lifter.
To complete this muscle-building technique, you simply choose one of the exercises from the best dumbbell only Chest workout list, set a rep target and obtain that repetition goal no matter how many sets it takes to complete. For this example, the target is 50 repetitions with a weight that may allow you 15 reps to failure.
On set one, you achieved 15 reps.
• Rest up to 30 seconds
• You perform 10 more reps to failure
• Rest up to 30 seconds
• Achieve 8 reps to failure
• Rest up to 30 seconds
• Complete 7 reps to failure
• Rest up 30 seconds
• Perform 5 repetitions to failure
• Rest 30 seconds
• Perform 5 reps to failure
You can also add a training protocol into your Chest workouts so you can better measure performance. Click if you would like to see dumbbell exercises for Rear Delts, Quads, Hamstrings, Biceps and Triceps.
The world’s best structure wasn't built by dreams alone; dreams had to turn into actions, and those actions had to be consistent no matter what. The same applies to this best dumbbell only Chest workout article and your Chest development. Give everything and leave absolutely nothing, and your Chest day dumbbell workout will never be the same again.
It’s important if you train at home to find a real motive that keeps you coming back for home Chest workouts. Ask yourself why you want a bigger Chest or an overall better physique. Once you have the answer, take it and run with it.
Have a problem motivating and dedicating yourself to each training session? Become a BIG-UP Athlete and we’ll kick ass and grow muscle together.
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